In New England, baseball is as much of a religion as religion itself. Pseudo-spiritual sayings like “keep the faith,” a strong sense of culture, and several decades of following have forged those born or raised in the northeasternmost six states—as well as some outsiders—into the slavishly devoted community known as Red Sox Nation.
Like baseball, a love for history and wanderlust are imbued in my bloodstream. It naturally follows that taking in home games for each of the thirty Major League Baseball franchises would be an emotionally and intellectually fulfilling item for my bucket list. On August 17, 2012, I made a pilgrimage to the place most antithetical to my baseball faith: New Yankee Stadium.
New Yankee Stadium had a magical aura to it—the ballpark emerged from beneath the elevated train line that runs along River Avenue as I exited the adjacent parking garage. Banners of current players like Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Derek Jeter adorned its high white walls. After making a brief excursion to Harlem to eat some vegan Ethiopian food, I entered the modern replacement to The House That Ruth Built.
The Yankee fan base juxtaposed quite nicely against the image propagated by the team’s ownership. While the team supposedly represents professionalism and class through its strict dress code and focus on winning, the fans hurled insults toward me throughout the course of the game. Admittedly, I chose a wardrobe specifically to irk the Bleacher Creatures, as I sported a Curt Schilling jersey and donned a 2004 ALCS hat. Regardless, my experience as a Sox fan in other ballparks including Progressive Field and Camden Yards had been significantly more comfortable. Yes, Indians and Orioles fans occasionally mocked players or ribbed fans for their attire, but I have never experienced the kind of vitriol spewed by Yankee fans. It was actually mildly cathartic, though, to be the villain in enemy territory—sitting in section 204 gave me a Walter White-in-the-DEA office type adrenaline rush.
Nonetheless, the game on the 17th essentially embodied the Red Sox season as a whole. It was notable for its patchwork roster, as starters included a journeyman right fielder in Scott Podsednik, top prospect-turned-reliever-turned-waiver claim-turned lefty one out guy-turned starter Franklin Morales, and a Leprechaunishly lucky, skinny Dominican utility man named Pedro Ciriaco at third base. The Sox’s efforts were marred by some bad luck, as Morales allowed just six base runners but gave up four solo homers. The disappointing Bobby Valentine continued to mismanage the team, while the cold rain pouring down upon the playing field gave the entire game an overtone of hopelessness.
Until the Red Sox-Dodgers megadeal, Red Sox Nation was at the lowest of lows. As Ben Cherington showed, though, we can never give up on our team. Cheering for our team is not a choice but a lifestyle that brings us together as a community.