More of the Good Stuff

First, if you’ll recall, my company has an Ultimate Slim Down contest every year. It kicks off Monday next–grand prize is an iPad 2 for the person who kicks the butts of everyone else in the company. I don’t actually know if I lost any weight on my vacation because the battery on my scale died while I was gone. I haven’t taken the time to find and replace the battery, but I’ll do it this coming week so I’m good to go. I figure it’s a good time to get back on the wagon and lose the rest of the weight I need/want to shake off.

I cooked like a fiend this weekend. I prepared two of the dishes I ate at the National Gallery of Art. A lot of work, but worth it. I prepared Pollo in Potacchio (chicken braised in homemade tomato sauce and Pinot Grigio, roughly) and Bucatini e Pancetta (pasta in rendered and crisped pancetta (and its rendered bacon grease), Pecorino Romano cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese). I made the tomato sauce and butchered two chickens on Saturday, marinated the chicken over night, and then cooked everything yesterday. It was deemed a success by Mom, Dad, Auntie Pat, Debbie, Andy, Ruth (Debbie’s mom), and the kidlets. Everyone loved it. And it was as good as I remembered from my meal with Stewart and Loren at the National Gallery of Art… minus the art. Word to the cooking savvy folk… the National Gallery of Art switches up their menu in the Garden Cafe every few months. And they post a couple of the recipes for your enjoyment. The current set is Catalan in nature and created by the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef of 2011, Chef Jose Andres. I wish one of the two desserts on the menu had been offered… guess I’ll have to go back in mid-September when the menu cycles again.

Okay, more Fenway Park:

Shortly after arriving at my seat, my brother Ethan called to wish me a happy birthday (my Auntie Pat (I may be 36, but she’ll always be my Auntie Pat) had already left her traditional birthday song on my voicemail… I played it for Daniel and he cracked up because it’s possibly the worst rendition of the birthday song, intentionally slaughtered every year). He was dropping off my sister-in-law’s car at the dealer to be serviced and used the opportunity to give me a call. He was duly impressed with my thoughts of the stadium. Ethan and I have both been to Wrigley Field, I’ve been to Fenway, he visited the original Yankee Stadium. Right now we’re tied on the cool stadiums attended, but he’ll eventually pass me when he makes it to Fenway since I can’t ever catch a game at old Yankee Stadium. Bummer. (Please note, you can see the bunt laid down the third baseline by the Rays’ player who is hightailin’ it to first.)

Proof I was there!

When the sun had finally gone down far enough that I could take off my sunglasses and not squint madly, Daniel shot a photo of me with Fenway as my backdrop. If you squint, you can read “Fenway Park” on the press box over my shoulder.

We sat next to a fun couple who are students at Boston University. The guy is a die-hard BoSox fan… and his girlfriend is from New York City and is a Yankees fan. I’m not projecting a long term relationship for those two. If you don’t know, the BoSox and Yanks hate, HATE, HATE each other. Seriously bad mojo between ‘em.

At every baseball game, the fans sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” It’s tradition.

At every BoSox game, the fans sing “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth inning. It’s tradition.

And it was pretty darn fun to sing it with the BoSox fans. They kindly pop up the lyrics to “Sweet Caroline” for those of us who aren’t natives and don’t listen to a ton of Neil Diamond. Don’t get me wrong, I know the tune. I just don’t know the words.

A birthday note aside (no pun intended, just wait for it)… for my twenty-first birthday, the guys I went to college with–Daniel included–gave me a sheet of music, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” signed by Tommy Lasorda. He might not be my favorite baseball manager, or my favorite Dodger, but I still have the gift.

After the game was over, I was able to take a photo from above showing the canopies at the concession stands off of Gate B. It makes for an awesome sight. I love that the BoSox operations have embraced their vintage qualities. And not just embraced them, but celebrate them. It greatly ads to their stadium’s charm. The lighting was darn near perfect, especially since I didn’t have any say in it!

Before leaving, I had to try for another angle of the stadium, fitting as much of it into a photo as my camera is capable of doing. I got the press box, “Fenway Park,” and the Green Monster. And the last traces of sunset. I’m a happy girl. I have a collection of stadium photos. Every stadium I’ve visited for a game, that is.

My last photos from the game were just outside Gate B, on our way back to the car. Just to the side of the gate is a statue of Ted Williams and a young boy. I was neither the first, nor the last person to hop up on the base for a picture. Who am I to avoid all chances to be a proper tourist? (I might not stand in front of the Rocky statue flexing my non-existent muscles like a doofus, but I’ll take a seat on the base of a statue of one of the greatest ball players of all time (with the wind blowing my hair in an unattractive way).)

So the BoSox are, um, a not great team? Is that a delicate way of saying it? They managed to log their second victory of the season during this game. It made their record 2-6. Ouch. They’re currently 11-11 and keeping a firm hold on the basement of the American League East. If you’re wondering, my Dodgers have the second best record in baseball, 16-6.

On the way home from the game, I realized I had a voicemail from Adri. I think I’m the only person she’ll sing the birthday song to and I love it. Nope Adri, no one heard it but me! It was a bit weird to spend my birthday with no family. The first time in my life, in fact. However, I still had a pretty splendid day. And just so’s you know, the fam is celebrating my birthday this weekend. Maybe next year I’ll go back to the habit of celebrating with family. On my birthdate. Not in August like last year, not in May like this year. It’s something to shoot for anyway…

If Baseball Had a Holy Land…

Wrigley Field would be its epicenter. That said, Fenway Park wouldn’t be terribly far behind. I’ve been to a game at Wrigley. In 1993, my parents loaded the four of us kids into a midget van and we drove around the United States of America for thirty days. We were in Cooperstown, New York–home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame–on induction day when Reggie Jackson was inducted into the Hall. And we caught a game at Wrigley Field on our swing back from the east coast.

I have a dream… not that all men be treated equal (although, that’s a darn good dream), but to visit every baseball park in Major League Baseball. And the big three have always been Wrigley, Fenway, and Yankee Stadium. I still plan to attend a game at Yankee Stadium, but I’m completely bummed that I didn’t get there before they tore down the original. The “house that Ruth built” is no more. As such, Wrigley and Fenway are the last of the classic ballparks. This year, I made it to Fenway. More precisely, I went on my birthday whilst traipsing up the east coast visiting everything I possibly could.

I stayed in Boston with my friend Dan and there was no way I was coming all this way and not attending a game! Nothing doing!

For the record, I couldn’t back up and get the Fenway sign in the photo due to the swarms of people who kept darting in front of me and were taking photos behind me. ‘Tis what it is, right? You adapt and compromise. Don’t worry, I got plenty of shots to satisfy my shutterbug tendencies. The “Teammates” statue greets you when you enter the stadium at Gate B. Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom Dimaggio (Joe’s little brother). They played together for seven seasons, remaining friends for the rest of their lives. All four served in World War II and led the team to numerous victories and an American League Pennant, but more importantly, remained friends. What a lovely tribute.

When you enter Gate B (as we did), you are greeted with sights reminiscent of a bygone era. Painted crossbeams point you toward various concessions, bathrooms, and anything else you might be in search of at a ballpark. As you can see in the photograph at the start, awnings stretch over the concession stands, shading the customers at the counter as they retrieve their hot dogs and such. Yes, I enjoyed a hot dog. Baseball without a hot dog is just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And the one time in my life I didn’t eat a hot dog at a game, it was completely weird! The BoSox serve up a pretty tasty hot dog, too. And that’s all I consumed at the game. I’ve never been much of a nachos girl. Sometimes I’ll have an ice cream sandwich, but I really don’t need more than a hot dog and some water (since I don’t drink soda anymore).

Dan took me into the right field bleachers where you can see the red seat. Every seat in the stadium is green… except one. The red seat in the right field bleachers signifies the longest homerun ever hit here. Fortuitously, it was hit by the most beloved player in Red Sox history, the legendary Ted Williams. On June 9, 1946, Williams cranked the ball 502 feet, hitting the gentleman sitting in this seat. It’s been estimated that had there been no obstructions, it would’ve traveled 535 feet. In honor of this blast, the seat is red. Standing below, I watched a string of men walk up to the seat, look at it reverently, then cautiously and gingerly lower themselves into it, and gaze out at the stadium with a look of sheer bliss. If I didn’t understand, I would’ve thought it ridiculous.

From our vantage point above the bull pen, I had an unobstructed view of the Green Monster. Every fan of baseball is familiar with the Green Monster. The stadium was built in a congested area and was designed asymmetrically. The wall, or Green Monster as it’s affectionately known, is 37.167 feet tall. Left fielders have to know how to play a fly ball off of the wall or a hitter can easily stretch a single to a double or double to a triple. From one end to the other, the wall is 310 to 315 feet from home plate… a very short distance in baseball terms. In 1999, Fenway Park hosted the All Star Game and St. Louis CardinalsMark McGwire memorably competed in the Home Run Derby and launched a fair number of balls over the wall (he ended up hitting more than anyone else in the tournament, but not in the third round and lost–the rules weren’t changed to take a combined total until after the Derby in 2008 when Texas Rangers‘ Josh Hamilton put on a show the likes of which haven’t been seen before or since).

After looking my fill from the bleachers, we made our way up to the Right Field Roof where our seats were located. With the exception of home runs hit to the right field corner, it’s a great place to watch a game at Fenway. From these seats, we had a bird’s eye view of the LED board in centerfield. I shot a picture of it prior to the game to commemorate the fact I was inside the stadium on my birthday. April 14. Done. (The Dunkin’ Donuts sign to the right makes me smile… you can’t go anywhere in Boston without passing one of these. No joke. They’re everywhere.) As you can see, the BoSox were hosting the Tampa Bay Rays (formerly the Tampa Bay Devil Rays… still don’t understand the name change). We arrived at the stadium an hour before the game started so I had plenty of time to enjoy the sights and sounds prior to the game commencing. As it should be, I might add.

Also celebrating his birthday was Bill Hogan II. Unlike me, he was celebrating his 100th birthday. Mr. Hogan was born six days before the first game was played at Fenway. He’s an impressive man and was joined on the field by Bill Hogan III, Bill Hogan IV, and Bill Hogan V. Many of his family were in the stands for the moment, coming in from out of state to enjoy the celebration. Pretty awesome. No one could remember a time when someone threw out a second first pitch, but are you really going to argue with a man on his 100th birthday?! Whereas his first toss bounced before the plate, his second made it all the way to the catcher. Well done, Bill. I hope to be as spry when I’m 100.

Well, that’s enough for one day… I’ll write more about my birthday adventures in Fenway later. Enjoy your Sunday!