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Game’s Eve

For the first time, tomorrow, I’m going to a Red Sox game.

I’m excited. Really excited. I fell like this is what I’ve been preparing for all this time. This experience.

I’ve read about the history of baseball. I’ve watched documentaries and news clips and autobiographies and biographies and articles. I’ve watched it live and taped and listened to it on the radio. I’ve met (briefly) old players and walked along the infield and even sat in the dugout at Fenway.

And now, just now, I’m going to go to a game.

EEK!

-D-

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Last Season

At times, I feel like I’ve crashed a funeral. Every article I read about this upcoming season, there are the same words whispered over and over again in somber tones.

“The collapse” “Last September” “2011”

It’s a spooky repetition. There’s a shadow over the start of this season and for someone who’s just now entering the story, it’s ominous. I hear snippets of information. Players talking about those dark times. Hanging their heads. Others are angry. There are those who aren’t there anymore. who paid the price for what happened and who didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.

To me, after ingesting 160 years of baseball history in two months and from an academic distance, I see it as one bad season out of 100. While I know what happened, in general if not in detail, I didn’t experience it. I don’t know the regret and the sadness of the fans who had been following the team all season.  Everyone else actually experienced it and felt it.

It’s the difference between studying the game and actually following it. It’s ab0ut becoming emotionally invested in a team. This emotional distance is a large part of the reason why I’ve decided to do my best to watch as many of the Spring Training games as I can.

The Red Sox and I need to have a bonding experience.

Dylan Charles

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The Park

One of the most surprising things that I’ve read through-out my spring training, was that, prior to Henry, Werner and Lucchino buying the team, there was a lot of talk about abandoning Fenway and building a new park elsewhere.

To me, even before I started my whole Baseball Project, this was unthinkable. Leave Fenway? But…it’s Fenway! It’s one of those places people think of when you say, “baseball.” It’s been around almost as long as the Red Sox have been around. It’s been the home to Babe Ruth and Ted Williams and that Yaz fellow. You can’t leave Fenway.

Since I’ve never been to a major league ballpark and since the season is still a ways out, I decided to take advantage of the Fenway Park Tours. After all, what better way to get acquainted with a ballpark than when it’s completely empty? When it’s full of screaming fans and vendors and balllplayers and reporters and crew, you don’t really get to appreciate it. You miss out on details that are going to be obscured by the excitement of the game.

But a ballfield without players is such an odd thing to see.

The view from the Green Monster.

The history of Fenway is apparent from the moment you walk through the gate. There are dates everywhere; marking the first series the Red Sox won (1903, which was also the first World Series ever) and the years they won the American League pennant. There are the old bleacher seats that have been there since 1934 and they show it: There’s no leg room. There’s no room between you and your neighbor. And, as our guide pointed out, there are no cupholders.

Everything has a story attached to it. There’s the red seat out behind right field, where Ted Williams’ home run landed, the longest homer hit in Fenway. There’s the Green Monster, where Carlton Fisk’s homerun safely landed after he willed it there.

The Green Monster in all its glory.

Fenway is both one of the oldest and one of the smallest ballparks in the major leagues. It’s crammed into a tiny space, surrounded on all sides. Fenway represents Boston, in the way that Boston embraces its past and the future on the same street corner. History and progress in one square block. To me, a newcomer to the game and its history, it’s unthinkable that they even contemplated building a new park.

I can’t wait to see it in action.

Dylan Charles

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The Obsession

I’ve started to mentally break up The Baseball Project into segments. The first segment is, obviously, Spring Training. For the last few weeks, I’ve read, watched, absorbed and analyzed nothing but baseball. I’ve watched Ken Burns Baseball. I’ve read baseball books about the various players. I’ve read articles about the up-coming season. I’ve even started watching this TV show from the early ’90’s called “Talking Baseball

Every bit of free time I have has become devoted to baseball, in one form or another. When I think about writing something, I always have my baseball on hand, so I have something to play with while I think. I think about going to Fenway constantly, which I can’t believe spellcheck isn’t recognizing right now. I’m trying to calculate how many games I’ll actually be able to attend, once the season starts. And that’s the thing, the scary thing; the season hasn’t even started yet and it’s already started to take over what and how I think.

I’ve had (another) nightmare about Ty Cobb. How many nightmares can a person have about Ty Cobb before that’s deemed an abnormal thing? I’m at two. And he SCARES me. I haven’t even read his biography yet, though it’s on my kitchen table. Waiting. Waiting for me.

On the one hand, I’m worried for my mental health. I have a constant stream of ERAs and WHIP’s and OPS flying through my head. So many numbers and so many names. I have the whole of baseball (almost two century’s worth) and I’m trying to cram it all into my brain in a two month period.

And you want to know the scary thing?

I’m loving it.

Dylan Charles

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The Ball

I bought a baseball the other day. The lengths I went to get it were more than one might expect, seeing as how Baseball is out of season. I finally managed to find one right near Fenway Park, an obvious place to buy a ball really.

There’s something intrinsically and inexplicably soothing about holding it. I’ve been tossing it to myself for the last two hours without even thinking about it and I miss it if I’ve set it down somewhere. It’s something that demands to be held and admired. Its appeal is pronounced and unavoidable. And I think I’ve finally figured out what it is.

It is an object that is perfectly executed. It has been designed and tweaked and re-designed and re-tweaked time and time again over over two hundred years. It is what it is supposed to be and it does it perfectly. There is no going back to the drawing board, because it has been there and back already. The materials will change once they develop a new synthetic leather or stitching that never breaks; but on a fundamental level, it’s a finished product.

The baseball is not unique in this. If you’ve ever held a knife that’s balanced and honed or driven a sports car or used a Kindle, I’ve no doubt that you’ve experienced a similar sensation. It’s the sensation of using something that is not going to get any better. It’s the sensation of using something that has been tested and tried and defined a million times over. You’re using something that will not get better because it can not get better. It has reached its peak and when you encounter something like that, then it’s hard to let go of it.

Dylan Charles

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