Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage

This was my view yesterday. Don't you feel sorry for me?

This was my view yesterday. Don’t you feel sorry for me?

I don’t pretend to be the foremost authority on, well, anything. I know what I know and I like what I like and you can either agree with me or disagree with me it’s no sweat off my brow (Although I will most likely argue with you if you start to complain about Sweet Caroline being played at Fenway.)

Having written that, what the hell with the people who are complaining about the extended netting at Fenway Park?

(Before I start this rant I feel compelled to mention that Stephen King is my favorite author and the inspiration for many things I’ve written that none of you have read. If you can adore someone you don’t know at all, I adore him. But I feel like he’s wrong here. Wrong, wrong, wrong.)

Prior to yesterday, those of you who don’t have a “Fenway Park” Google alert might not have been aware that the extended the netting that is behind home plate at the park. It stretches from home pate and reaches to each of the dugouts (but doesn’t go beyond them – meaning there is no protective netting in front of folks sitting behind the dugout). The netting behind home plate also goes above the head of the fans. The new netting doesn’t. Basically, they’ve made it so foul balls and errant bats aren’t going to smack the face of anyone who happens to be sitting in the expensive seats.

Call me kooky, but I think this is a great idea.

Stephen King doesn’t agree.

There are questions inherent in the decision to net, and I think they’re bigger than baseball,” King wrote. “Like when does protection become overprotection? Is the safety of a fan at a public event like a baseball game the responsibility of the organization putting on that event? (According to the back of every MLB ticket sold, the fan is responsible.) When do safety precautions begin to steal away the pure joy of being there?

As I wrote above, if you attended a game at Fenway prior to 2016 and sat behind home plate, there was protective netting in front of and above you. So the protection factor for the fans isn’t new. The Red Sox didn’t just suddenly decide it was important to protect the fans, they just decided to try and increase that protection. And, yes, I believe it IS the responsibility of the team to try and ensure fan safety.

And to answer King’s main question, yes, I believe it IS the responsibility of the team to try and ensure fan safety.

I’m curious as to what part of the “pure joy” of being at a ball game is stolen away by having netting blocking a ball or bat from flying at you? Being able to catch a foul ball? There are plenty of other seats in the park where you can do that. (Point of interest: King reportedly turned down the Red Sox offer of changing his seats to a place where there was no netting.)

I was fortunate enough to watch the game from behind home plate yesterday. Netting in front and above me. Hell, I watched the Red Sox lose the Fenway opener in the ninth inning and I still had a ridiculously good time at the park. A loss AND netting? How did I persevere?

The baseball gods and some very generous friends have seen to it that I’ve had the opportunity to sit in some very good seats at Fenway. I’ve been in the seats around where King’s season tickets are many times. I promise you, no one tries to pay better attention to what is going on at the game than I do, especially when I’m in seats where there is a chance of getting hit by a ball or bat.

I do not want to get hit by a ball or bat. I really don’t.

(If my life were like The Truman Show and there was a camera following me 24/7 you all would see how many times I’ve chosen to dive away from a ball that ended up not being anywhere near me.)

I try to watch every pitch, every swing, to track the ball and make sure its path isn’t directly to my face. If someday I get hit by a bat or ball and some jackass on WEEI says it was because I wasn’t paying attention you all have my permission to kick the crap out of him. (You have more than my permission. Consider it a request.)

But the fact is, you CAN’T possibly pay attention to everything that is going on in a game all at the same time. I’m fond of watching the pitcher, which means I often miss the actual swing and then lose where the ball is going. I know plenty of people who watch the infielders to see how they’re positioned or who are watching the base runners to see if someone is about to steal. Everyone watches the game differently. It doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention it just means they’re paying attention to something that maybe you aren’t paying attention to.

Do I deserve a bloody face because I’m focused on the pitcher’s mound instead of home plate?

And let’s be honest, there is other stuff going on as well. Maybe you brought your kid to the park?? Maybe someone else brought a kid to the park? Kids distract you, even if they don’t mean to. They make noise, they kick you, they yell for no reason. A mother doesn’t deserve to be taken out on a stretcher because she turned her head from the game to check on her child. A man doesn’t deserve a bloody hand because he had to shield a kid from a foul ball coming her way.

We pay a lot of money to go enjoy baseball in the park. The least the teams can do, the very least, is make sure they’ve done everything they can to ensure our safety.

Which is what the Red Sox are trying to do and I welcome it.

Yesterday I sat in that “cage” Stephen King wrote of and I still enjoyed myself immensely. I suspect if he gives it a try he will as well.

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April 12, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Toeing the Rubber | , , | 1 Comment

Almost Time to Say Goodbye

Completely acknowledging that this just adds to the reasons folks might consider me weird:  I bought a ticket to the last regular season game at Fenway and it made me sad. Regardless of whether the Red Sox are in the post season or are getting early starts on their golf games, the end of the regular season makes me so very sad. Some chalk it up to being connected with the end of summer, but I’m not much of a summer fan; I’m much more of a fall girl, so it isn’t that. I just genuinely miss having baseball on my television every night. (And I know there’s still a week of baseball left after the Sox leave Boston…but the last game at Fenway brings it to my mind that there are going to be a lot of last games at ballparks all across MLB on September 29th.)

Although I live in the market for NESN, every season I purchase the Extra Innings package through Comcast (which invariably begets a conversation with a Comcast rep along the lines of “If you’re a Red Sox fan living in Massachusetts why do you need the Extra Innings package?”).  Because I like baseball. One of the highlights of being unemployed for three years was that in the summer I watched more baseball than I ever thought humanly possible. One of the downsides of being employed this year is how much baseball I’ve missed. And while the winter months do bring other ways to enjoy baseball, and I partake in as much as I can, nothing, for me, beats watching regular season Major League Baseball.

I’ll be making my yearly trek to Fenway for the last regular season game to say goodbye. (Yes, I make sure I say goodbye to Fenway each year.) I’ve been to six games this year and the only game they won was the first one I saw(Opening Day at Fenway)…I decided they were doing better without me but they’re doing well enough that I can go to this game without feeling like I tanked the season for them

While I AM sad that the regular season is soon over that doesn’t mean that I’m not absolutely overjoyed that, barring something God-awful, we Red Sox fans will still have a rooting interest in the post season. I’m just greedy and want more.

September 16, 2013 Posted by | 2013 | , | 2 Comments

One last game

Every year since around 1999 I have tried to make a point of going to the last game of the regular season at Fenway Park.  Since that time there have been two or three times that I haven’t made it but, for the most part, when the Red Sox say goodbye to the fans for the regular season, I’m there.

I bought the ticket for tonight’s game way back in December thinking the same things I do every year:  If the Red Sox are in division lead it would just be fun to be at the park (and say goodbye to Fenway) and if the team is completely out of it I’d want to be there to support the team (and say goodbye to Fenway).  I don’t usually take into consideration the situation that the team is currently in.

Let’s recap:

The team is in the lead for the Wild Card.  They are two games up on Tampa Bay and six games out of first place behind the Yankees.  They are, technically, still completely in this.  Unfortunately, their play hasn’t been that of a playoff competitor and instead of offering up support to help give the team that extra push it seems that many fans physically showing up at Fenway would rather bring the negative.  This makes it so that the team isn’t what makes me kind of dread going to tonight’s game but the fans are.

I guess that positive outlook from the fans I mentioned yesterday only exists if the team is winning.

So I will be there tonight and I’ll be there with someone who shares my belief in supporting the team no matter what.  (She also is one of less than a handful of people who can keep me from getting into a fight at Fenway.  That could come in handy tonight.)

Regardless of what October brings for the Red Sox, tonight is more than likely the last time I’ll see Fenway in person this year and I plan to make the very best of it.

September 21, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , | 1 Comment

The Future is at Fenway Today

I'll definitely miss moments like this today (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor and used with permission)

I would so love to be at Fenway Park today.  Watching minor league players get to play on the Fenway field is definitely a thrill.  Even more exciting is seeing those young players wandering the field, slamming up against the Green Monster and going into the scoreboard like they were just your average fans with an opportunity to go on the field.  The excitement is contagious and this will be the first time since they started doing the Futures games that I’ve missed it; so I’m a bit bummed about that.

Fortunately, I know many people who will be there representing and, of course, Kelly O’Connor will be there so we’ll be sure to get some fantastic photos!

It surprises me that more teams don’t do this.  It’s a great way to not only let the fans get in the park and enjoy it when they might otherwise not be able to afford a day at a ballgame (premium seats don’t cost a premium today) but it also is a wonderful way to get the average fan interested in Minor League Baseball.

So if you make it to Fenway this afternoon, I hope it doesn’t rain on you (according to weather.com between 2 and 3 o’clock today we run the highest risk of rainfall) and you not only enjoy the games but they encourage you to support Minor League Baseball.

August 20, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , | Leave a comment

A Day at the Fens

I had to take at least one picture of Jacoby for my niece!

This season has been one in which, for me, I haven’t traveled much to Fenway, so it was a pleasant surprise when I was gifted with, essentially, a day at Fenway yesterday.

It was supposed to begin with a tour, but at the last minute we decided to bail on it.  (As an aside, if you have never been on a Fenway tour, it is best to not go with me or Kelly, the friend who gifted me with the day of joining her at Fenway.  We don’t react well to a lot of it given it is full of misinformation used just to amuse those who don’t pay attention.  See?  I’ve already thrown water on it and we aren’t even there.  Really, don’t bring me to a Fenway tour…you’ll regret it immediately.)  So after a morning enjoying some caffeine at Eastern Standard, we made our way to Fenway for the boSox Club meeting in the EMC Club featuring Terry Francona, John Farrell and Larry Lucchino.

Highlights included Tito mentioning that the thought MLB was brilliant for having David Ortiz ask players to perform in the Home Run Derby (he said he loves watching it and the fans enjoy it but the players really try to avoid it but no one could say “no” to Papi!), and Larry Lucchino telling a Trot Nixon fan that the Red Sox have been discussing with Nixon a scenario where he could come back as a Red Sox player and retire the way Nomar Garciaparra did.  (After I tweeted Larry’s comment it was retweeted as Larry having said they ARE bringing Trot back and the Red Sox are planning on retiring Trot’s number.  Good Lord, it was like the telephone game.)  There was also a brief discussion of the call at the plate to end Tuesday’s game.  It’s fair to say that regardless of Tom Caron (host of the afternoon) telling John Farrell that the replays were, at the very least, inconclusive, John wasn’t buying it and believed the call to be a bad one.    In spite of this, John was genuinely pleasant and had nothing but nice things to say about Sox fans and his former team.

When the luncheon was over, having tickets to the game that wasn’t starting for another five hours, we decided to make our way to Jerry Remy’s to hang until we wanted to make our way to the park.  We had lunch (yes we went to a luncheon before hand…where they ran out of food, so we went to Remy’s to eat.  Live and learn.) and enjoyed the air conditioning.  After some oddness (we had a pleasant waitress most of the time and then she switched tables.  Our next waitress we never met because, we were told, she refused to serve our table. Very odd…I wasn’t aware waitpeople could refuse to serve a table (our guess is because we weren’t going to be a big enough tab for her).  All in all, though, in spite of the weirdness at Remy’s, and not getting lunch at the luncheon, the afternoon was a heck of a lot of fun.

Even more fun was the evening.  Kelly scored us really great tickets (field box behind the Red Sox on-deck circle about five rows off the field) so we had a wonderful view of Tim Wakefield and the entire field.  The weather, hot, definitely, hot, wasn’t as oppressive as we expected it to be, we even got a little bit of a breeze, and even when the rain came it was refreshing (until it was overwhelming and we took cover until it ended.)  We stayed until the end and got to see a great game.  I could have lived without the guy who, even though he didn’t have tickets for our section, brought his camera and his child (I’m guessing to be not even one or JUST one year old) to the wall of that section making his child a prime target for foul balls just so HE could get some pictures and beg for a ball (which he didn’t get – thank you baseball gods).

You get a lot of interesting moments sitting near the on-deck circle.  Seeing Jacoby smile at the chorus of “JACOBY” yelled by a group of women was amusing.  Watching Papi wave at the little kids calling to him was just so sweet.  For the most part, we had a good crowd around us (although, really, the tradition of kids yelling “here! here!” or “ball! ball!” drives me crazy.  Not that I begrudge the kids who want a ball, but the process is so rude and you almost never hear one of them thank a player, ball or bat person or umpire for getting a ball) and the well-played game, fun fans and not so horrible weather really put together a great night.

I’m hurting a little this morning.  Not because I enjoyed myself too much, but because, even in almost 80-degree weather, the person behind me enjoyed himself a cup of clam chowder and then deposited the remains of it under my seat.  After a small allergic reaction, Kelly kindly disposed of the killer food and I used Bud Light as an antihistamine and all was well.  (The after effects of an allergic reaction, even small, for me end up making me feel like I was in a fight where I took quite a beating.)  I’m a lot of fun to be around, huh?

Did I forget to mention that, while at the luncheon and waiting in line I turned around and was face to face with Wally?  I collected myself quickly enough before I screamed but, really, he scared the heck out of me.  Just wasn’t expecting a giant, green monster to be standing next to me.    I got a handshake and a kiss on my hand for my troubles.  I’m a goof; I love Wally.

It was also fun to follow the Yankees/Cleveland game on the scoreboard (and, during the rain delay, on the video board).   I know full well that it’s relatively meaningless right now, but nothing baseball-related would make me happier than the Red Sox going into the All Star break in first place.  It’s a small dream.  Not too much to ask, right?

July 7, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Jumping to Conclusions Rant

Note from Cyn:  I’ve been writing this for a few days and it came about for two reasons, one is a thread about it over at the Sons of Sam Horn and the other is a bunch of emails I received from folks wondering how, in light of this article, I could be a proud Red Sox fan (seriously).  I’ve given a lot of thought to what I’ve written and debated on if I should even post it and decided, in the spirit of my accepting that this is a personal blog as much as a baseball one, that it was something I wanted to get out.  If anyone is offended by what I’ve written, I apologize in advance.  My goal isn’t to offend anyone but to speak out because I was a bit offended by the piece I write about below.  Ignorance doesn’t serve anyone well and we’d all be better if we paid more attention to what we said or wrote and didn’t jump to conclusions.

I’m a second generation American on my father’s side and third generation on my mother’s.  My great grandfather Alfredo, born in Tufo, Italy, lived long enough for me to be able to not only remember him but remember conversations we had.  My father’s father, my grandfather Daniel (an Irish immigrant) died a couple of years before I was born so I, sadly, never got to speak with him but my father tells me stories that he shared with my dad all the time, including stories about how difficult it was to find work back in the days of “No Irish Need Apply”.  Both my maternal great grandfather and my paternal grandfather had stories of how poorly they were treated when they came to this country.  It was because of this poor treatment that both of my parents’ families have a long history of being racially and socially tolerant.  No one wanted to be treated like they were nothing and they would make sure they never treated anyone that way.  Being turned away for a job because of your heritage gives you an anger (and embarrassment) that you don’t get over quickly.  As a result, as I’ve mentioned before, my family is quite racially diverse.

I mention this yet add that I am not so racially diverse.  While I do have a small bit of Creek Indian in me, I’m pretty much a white, Italian, Irish American with very light skin and while I do understand what it’s like to have someone consider me less of a person, given that I’m a woman, I will never truly be able to appreciate how difficult it can be for a racial minority.

Which is why I find it difficult to criticize when someone who lives with being a minority writes about their experiences as such and puts a negative light on something or some place I love.  I grew up in the 70s and 80s not too far away from Boston and I know very well about this city’s terrible history with race relations.  Regardless of any changes that have occurred, Boston’s history will always relay the facts that minorities were not welcome here for quite some time.  Nothing changes history, we can only hope to improve upon it.

I bring all of this up because a “Globe Correspondent” named Francie Latour wrote a piece last week that only just today came to my attention.  She titled it (or maybe the Globe did. I get confused on the difference between blog entries and actual articles over there) “Race on Yawkey Way: Why is Red Sox Nation so White?”.  Now, usually pieces like this are written by white guys trying to stir up trouble and I read them, dismiss them and move on with my life.  But this was written by a black woman in a mixed-race marriage who happens to be a Red Sox fan so automatically I give her more credence than I would, say, Ken Rosenthal, on the matter.

Latour admits to feeling like “that lonely brown speck in the stands” and there’s really no one who can argue that.  Chances are, if you went to Fenway and saw her sitting in the stands, you might have the same passing thought.  There have been very few times when I was the minority somewhere but the idea of being such a minority in a crowd of 35,000 folks is daunting.  But Ms. Latour adds something to this piece and uses broad strokes to paint Fenway as an awful place without considering that it’s not so different in other parks.

First off, it has long been an issue for MLB, blacks in the game let alone going to them.  There is plenty of diversity in baseball, but, as of this year, blacks only make up 8.5 percent of the players.  While there are those who love to remind the Red Sox of their terrible history with race relations (being the last team in MLB to integrate, among others), recently, especially under this ownership, racial diversity hasn’t been an issue.  But, still, the complaints come out that black people aren’t coming to the parks and Latour’s article implies it is because they aren’t made to feel welcome at Fenway Park.

Unfortunately, disgust is something I’ve felt at Fenway in other contexts. I’ve seethed as a nearby fan screamed “Go back to Japan!’’ at former third-base coach Wendell Kim. (Kim, a Korean-American, was born in Hawaii.) Once, my husband nearly got us kicked out after confronting fans shouting antigay slurs at former Blue Jays outfielder Frank Catalanotto. I wonder, if I ever heard the N-word fly, what would I do? And is it possible some blacks don’t come because they don’t want to risk hearing that ugliness?

The only racist slurs I ever heard at Fenway were lobbed at Daisuke Matsuzaka by a group of men who seemed to be college students who were drinking, not paying attention to the game and acting like jackasses.  That isn’t to say I believe no one has ever uttered such things at Fenway, but I spend a lot of time there and, usually, the problems I encounter don’t have anything to do with folks being racists…just jerks.  Admittedly, the worst things usually came from some drunken idiot who eventually got booted out of the ballpark.  My issue with this particular paragraph, though, is it could apply to any park in MLB (and, really, any arena in sports in general).  You are always going to find asses at the park.  Alcohol and testosterone don’t mix well.  Hell, alcohol and assholes don’t mix well.  (I’ve experienced my share of women who were offensive and just utter idiots at the park.  It isn’t fair to just blame idiocy on men.)  It’s disingenuous to imply that you wouldn’t hear this kind of talk at any other ballpark and that it’s specific to Fenway (and that’s exactly what she does by sharing this story as an example of why Red Sox Nation is “so white”).  While I understand that this is her specific experience, she wrote this piece in a tone that implies you wouldn’t find this issue at other parks.

In researching for this entry, I came across this:

In terms of race and ethnicity, White Americans made up 84.9% of New England’s population, of which 81.2% were whites of non-Hispanic origin. Black Americans comprised 5.7% of the region’s population, of which 5.3% were blacks of non-Hispanic origin.

Black Americans make up 5.7% of the population in New England while whites make up almost 85%. How is that not stated as the obvious reason there is such a lack of racial diversity at Fenway Park?  It certainly doesn’t excuse the asshats who are offensive and harassing, but at least it gives some perspective. (For more perspective, in Boston specifically, non-Hispanic whites make up 47% of the population while Blacks and African Americans make up 22.4%.)

The larger argument could be made about all of MLB but simplifying it to Fenway is playing with the emotions of people who all too well remember the history of race relations in Boston (myself included).  It certainly isn’t perfect, but Boston is far from the same place it was in the 1970s.  It would be ignorant of me to pretend that there still aren’t race issues out there because I’ve witnessed them myself, not just at Fenway but in other aspects of my life, including through my family.

Here’s how she ends her piece questioning why “Red Sox Nation is so White”:

For fans, baseball is religion. For owners, it’s a business. I get that. But like believers before me, I long for the day my hometown team will go all the way against improbable odds. I root for them to reverse their other curse.

The other curse?  How do you blame the team for something that is clearly out of their control?  She mentions in the piece that she’s been going to Fenway since 2000. She then mentions that she wonders what she would do if she ever heard “The N-word”. If she’s been going to Fenway for 11 years and hasn’t heard that word yet, does that not tell her that things are probably not as terrible as she imagines they could be? Isn’t it possible that the fact that there are less blacks in the region, coupled with the fact that there are less black fans in ALL of MLB be the reason the stands are so pale in Fenway? Why does there have to be a correlation between some jackasses she’s seen and the fact that less blacks (and minorities in general) go to the ball park?  To blame the Red Sox for the fact that so few blacks go to Fenway is ignorant.

One thing I do agree with her on is the Red Sox and their connection to Dennis and Callahan.  To me, there’s no excuse for the support NESN (and through NESN, the Red Sox) gives them.  That is an argument Red Sox fans of all races make every day.  It’s also one that people can easily excuse (so many write me to tell me I’m flat-out wrong about them being racist and sexist and that it’s all in the interpretation of what they’re saying) and one that, thanks to money, will be difficult to ever get across to NESN, WEEI and the Red Sox.

I will never know what it is like to have someone look at me and immediately condemn me for the color of my skin, so I don’t comfortably criticize Latour because hers are shoes I can truly never walk in.  But there are sometimes when I think it’s appropriate to defend those being unfairly targeted and I think that’s what Ms Latour has done here.  There is no arguing that Fenway Park and the Red Sox fandom are full of more white people than any other group.  But just because that is a fact, that doesn’t mean there is a nefarious reason behind it.  Articles like hers, in my opinion, don’t encourage there to be a legitimate discussion about race, they just put people on the defensive and that’s not a good way to get any kind of change in place.

June 22, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , | 3 Comments

A Message from Tru about the PMC

Tom at the Pan Mass Challenge in Fenway 2010 - Click here to donate to Tom's ride this year

Ah the Internet; that technologic marvel that allows instant information, whether true or false, to be right at our fingertips.  It’s amazing to think of how all this net business has changed our lives and we’ve become so dependent upon it.

Were it not for the Internet, we would not know one another, nor would Cyn’s blog be here.  And, it is worth noting that this particular blog isn’t just a resource for the happenings in baseball, or specifically the interest in Red Sox baseball.  It is, at least to me, much more than that.

One of the neater aspects to the blog is Cyn goes out of her way to bring things to our attention that is rooted in the idea that we can reach out and lend a helping hand to those in need.  Whether searching for a loved one who was lost, or helping grieving kids who lost their father to tragedy, this blog has always been a place that has elicited the kind of good deeds that needs getting done, appealing to us all to roll up our sleeves and participate.

So I’ve asked Cyn if I could write a few things and wish to take a few minutes to talk about one of my closest and oldest friends.

His name is Tom.  A week ago we celebrated his reaching the ripe old age of 60.  He was surrounded at a fabulous party by his wife and daughters, 83 year old (going on 18), mother, his in-laws, cousins, friends and a ton of great food and drink.  We were in his back yard, under a tent, with the weather doing its damnedest to dampen our mood.  As people ate and talked about him, I began to reflect on our 45 year relationship

We met in our sophomore year in high school.  He was an athlete… a really good athlete, who learned a love of skiing from his father, and expanded that sport to learn how to skateboard and surf.  He was and is an excellent surfer.  I have photos of him on a very cold day in Rhode Island where he was surfing some pretty big waves.  Those photos were enlarged, mounted and hang on my daughters walls now.  They know it’s him in those photos, as they’ve been around him all their lives and know many of the surfing stories he’s shared.  Tom and I have surfed in a lot of places up and down the eastern seaboard and he was always the first guy out to the lineup and the last guy in.

We skied together in high school, with me not doing much of it since the late 70’s, while he is still on his every winter.  He loves to hike and has taken his family on many treks here in northern New England, and has ventured throughout Utah and Arizona.

I was his best man in his wedding, saw the birth of his two daughters, passing of his father and been at many of the important moments of his life.  He has worked hard in his business and has always had a capacity to smile, even under pressing, otherwise difficult circumstances.

Tom has always been an athlete, keeping his body in tip top shape.  He’s watched his diet, doesn’t drink or smoke, and has been devoted to his family for as long as I’ve known him.  He is, as you can sort of tell, a guy I greatly admire.

In 2007, Tom and I went to watch the Red Sox play in the World Series.  It was cold, and it was fantastic, not just because we were at Fenway, or the Red Sox were walking away with another fantastic championship.  It was because I was there with him.  It was because he was still here.

Not too long ago, Tom was diagnosed with throat cancer.  It was stunning news, because he seemed an unlikely candidate.  I know that cancer is indiscriminate, not caring one whit about anyone it attacks.  It is just that you would never expect it to touch him.  So Tom and his family began down that dark road to where no one knows where it leads as they first set out.  He had a few consultations near local hospitals, but then decided to go to the Farber.

The Dana Farber Center is beyond any descriptions for the people who are affected by what goes on there.

These dedicated caring specialists laid out a treatment plan that was going to test the iron will Tom possesses.  And it did. His weight loss, lack of energy, inability to eat, drink or sleep with any normalcy put a strain on him and everyone who loves him.  But throughout the two year treatment process, he never stopped smiling and never once gave up, nor ever complained.  If you were to ask him about it, he’d bend your ear.  Not from the perspective of what he went through.  No, Tom would go on and on about the fantastic people at the Farber, and all those sick little kids who he says have more courage and uplifting spirits than he’ll ever hope to have.

Tom has been riding in the Pan Mass Challenge ever since he was strong enough to get back into some regular routine for exercise.

He’s in training now, as the PMC will host their 31st ride in August.  Tom will be there, riding to help raise money for the Jimmy Fund. It will be his fifth year in the event, and he does this to give back to help those who helped him.  He wants to see to it that they have the tools do advance the fight.  And the only way to do that is by raising money.

You might not know this, but since 1980, the PMC has raised more than 300 million dollars, with 100% of rider raised dollars going directly to the fund… 100%!  And the other interesting fact is that PMC was responsible for 60% of all funds donated to the Jimmy Fund and they are the largest contributor.  Riders are required to pay to ride in the event, and depending on which route they ride, they must raise between $500 to as much as $4,200 in order to participate.

Many of the riders are cancer survivors, or those who ride to support a family member.  Ages range from 17 years old to 87, with 34 states represented.  This is one major league event and it is run by dedicated people who share the passion to do whatever they can to see an end to cancer.

Saturday night I was at Fenway with Tom, his wife and two daughters.  It’s the annual PMC game and he invited me to be there with his family.  That’s two things that I have a hard time resisting… being with my best friend and at Fenway Park.

It was pretty emotional watching the riders bike the warning track. Denise DeSimone who survived throat cancer sang the national anthem. It was mentioned that her initial prognosis was thought to be so bad; she’d lose her ability to speak, never mind sing. Her voice was soft and deep, but beautiful.

There’s also Zak Kraft who threw out the first pitch. Zak’s story is really interesting. Zack’s dad is a lifelong friend of Billy Starr. Starr founded the PMC. Zak’s dad has ridden in every PMC… 32 of them. Zak is, at 28 years old, a cancer patient.

The PMC attendees got to sit in the grandstands behind home plate. Zak and his fiancée sat right in front of us. Zak’s mother remembers meeting my friend Tom at previous PMC events.

I’ve got to say that I am truly impressed with what the Sox have done to reach out and embrace the right things that make a difference in people’s lives. It’s no secret that what brings us all here is a common love of baseball; Red Sox baseball. But the current owners of this team have continually hit home runs, IMO, especially in ways that are really important

Saturday night, the Sox didn’t win, but in other, far more important ways, the real winners were all around me, smiling, laughing, celebrating and still here.

Thank you PMC, the pros over at the Farber Center, the Red Sox and thank you, Tom.

Tom at the 2007 World Series (Photo by Tru!)

June 20, 2011 Posted by | 2011, Featured | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Night at Fenway

Luis telling us how much he loves living here

Not so long ago, I received an email with a pretty sweet invitation:

On the evening of Thursday, June 2, more than 30 diehard Red Sox fans will receive the ultimate fan access as one of the exclusive offerings of being a Chase Marriott Rewards cardmember. These individuals will participate in a unique, once-in-a-lifetime Red Sox experience, featuring an all access tour of Fenway Park, an intimate dinner with Red Sox legend Luis Tiant and an overall exciting night of storytelling as these fans get once-in-a-lifetime Red Sox fan access.
We’d love to have you join us for the all-access tour, dinner and to speak with Luis about anything and everything Red Sox and live this unique experience alongside the cardmembers.

How could anyone with relatively easy access to Boston and Fenway say no to this offer? I know I couldn’t (and didn’t!).

As with many events of this nature, things didn’t go exactly as planned.  I initially expected to be going alone and then was told I could bring a guest (I’m very thankful to know people who are easy to get motivated at the last minute!).  So two of us were given the opportunity to go to Fenway Park on an off-night, walk around the park, eat free food and partake in an open bar, and on top of all of that…get the chance to meet and speak with Luis Tiant.  The only part that didn’t really work out was the speaking with Luis.  And that was only because Luis was so engaged with the card members (who paid for the privilege).  The people organizing and running the event (especially Angus from Chase and Shawn McBride from Ketchum Sports & Entertainment) went out of their way to try and get us access but timing was bad and, honestly, given that I went in not completely expecting one on one time, I didn’t mind.

We, along with the card members, got photos with Luis (which included time to talk with him not really interview him which, I have to say, I enjoyed on a totally unprofessional level!) , Luis mingled with folks and he spoke at length (and then mingled again) just about his life (including letting us know that he’s coming up on his 50th wedding anniversary!) and if you haven’t had an opportunity to listen to Luis Tiant speak, you’re missing an awful lot.  He’s funny and sweet and while I am sorry I didn’t get a chance to speak one on one with him at any great length, I’m so appreciative for the opportunity to be there.  So I owe Ketchum (especially Sarah Smedley there) a special thanks for extending the offer.

You haven’t experienced Fenway in the EMC Club until you’ve had pieces of Fenway Frank served to you as an hors d’oeuvre.

Also, any opportunity I get to be at Fenway and wander around pretty much wherever I wanted to wander without fighting off crowds is a fantastic opportunity I won’t be saying “no” to.  I’ve been fortunate to have experienced Fenway on an off-night (or at least on a night when the Red Sox weren’t in town) a handful of times now and there’s really nothing else like it.

So thanks to Chase, Marriott, Ketchum, Fenway Park and Luis Tiant for making the evening memorable.

June 4, 2011 Posted by | 2011, Featured | , , , , | 1 Comment

Win a Private Tour of Fenway

The fine folks at Tickets for Charity are once again giving my readers an opportunity to have a cool and unique Red Sox experience. You remember them. They’re the folks who gave me the tickets to give away for Opening Day this year. The people who do damn fine charity work by offering tickets to sporting (and other) events where if you buy tickets from them instead of another ticket service, the money you spend over face value of the ticket goes to charity (one of your choosing if you so choose to be that specific).

One of my favorite of photos I've taken of Fenway

This time around the prize is a private tour (for two) of Fenway Park during the day on Wednesday, May 25th.  The prize includes lunch on Tickets for Charity and includes visits inside the Green Monster and on the field.  The exact time hasn’t been worked out yet but will be closer to the day of the tour.  This prize isn’t one I get to give away, though.  It’s exclusive to my readers and those who read other Tickets for Charity partner sites but it’s still easy to enter.  (Much easier than my quizzes!)  Go to this link and just give your email and the name of my blog (it asks for “blogger you follow” but they’re looking for “Toeing the Rubber”) and hit “submit” and you’re done!

Ever wonder what lies behind the famed Green Monster? Or which players, past and present, have etched their names in its depths? Or maybe you’ve dreamed of patrolling the same outfield as Red Sox legends Yaz, Jim Rice and Ted Williams. TFC is granting one lucky follower access to a private tour for two of historic Fenway Park on May 25, 2011. The winner will have a chance to take an intimate walk around America’s most beloved ball park, and enjoy lunch on Tickets-for-Charity.

Enter for a chance to win now! Just include your email address and the name of the blogger’s site you came from. Entries will be accepted until 6 p.m., Thursday, May 19. The winner will be notified on Friday, May 20.Good luck!

They’re a great organization that does wonderful work and they’re committed to supporting the fans who are supporting them…so go on over and hopefully you’ll win!

***Special thanks to Tickets for Charity for, yet again, being terribly generous to we the fans!

May 12, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , | 3 Comments

Remembering Fenway Park

As I’ve mentioned before, writing a blog about the Red Sox comes with a few perks.  None as good as this (the Mets credentialed some of their bloggers!) but still decent perks nonetheless.

My favorite is receiving books about the team and/or baseball in general.  I’m a book nerd.  I’m a baseball freak.  These two things fit well together so when someone wants to give me a free book who am I to say no?

The people at Press Box Publicity were kind enough to send me Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox, by Harvey Frommer (with a foreword by number 6 himself, Johnny Pesky!) and I haven’t been able to stop going through it.

The photos are gorgeous and are some of the most iconic images in Fenway history (including Carlton Fisk waving his home run ball fair and Manny Ramirez hanging out at the Green Monster) and they’re accompanied by the first-person recollections of the park by former Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall, sportswriter and author Leigh Montville and author, Red Sox historian and Rounder Records founder Bill Nowlin, among others.

The book celebrates not only the history of Fenway Park but the love affair we have with it and, in all honesty, I would encourage anyone who holds Fenway close to them to head on out and purchase this gorgeous coffee table book.

For one lucky person, though, you won’t have to go looking very far because I’m giving away a brand new copy of Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox , courtesy of Adam at Press Box Publicity.

So we go again with another trivia question and this time I’m going to make it an easy one!  The first person to send me the correct answer at contests@toeingtherubber.com will have the book sent to them (with a little Red Sox-related surprise as well!).

All you have to do is tell me which Red Sox players have had their numbers retired by the Sox and what those numbers are.  That’s it.  First correct answer I get (to the email above NOT in the comments) wins!

Thanks again to Adam for the book and good luck to everyone!

April 15, 2011 Posted by | 2011 | , , , | 7 Comments