With respect to our beautiful neighbor to the west, the heaven to which I refer to is the ultimate baseball cathedral, Fenway Park. As I wrote in this column several weeks ago, I looked forward to our pilgrimage with great anticipation. Celebrating its 100th season, Fenway escaped the wrecking ball and has emerged not only as an historic shrine, but as the most beautiful ballpark I have ever seen. Our trip was meant as a one-shot deal – to be a part of a centennial celebration. After our recent weekend experience, it will be hard to keep these baseball fanatics away. If you care anything about baseball and history, this is the trip that you have to make.
For Richmonders, Boston is an easy trip. One of the lowest priced destinations out of RIC, direct service whisks you to Beantown literally before breakfast, where by the way, I would recommend the Paramount. This Charles Street establishment, just off the Boston Common, serves up one feast for the senses. A complete breakfast is available for six dollars, and judging from the crowd, the restaurant is no secret. Once in Boston, you are treated to as much history as you care to bite off. The Freedom Trail is a great walk, and allows you to explore many highlights of our nation’s birth in a leisurely day.
But our trip was about baseball, as we followed our beloved Nationals into a second round of interleague play. The Nats had a terrific weekend, sweeping the home team. Pitching and timely hitting led the way as Washington solidified its position atop the NL East. For the several hundred Nats’ fans in the park, each successive game of the three-game set got just a bit better.
It turned out though, that the show on the field was secondary to the rest of our experience. From the walk to the ballpark, to the historical surroundings, to the friendly atmosphere, to the concessionaires, Fenway provides the complete experience.
In walking to the game, you simply follow the crowd. You get the feeling that on game day, all roads lead to Fenway. After taking multiple routes, we have decided that the best route to the park takes you past Northeastern University, through the picturesque Back Bay Fens, and on to Jersey Street that becomes Yawkey Way. Yawkey Way runs parallel to the park, and becomes a street carnival on game days. This 20-minute walk allows you to experience so much what Boston has to offer.
Once in the park, you feel the history; Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Luis Tiant are all there. They are joined by a sellout crowd that now numbers nearly 800 straight games. The fans arrive early and are greeted by an army of ushers. These ambassadors encourage you to explore the park. You are encouraged to take pictures from every angle, and more than one usher will volunteer to snap the shot so as to include all members of your party.
We were a bit concerned about wearing our Nationals t-shirts and caps into the ball park. No need to worry as long as you are not a Yankee fan. The fans were so respectful toward us. They were complimentary of our team and expressed amazement at the young phenoms, Harper and Strasburg. They didn’t like being swept, but they had no problem with us rooting for our team. The overwhelming feeling I came away with was that I wanted to return for a series that would allow me to root for their Red Soxs.
Our good friend, Henry Martin goes to games with us on occasion. He is a lover of ball game food and would not be disappointed in Fenway. The prices are reasonable and even the concessions bear a sense of history; beer, soda, peanuts, hotdogs and Italian sausages generally make-up the menu. No sushi here.
It is unusual when you look upon something with great anticipation and it turns out better than you ever imagined. For me, Fenway Park was a trip to baseball heaven. You owe yourself this trip.