I’m hopeless. I realize that. I was mad at the Red Sox in 2011; then again in 2012. But you can only be mad for so long. I love the Red Sox again. In fact, I never stopped. You can be mad at someone with whom you love, right? I bought tickets. I’m ready for April and a new season. Don’t worry – I won’t be buying any Fenway bricks. I’m not that hopeless. Yet.
I believe that women view sports differently than men. No, I don’t mean that our favorite athletes must be sexy (but some are). I don’t mean that they have to look good in baseball pants (but some do). Women are not only interested in the play on the field. We are also interested in the person on the field. Personality matters. Character matters. Who are these people we watch so intently…that we cheer…and sometimes not.
This past week I heard that certain players and Wally would be out and about in downtown Boston giving away pre-sale ticket vouchers. I packed my commuter tote bag with a camera and some quilt squares just in case there was a sighting. By late-morning I heard that Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish, Jonny Gomes and David Ross would be at Faneuil Hall in Boston at noon. I hesitated only a moment. The crowds! The pushing and shoving! The vying for space! I went. I walked into the historic rotunda and saw a few cameramen sitting down having lunch and a few people in Red Sox winter hats and coats. It was freezing cold and everyone was bundled up. There were some people sitting at a long table eating pizza – along with tourists and downtown office workers. I sat down to text my friend that there was nothing happening, feeling a little disappointed. Then I realized that among people sitting at the table next to me were the four players along with other team employees. I sat and I waited, resisting the urge to make eye contact or disturb them while they ate. (I hate when my bosses interrupt my lunch hour.) All at once they got up, spoke quietly to each other, stood around and handed out a few vouchers. Wally showed up and created the biggest stir. Most people there were tourists and did not have a clue who they were. Sadly, many fans would not recognize them without a number on their backs (and baseball pants on their trunks). There were no introductions, no muss, no fuss. It was the perfect storm! Armed with courage, a camera and my quilt squares, I approached. First, Daniel Nava. His big, open smile is very approachable. We chatted a few minutes about the quilt I was making and who had signed and who I would like to have sign. He could not have been nicer. Then I approached Ryan Kalish for more pleasant chatting with a nice young man who happens to be a major league baseball player. I wished him a great season. His reply was, “I hope so.” I remember thinking that he looked wistful. Two days later, the news broke that his other shoulder requires surgery for a torn labrum and that he will again miss part of the season. I am so sad for that nice, hard-working young man. Feeling courageous, I set my sights on Jonny Gomes and welcomed him to Boston along with David Ross. I am sure they felt like fish out of water. Crazy Boston fans. Each player cordially signed my quilt squares. Four more!!! I went back to work happy and excited about the experience.
Little did I know that the next day would only get better.
I went to the Boston Baseball Writers Annual Awards Dinner. Not expecting anything but some rubber banquet chicken and a couple of decent photographs, I came away with the mother lode. I was carrying my commuter tote bag with Tito Francona’s new book, Francona: The Red Sox Years, which I was reading on the train. Suddenly, Tito appeared in the room with a flurry. He greeted several people and bellied up to the bar for some liquid courage – probably in order to see Larry Lucchino who did not exactly come off smelling like a rose in Tito’s book. I sidled up to him at the bar and told him that I miss him. It just came out. When I saw him, I realized that I do miss him. Maybe it is just a Bobby Valentine hangover. Anyway, I pulled the book out of my magic bag of tricks and VOILA!
At the urging of my friend, Kate, I packed my latest Red Sox portrait quilt of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I did not think it was an appropriate venue to seek autographs but I rolled it up and stuck it in my tote. Kate convinced me that if there was an opportunity and I did not have it with me, I would regret it. She was right. Salty was there receiving the Tim Wakefield Community Service Award. There was not an appropriate time to approach him throughout the cocktail hour or dinner, but good things come to those who wait. And so I waited. Out came Salty into the lobby and walking past me. He almost got away. I approached. “Excuse me, Salty. May I show you this?” Unfurl quilt. He blinked. He looked at me. He said, “Did you make that?” Yes. “You made that of me?” (How unassuming!) It took him by surprise. “I’ve never seen anything like that!” Well, I said, may I ask you to sign it? “I’d love to!” That’s just plain awesome!
Jonny Gomes, who accompanied Salty, had signed my quilt block the day before. He piped up, “Hey, I signed something for you yesterday. She makes Red Sox quilts!” He remembered! Priceless!
As if the evening wasn’t great enough, we also spoke to relief pitcher, Andrew Miller, for a moment. Andrew was voted the Fireman of the Year by the BBWAA. What an open face and friendly manner! Mike Aviles, who was voted the Jackie Jensen Award for his hustle, was there and he walked by, said hi, and flashed that magnificent smile. I hope he does well and enjoys being with Tito in Cleveland, but I’ll miss seeing that smile on the HD screen at Fenway.
I went home clutching my magic tote bag. What a haul! I’m quite sure I was glowing. I love my team again! They are nice! They are fan-friendly! They may or may not be a winning team but right now, I don’t care! I got home and looked through my mail. I could not believe my eyes. My lucky day continued! (No, I did not win the Publisher’s Clearing House.) In the mail was one of my quilt squares sent out weeks earlier. This one was signed by John Farrell. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day.
I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned and thought of those moments…those brief conversations…Tito’s book and the terrific speech he gave…those signed fabric pieces…the signed Salty quilt!
I feel renewed. I’m ready for “Truck Day”, ready for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training, ready for April 1.
Other people can worry about lineups, pitching rotations, wins and losses, playoff contention, quests for the World Series. I cannot do anything about that stuff. I can only watch and hope that I like the people on the field, that they play hard and put on a good show, that they appreciate the fans – especially loyal fans like me – and that they occasionally acknowledge our presence. I can only control the arrangement of my signed quilt blocks and decide which player is the next to have his likeness stitched into my portrait quilts.
Last fall, I was talking baseball with a woman who suffers from crippling bouts of depression. We were speaking passionately about what had gone wrong and what had gone right with our Sox. She said something that I will never forget. “Isn’t it wonderful to care about something so much.” So, I will leave the angst to the sports writers and commentators who get paid to wring their hands. Me? I’ll just celebrate the art of caring. And wait for spring.