April 14, 2016 – My Dad was taken home by his Lord and Saviour. There are bunches of my words that you can read if you so wish, regarding my Dad’s death found in the following links. Dad. The Man is Gone. A Dad and This Boy. I miss him.
May 14, 2016 – We took the twins and their older brothers to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play. It is the 6-year-old twins’ first trip to the old ballpark in Boston.
So, it has been a month since my Dad passed away. I have been apart from my Dad for longer periods than a month over the years. It has happened many times even. Never, has it been so tough as it has been these last 30 days. I know I won’t walk into the old house and be greeted by his sly grin ever again. I know that he won’t wander out to the chairs in the yard on some sunny, warm day to watch while I work on the lawn, and to wait for a chance to tell me to take a break, to get a drink, and sit down to talk with him. Never again will I sit with him and listen to the old hymns, or listen to the country styled classics he loved. Nor will I spend an afternoon watching baseball with him as we discuss the players of now and then. And, no matter how many times I visit Fenway, I will never be able to chat about visits to the ole ballpark that he made, I made, or we made.
This trip to Fenway Park was a first for the twins, also a first for me without my Dad here on earth. It was a first for the four sons to attend a Sox game together. And, you know what? I thought about my Dad a lot yesterday at the game. One of the first visits I ever made to see the Red Sox, I sat in nearly the same section. That was 40-plus years ago, but I will never forget it. I hope the same for my wife and the kids yesterday.
This last month has introduced me to reactions, thoughts, and emotional irregularities that I was not prepared for. This last month also projected me directly into the healing process, whether I wanted to heal or not. While being stunned for the better part of a few weeks, little pieces of normalcy crept back to the surface. Places where I have always found solace, were, and are, still out there. Subjects that appealed to Dad and I still appeal as much as they ever have. And in these places, around these subjects, as well as among the people whom walk in these spaces, I have found that the world still turns.
Before I get to yesterday, I also mention how comforting it is to trust completely in a God who fears nothing. After bringing the raw emotion connected to the gaping hole torn into my little world to the feet of Jesus in prayer and humility, I almost had to laugh at my own frailty. My worst hour, or most difficult day, or most impossible scenario is gathered up effortlessly and lost in the immenseness of His mercy, His love, and His grace. Thank you Lord for always being there for me.
Now you may wonder how any of this ties in with a random May baseball game at Fenway Park. Honestly, I question myself on that as well, but here’s the way I see it.
We weren’t in our seats for five minutes when I turned to my wife and said, “I love it here. I just love it.” I don’t know who was more excited to walk up the runway to the field at Fenway yesterday, me or the kids. This old ballyard makes me feel like a kid again, almost instantly. And in those first trips to the ballpark, it was Dad that got me there. And in those asymmetrical walls started all of the stories that began with, “I remember when…”. So, yes, there is a connection.
We parked over at Copley Square and made the 1-mile walk to Fenway. It was a gorgeous day. To hear my 6-year-old daughter exclaim with so much joy, “I’m so happy to have my four brothers with me!” on the walk to the park was priceless.
Back at Fenway Park, the first inning or two took what seemed like an eternity. Sox trail, 1-0; then they lead, 2-1; moments later the Sox are down 5-2 in the 2nd inning. Worse than that (I think) the twins are beside themselves upset and wanting to go home. See going to baseball games for them is nothing new, but sitting in seats and being contained in a stadium with thousands of other folks was very new to them. It’s amazing what some popcorn, a Fenway Frank or two, and maybe some ice cream can do to welcome a child to the friendly confines. A third inning blast from Big Papi didn’t hurt either. The younger kids, the older kids, and us adults, we all were a little bit more excited when David Ortiz came to bat. The twins don’t really understand the idea that this is his last season, but the rest of us, especially this old baseball history buff, it is another chance to witness greatness before it goes away for good. Again, I think of the great man of God this earth lost just a month ago in my Dad. Greatness is great while it’s happening. Greatness is remembered when it is gone. But nothing is better than witnessing greatness while it is happening, and I got 48 years of that with my Dad. With Ortiz, it has been shorter, and different, but still great, and yesterday did nothing to change my mind.
Clay Buccholz settled in and pitched scoreless innings in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th innings to finish his outing. The Sox got the Big Papi solo homer in the third inning and an RBI groundout from Mookie Betts in the fourth inning to cut the lead to 5-4. The score would stay the same right until the 9th inning. Boston’s bullpen was outstanding and as the innings passed by, I thought often of my Dad. I caught numerous glimpses of the kids enjoying their siblings, the ballpark, and the game in their own ways. It was awesome to watch.
In the ninth inning, Ryan Hanigan gunned down an Houston Astro would-be base stealer to end the top of the ninth inning and give the home team, Red Sox, a chance to overcome a one-run deficit. Hanigan had entered the game after Dustin Pedroia pinch-hit for starting catcher, Christian Vazquez. Vazquez had nabbed a runner trying to steal home, in the eighth inning.
The bottom of the ninth inning brought up the Red Sox top-of-the-order in Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts. With David Ortiz looming in the fourth spot. The Astros brought in their closer, Luke Gregerson, who had pitched in the Astros’ Friday night win at Fenway, earning his 8th save with a 1-2-3 inning that included a pair of strikeouts, facing the Red Sox 2-3-4 hitters. Betts flied out. Bradley Jr. walked. Bogaerts beat out a double play possibility, forcing out Bradley Jr. at second base. So there were two outs, with Bogaerts on first base. The runner on base allowed Ortiz to bat in the 9th inning. With the count 0-1, Ortiz blasted an inside-out line shot to the 379′ mark in left center field. The ball eluded the Astros’ center fielder, Jake Marisnick, and bounced around some. Bogaerts scored from first base and Ortiz slid into third base with his first triple in 3 seasons. More importantly the game was tied at 5-5, and the Sox had new life. It was another case of Big Papi being clutch. Fenway erupted. And the kid in me yelled and hollered loudly as I was somehow a kid again, and my home team did it again, coming back to tie the game when most seemed lost. Seconds later, Hanley Ramirez had a ‘Manny Moment’ and bunted for some unknown reason, into an easy out, and we were all going to extra innings. Which of course is still better than losing 5-4.
Throughout the game, the twins had asked again and again, when was Big Papi going to bat again? They wanted to see the man hit. And through nine innings he had homered, and tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. He was clutch. As the rest of the American League wishes he’d hurry up and retire, we were relishing these moments next to the Green Monster watching a Red Sox legend do what he’s known for, coming up huge when the game is on the line.
The bottom of the eleventh inning brought the top of the order back up for the Red Sox in a, still tied at 5, contest. Betts and Bradley Jr. both grounded out harmlessly. Michael Feliz was throwing pure gas for the Astros and this game looked like it may continue for some time. Then Xander Bogaerts singled sharply to right field on a 3-2 count to extend the inning, and bring David Ortiz to the plate with the spotlight shining brightly, again. With the count at one ball and two strikes, Feliz uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Bogaerts to advance to second base. Now this left first base open which almost certainly means Ortiz gets a free pass to first base via an intentional walk. However, with two strikes on Ortiz, the at bat continued. As the Fenway Faithful would have wished, Ortiz scalded a line drive that hit the wall on the fly, just to the left of the 420′ marker in the fabled ‘triangle’, and he had done it again. “Big Papi won the game! Big Papi won the game!” exclaimed Theodore jumping up and down beside me. I hollered myself hoarse. Yes, Ortiz delivered yet again, and Fenway was transformed into his own crowded living room where 30,000+ of his best friends gather to watch him pull wins from defeat more often than most. What a finish! What a game! What a day! What a memory! What a month.