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Connections

Fenway’s legions of dads remembered

Many of the commemorative bricks at Boston’s ballpark hold messages for fathers.

Illustration by Gracia Lam

My dad and I have made it to Fenway Park for every Opening Day since I was in high school, somehow getting in without season tickets or inside connections. It is our one enduring father-son tradition, and this year, our 25th, I had a surprise in store for him: our very own Fenway brick.

To commemorate the ballpark’s centennial, the Red Sox let fans buy and inscribe bricks cemented into patios near entrance gates B and C. Like me, hundreds have written odes to the men who’ve mattered most in their lives.

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Some bricks recall dads who endured decades of defeat before 2004’s curse-ending championship. “Two World Series Wins in My Lifetime. I’m All Set. Reynold Vitale. 1943-2010.” There are humorous bricks: “No Crying In Baseball Daddy! Love Maci 2011.” And sentimental ones: “Baseball, Dad, Son = Happiness. Phil & Ben.” But mostly the bricks do what we all do on Father’s Day: give thanks to all that our dads are.

Jeffrey Higgins bought a brick for his father, Jim, of Harvard, who took him to his first game 34 years ago. “When I was a teenager and we couldn’t talk about anything else, we could always talk about baseball,” Jeffrey says. “He’s been my best friend my whole life. What better way to memorialize that than in Fenway Park, where we came together.”

Bruce “Fuzzy” Donahue’s three adult children, Scott, Beth, and Jonathan, bought him a brick because of his undying love for the team (Donahue’s license plate reads “Sox Nut”). Just inches away sits the brick that Scott’s children, Brendan and Colin, bought their own dad. “The best thing about my dad is he’s always interested and he’s always involved in what we’re doing,” says Brendan. “Whether it’s our schoolwork or whether it’s what we’re doing with friends, he’s always trying to make it better for us,” says the 12-year-old from Grafton.

Catherine Marx and her sons, Morgan and Casey, chose a brick to honor her late father, Lawrence Franklin Reddington Jr. of Malden, who taught them to love the Red Sox, baseball, and, most important, one another. “We’re not big on cemetery stuff,” says Catherine. “It just seemed like there should be a way to always know Grandpa, to remember him in a more poignant way. The offer for the brick came, and it just made sense.”

Buying a brick seemed only natural to me as well — but what to write?

My dad is actually not a big baseball fan. He took an interest in the sport only because I love it so much. On Opening Day, he has to fish through a pile of flashlights, tools, clipboards, and trucking magazines on the floor of his Chevy Tahoe to find the lone baseball cap he owns — its dome sadly crushed in, its bill flattened and dusty. Oblivious to just how shabby it looks, he puts it on, claps his hands, and announces, “OK, Pete, we made it another year!”

Arriving in Kenmore Square for the game, my dad and I run into one of my high school friends and his family on the way to see their brick. I keep my lips sealed as we follow them inside. Meandering into the Wade Boggs section, I call my dad over to read a particularly interesting inscription: “What Would Opening Day Be Dad Without You, Me and Your Beat-up Cap. Love, Pete.”

His face aglow, my dad laughs and wraps his arm around my shoulder. “You really got me with the brick,” he keeps repeating all the way to our seats. And I think to myself, as I do each year, that his cap doesn’t look so bad on him. In fact, it looks just great.

Based in Somerville, Peter DeMarco writes the Globe’s “Who Taught YOU to Drive” column. Send comments to connections@globe.com.TELL YOUR STORY. E-mail your 650-word essay on a relationship to connections@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.
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