Growing up, I loved to sing along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The cheering crowd, the peanuts and Cracker Jack, it all sounded magical.
But somehow, I never made it to a baseball game, never had the chance to savor those roasted peanuts. The closest I came was walking by as my high school team practiced or watching the Jackie Robinson biopic “42.”
Funny thing is, I love sports, and have been to plenty of games over the years, college and pro alike. Baseball just fell through the cracks, I guess.
Until the other day, when I visited Fenway Park to watch the Boston Red Sox play the Chicago White Sox. A perfect backdrop for my first game, and meeting some of the fans made me appreciate the experience that much more.
I was brimming with anticipation as I made my way to the ballpark and saw thousands of fans in all manner of Red Sox gear. They mean business, I thought. (I wore black slacks and a pink blazer. At least it wasn’t a pink hat).
Before long I came across Lynne Smith, 73, whose outfit was the hands-down winner of the night, a head-to-toe display of team pride.
“My husband and I grew up in Detroit and we moved to Boston 50 years ago,” she said. “We have been Red Sox fans ever since.”
A season ticket holder, Smith wears a Fenway Park replica hat, featuring the landmark Citgo sign, to every game. Known as the “Fenway hat lady,” Smith thinks the hat not only brings the Red Sox good luck, it “brings smiles to people’s faces,” she said.
Fenway is her summer home, she said.
“There’s something magical about Fenway Park,” she said.
Along with her signature hat, Smith wore a necklace of bottle caps with the faces of the night’s starting nine, plus others who are close to her heart.
“Every day I have to get the lineup,” she said. “But I also have my granddaughters on it.”
Smith doesn’t just take in games at Fenway. She often accompanies the team on the road, too, and has been to all but one (Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park) of the 30 major league stadiums. She feels like she’s almost part of the team.
After chatting with Smith, I was ready to see some action on the field. I made my way up the stairs to the Green Monster seats, high atop the famous left field wall. The game had been rained out the night before, but now the sun was out, and fans were in good spirits.
Amy Jones and Stacy Pursley couldn’t stop smiling with their matching Xander Bogaerts shirts. The newlyweds from Texas said Fenway was a perfect honeymoon site.
“If you’re coming to Boston, you have to sit on the Green Monster,” Jones said. “We’re hoping for a Boston win!”
Then a kid yelled “Play Ball!” into a microphone, and the game was underway. To the delight of the crowd, the Red Sox scored four runs in the first inning, then three more in the second, on their way to a 9-5 victory. Bill Finn, a retired postman who now works as an usher, wished everyone a good night as they filed out.
“Working here is like living the dream,” he said. “Best retirement job to ever find.”
I left Fenway undefeated as a fan. Clearly, I was a good luck charm. And I had finally gotten to sing along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch. I saved the peanuts and Cracker Jack for next time.Allana J. Barefield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @Allana_B18.