“…They’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved
seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes.
And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so
thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the
years, Ray, has been baseball.” –Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones), Field of Dreams
This week we celebrated Mat’s 37th birthday. A three-part baseball extravaganza (with a bit of travel) was the plan. Although we couldn’t control the weather or the results of the games, we know it’s not the action itself, but our response that matters. Thanks to my dad and his kind company, to kick off the week’s celebration we sit field level at Yankee Stadium for a game during Jeter’s final season. A bit cold and dreary, but an evening at a world-renown baseball stadium no less and that is never a disappointment. The smack of the bat coupled with the roar of the crowd as the ball jumps the back fence is infectious as always. A bit of drizzle won’t stop the boys in pinstripes or the faithful fans who come to witness a bit of America’s pastime. No matter the day, an evening on Rivera Avenue in the Bronx is special.
The main attraction is a weekend adventure following the birthday dinner on the actual day. A bit of a road trip, a visit with an old friend and baseball are all on tap for quick a 48-hour period. First stop…Cooperstown. This is a town dedicated to baseball where fans feel as if they’ve entered their own personal Disneyworld. Tucked away towards the end of Main Street stands the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Friendly staff members greet us upon arrival, provide a hand-stamp for flexible movement and usher us towards the next 13-minute movie held in true stadium seating fashion. It’s not Iowa, but this might just have been what Kevin Costner was talking about in Field of Dreams…’if you build it, they will come’. (There’s even a shop in town called Shoeless Joe’s-I was thrilled) My husband looked like he could burst with glee! Clad in his Yankee t-shirt and beaming smile, his eyes dance as we wander through halls dedicated to baseball greats. Gehrig, Clemente and Robinson even greet us at the entranceway and are guiding forces throughout the day. We spend hours reading, photographing and just being amidst the memorabilia, documentary clips and endless nostalgia.
Women in baseball, Jackie Robinson’s incredible story, Hank Aaron, Yogi and those who help to make history come alive are all here. There are the original uniforms of the Rockford Peaches, photos of the actual coach who said ‘there’s no crying in baseball’ and of course depicted scenes from movie classics like A League of Their Own, The Sandlot, The Rookie, The Natural and Field of Dreams. Players, umpires, photographers, journalists, parents, fans and coaches are all showcased leading guests through the decades of sounds, smells and sights of the game of baseball. Mat could have stayed for days.
Seriously, an entire town dedicated to baseball! We spend some time on Main Street window- shopping at Shoeless Joes and taking in a high school game in the stands of Double Day field. For those hours in Cooperstown we basically breathe baseball. This tiny town set in the middle of upstate New York is at the heart of baseball greats. Many have made pilgrimages here for their own reasons, we too are glad we came. The Australian, who grew up mostly in a land of cricket and rugby, has become a huge Yankee fan venturing to the Bronx to catch a glimpse of Mariano, Andy or Derek whenever he can. Baseball has won his heart.
Driving East in the morning we travel to another classic stadium, Boston’s Fenway Park. Having gone to Brandeis University in the area, I have been before, but for my husband, it is his first time at the home of the Red Sox. Although a fan of the pinstripes, in the land of chowdah, lobstah and beeah we come to support baseball. No matter the result, today, the game of baseball is the winner. Yawkey Way is packed. A sea of Red Sox fans meet us as we turn the corner. Vendors hawking peanuts and popcorn, people dodging the droplets of rain starting to fall from above and kids lining up to catch a glimpse of their heroes are all we see. We get our bags checked and tagged, show our tickets and saunter past the famous Fenway franks (that my friend Farrah would like me to smuggle out of the stadium and bring straight to her door) and head to our seats in arms length of the famous Green Monster. The air is different here in Boston. A far more weathered stadium than the one in the Bronx, Fenway is hallowed ground to many. The game here feels more intimate, less clinical. Macots dance in the boxes, Cracker Jack vendors funnel through the aisles, the players are announced and a bunch of local kids get the honour of announcing ‘play ball’. We watch, we cheer, we observe (the husband eats a lobster roll) and enjoy the magic of the game together. It’s great to be back in Boston.
After catching up with a university friend and her beautiful family for a quick dinner (at Johnny’s Luncheonette in Newton Centre) we find the Mass Pike to begin our journey back to New York. Trying to collect memories instead of things, Mathew and I tend towards experiences in lieu of gifts. Two days of birthday, baseball and Boston were this year’s treat. Since he struggles to choose just one aspect of the birthday week of sport that was his favourite, I think it was a success and definitely one that managed to create many memorable moments.
“…Baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that
once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
–Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones), Field of Dreams