As winter fades, New England’s summer passion returns. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay takes a break from politics to usher in the baseball season at Fenway Park and McCoy Stadium.
The weather lately more resembles the New Hampshire Primary than the start of New England’s summer pastime. No matter. Shortly after noon this afternoon, your Boston Red Sox take the field in historic Fenway Park in the city’s Back Bay to begin another season.
The scenes will be familiar to Rhode Islanders of a certain age: wide-eyed children bunking school, gazing at the Green Monster –the left field wall – in person and telling dad, mom or gramps that it looks so much bigger and greener than on television. Then there will be the swells in their pinstripes cutting out of work early to throng the expensive seats along the infield and in the luxury boxes. After one opener some years back, banker Terry Murray muttered on the way out of the ballpark that he lost $13 million that day, then broke into a smile and cracked, ``but the Red Sox won.’’
The Boston Symphony Orchestra will perform in shallow center field. Then the games begin. Other teams may play at Huge Telecom Park or Bailed Out Bank Stadium, but our stadiums are known by their original names –Fenway, after the urban neighborhood its’s perched in, and McCoy, which takes its moniker from a legendary Rhode Island pol known for never allowing death to get in the way of voting in the greatest democracy the world has ever known.
Baseball is timeless. It’s the only major team sport without a clock—time is measured in innings. Through depressions, wars, family milestones and social upheaval, Fenway has been a constant. The first game was played there sis days after the sinking of the Titanic. The ceremonial first pitch that day was tossed by Boston Mayor John ``Honey’’ Fitzgerald, grandfather of John F. Kennedy. It’s the lone ballpark to draw a New Yorker essay by John Updike, who famously chronicled Ted Williams last game.
This year’s edition is poised to make a run for the American League pennant, and hopefully the World Series. It’s a team well stocked with starting pitchers and exciting young players such as Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. One big question is how will they make up for retirement of David Ortiz, he of the wide smile, hot bat and soaring home runs. Amid the horror of the marathon bombing , which occurred just blocks away, of 2013, it was Ortiz who stoked the defiance of a wounded region by warning terrorists not to ah, mess, with our city.
Rhode Islanders have long been blessed with something of which no other slice of Red Sox Nation can boast –the presence of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston’s top minor league affiliate. We get to see tomorrow’s stars today.
McCoy was built during the Great Depression. It is in need of repair or replacement. A new PawSox ownership tried two years ago to convince Rhode Island’s political elite that a new stadium should be built in downtown Providence, complete with a $120 million taxpayer subsidy
Taxpayers and Pawtucket’s political leadership rebelled. Now, the future of McCoy is in limbo. But PawSox leadership is now going back to the future, hoping to keep the franchise in the seen-better-days factory town. New principal owner Larry Lucchino wants to keep the team in Pawtucket, says team spokesman Bill Wanless. The team has a lease that lasts until 2021. Fans could help sway the PawSox brass by flocking to the stadium this season. It’s great baseball at affordable prices. You can still take a car load of kids to McCoy for less than the price of the movies or an amusement park. It’s much cheaper to buy a game ticket at McCoy than to park near Fenway. The more fans who attend games, the less likely it is that owners will want to move the team to greener infields out of the Ocean State.
One element that hurt PawSox attendance last season is one neither owners nor fans can control – the weather. The team suffered through a skein of spring rain outs before a sunny summer lured fans to stands. Let’s hope that in this season of Easter, Passover and daffodils, that sun washes over us as we stand for the star spangled banner and hear the umpire once again yell, ``Play Ball.’’
Scott MacKay’s commentary can be heard every Monday at 6:45 and 8:45 and on All Things Considered at 5:44. You can also follow his political analysis and reporting at our `On Politics’ blog at RIPR.org