By Paul Muth
This is Part IV of The Great Baseball Stadium Tour.
Part I can be found here.
Part II can be found here.
Part III can be found here.
May 13, 2017
A New York hangover is different from a Texas hangover. Legally speaking, a Texas hangover has at least 2 more hours to recover from. In reality, though, you’re more likely to pass out in front of a bonfire on a tailgate in Texas. So there’s that.
After my restful four hours of less than sober slumber on a hostel bunk bed, I was unceremoniously shaken awake by Erik. It was 8:45am, so my brain was running its hungover diagnostics before booting up fully. Every move was slow. Every move was deliberate.
Erik had already showered and lackadaisically packing.
Other Paul was next in line for the shower, so I sat bleary-eyed at the foot of my bed on my phone attempting to read an ESPN preview of our next game in Boston.
Suddenly both Erik and my phone’s chirped. It was an ESPN notifcation.
It was 9:00am and Boston was four hours away from us.
Other Paul leisurely walked into the room post-shower to Erik and I packing with an urgency equivalent to firefighters responding to a call.
“Pack your shit, dude, we’ve gotta go,” Erik demanded as he zipped his bag and headed to go grab the car from the lot.
Other Paul looked at me confused looking for validation that Erik was being crazy.
“Game’s at one, bro. Pack your shit,” I affirmed.
You know when you shut your computer down early and when it restarts it wants to go through those diagnostics to make sure it’s not broken? That was me when I woke up still sort of drunk from the night before. You know how you can hit escape and just skip that and boot up regularly?
That was me when we found out the game had been moved up 7 hours early. I can sleep when I’m dead.
Other Paul and I recklessly stuffed our bags and flew out the door to meet Erik at the curb. We practically dove in headfirst and peeled out of New York.
So much for taking it easy on our last day.
Now, to say that posted speed limits were ignored is an understatement. Land speed records were achieved in our Ford Escape. We had a goal, and we were not to be denied.
Including our 10 minute pit stop for non-essentials like gas and food, our drive time from “Oh shit, let’s bounce,” to Fenway was exactly four hours and one minute. We arrived near the park and power slid into a nearby parking lot across the street at exactly 1:07pm.
“Sixty dollars,” the attendant exclaimed.
I threw the man his parking ransom and we headed inside.
It took a moment for us to collectively downshift into relaxed baseball mode, but when we did it was surreal.
We had made it. Luckily and finally, we had beat the odds and stood at the precipice of what I consider the cathedral of America’s pastime.
“We’re not at a ballpark,” I explained. “We’re in a museum.”
We took our noticeably tight wooden seats and breathed in the atmosphere.
“People in 1912 must’ve been a lot smaller,” Other Paul commented.
This was it. The oldest ballpark in baseball. Everything that is done in this park is essentially what was should be done in every ballpark. They practically started it. We’re all just copying it. That being said, if you aren’t singing “Sweet Caroline” before the bottom of the 8th at Fenway, you’re a monster.
The most defining and endearing moment in my opinion of the entire experience was the fact that the game was sold out and the ballpark was completely packed. A game that was moved up 7 hours, with four hours notice was still full.
Boston don’t care. Boston goes to baseball games.
We were privileged to watch an absolute gem from Sox Pitcher Chris Sale. The right center field terrace began to run out of room to drape their “K” posters over the railing as Sale racked up 12 en route to a 6-3 win.
After the game we decided to investigate the outpouring of unsolicited post-game bar suggestions. Each bar we approached was at capacity except for the most intriguing suggestion: Bleacher Bar.
Bleacher Bar was originally Fenway Park’s batting practice cage all the way up until 2005. Two separate batting cages were constructed and the lone cage in center field was closed down. In 2008 it reopened as a pub that, while part of the ballpark proper, became it’s own separate entity.
We walked in and were immediately enamored. We also realized simultaneously how exhausted we were from every aspect of the day leading up to this point. The bar was absolutely packed and we were simply out of the energy required for any sort of alcoholic conquest.
A unanimous vote was achieved and we left to go take a nap at our hostel, like old people. As we attempted to check in, we realized we were dealing with a trainee. On a Saturday afternoon.
Thirty frustrating minutes later, we were in our room racking out. I probably snored then as well. Who knows.
We woke up, smashed some obligatory lobstah rolls and clam chowdah, and headed back to a much more tame Bleacher Bar. As the rain rolled in, we took up real estate with our pints of Guinness in front of the massive gate/window overlooking Fenway and collectively exhaled. It was still early in the evening, but we had all already decided on the twilight of The Great Baseball Stadium Tour that ending it in a pub built into the center field of Fenway just shy of the Green Monster was rather fitting.
“We’re going to do it. Let’s do it. Let’s pick some dates and knock it out.”
Those were the words Erik uttered 127 days prior. Not a lot of people actually act on it, but we did. We karaoked in Philly, got rained on in DC, caught an Astros game in the Bronx and took in a Saturday nooner at the oldest ballpark in America. I may or may not still owe him a few hundred dollars as of this writing for making it happen, but we made it happen.
If there’s anything to glean from this four part diatribe about 3 guys getting drunk and watching baseball, I would hope that it would be this: If you want to go do something, go do it. Carpe the shit out of the diem. This was about baseball, yes. But it was also about pushing through false barriers that most people build for themselves to explain away why they never took that trip, or did that thing. I owe Erik a debt of gratitude (and money) for realizing this. All I hope for at this point is that other people reading this are inspired to do the same.
It doesn’t have to be baseball. It doesn’t have to be sports-related, even. In the words of the immortal Lil Flip:
“See it, you want it, buy it, own it.”
Go ‘Stros. Expect Part V next summer.
Paul Muth is an Army vet who tends to talk a lot, so when his friends tell him to stop, he either writes or talks to a microphone and calls it a podcast. He writes better with a beard and looks better with a beer. Or something like that. Follow him on twitter at @abumnamedpaul.