Dad and I never missed an Opening Day.
Sometimes we were in the stands — Manny’s first-pitch-at-Fenway-as-a-Red-Sox home run and the Mo Vaughn Ninth Inning Comeback Special the most notable ODs we attended — and other times we were hunkered down at the house in West Roxbury, setting up chairs to look like rows of ballpark seats and rolling out hot dogs and beer. It was a Holy Day of Obligation — you were obligated to blow off work, sit your ass down, and scream for the hometown boys ’til your throat hurt.
One Opening Day stands out in my mind. Me and Dad were headed into Fenway and, for some inexplicable reason, I convinced him to forsake the T for my car. Dumb idea. So with a few minutes to go before first pitch, we found ourselves gridlocked on Longwood Ave, finding parking lot after parking lot filled to capacity. So I figured — and I need to remind you that I’d lived in Boston my whole life to that point and was also sober at the time — that there had to be some side street metered spots that no one’s thought to look for. Dumber idea. And thus began a painfully slow backstreet tour of Boston, from one end to another, weaving and bobbing while listening to the first few strands of the game on EEI.
A more rational father might have strangled me and left my lifeless body and the Camry by the side of the road while he high-tailed it to the Fens. But Dad just soaked it in, talking about how back in the day, he could just walk over to the Park on a whim after classes at Northeastern and get a ticket. And telling me once again about the summer he spent housebound as a young’un, obsessively playing his Strat-O-Matic baseball game. And reminding me that I need to hold on to that Jim Rice-Fred Lynn “Golddust Twins” pin he bought me back in the day, because it was bound to be worth something.
And the car rolled on. And the first and second innings played out. And Dad and I just sat there in the car. Driving aimlessly. Helplessly. Enjoying that thing that happens when dads and sons get together and talk baseball. The stuff we don’t get back on the NESN recaps and Globe articles.
Eventually, we parked in a garage by the Hynes. And by the time we trudged our asses to the Park, it was the top of the fourth. And though I couldn’t even begin to remember who we were playing or the final score or even the year, I can replay every goddam minute of that car ride.
“Best Opening Day ever,” Dad said after the game as we walked to the car. And he was right.
This afternoon I’ll be raising a glass to my father at first pitch. Do raise one for yours as well.
And, win or lose, enjoy Fenway Opening Day.