Sebastian “Sage” Sy is a 2020 BSBA student from the Philippines who has little experience with American sport fandom (save for basketball). Over the course of the semester, Sage will navigate his way through the sea of American sports culture, trying to make sense of baseball, football and the Beanpot. This week, Sage reflects on a Red Sox–Yankees game he saw live in Fenway Park.
The Red Sox and the Yankees, perhaps the most famous rivalry in all of sports history, were facing off right before my baseball-virgin eyes. David Ortiz, one of the greatest to ever grace a Boston arena, walked up to the home plate while D.R.A.M.S’ latest hit “Broccoli” was blasted through the speakers. The whole crowd erupted into a frenzy, and even the Yankee fan to my left couldn’t help but stand up. Despite my knowledge of baseball being limited to Derek Jeter and Wii Sports I could tell that something amazing was taking place.
And then Ortiz struck out.
Baseball has to be the most schizophrenic sport I have ever witnessed. For long stretches, it’s a picnic. You’re sitting with your friends, eating hot dogs, feeling a little bit bored, when suddenly Hanley Ramirez knocks the ball out of the park and everyone stands in awe of what they just witnessed. I was never really interested in baseball. Both my parents had watched games but didn’t enjoy them, and the sport wasn’t very popular in my country (the Philippines), so I didn’t pay much attention to it. But going to Northeastern, I knew that my Boston experience would be incomplete without watching a Red Sox game. The $9 tickets aren’t that bad either.
Being in Fenway Park wasn’t anything close to being in a stadium. A stadium for me means high-action entertainment, a sense of spectacle and a semi claustrophobic feeling of being in such close proximity to others. Fenway Park was open, green and relaxing. It was like a sophisticated multi-course dinner of hotdogs, burgers, soda, and chips, with the extra treat of a baseball game. Some of my favourite moments during the game weren’t even related to baseball. Singing “Sweet Caroline” or “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with the whole crowd made me feel like I was a part of Boston culture. What the game lacked in spectacle, it made up for in comfort. Even the players lacked the grandeur associated with athletes from other sports.
Players like CC Sabathia and Mookie Betts were far cries from the typical athletic build; I was used to watching speed demons like Manny Pacquiao or behemoths like Lebron James. A lot of the players looked like they were plucked out from the crowd. For some moments I felt like I could be on the field with them, standing around and waiting for someone to hit the ball. But then someone actually hit the ball. And whether it was Mookie Betts diving for loose balls, or Koji Uehara pitching at breakneck speeds, I was reminded as to why I was in the stands and they were on the field. A lot of the plays were so fast that I had to rely on the replays to understand what was going on.
Baseball lacks the superhuman spectacle associated with many sports. It was everything I expected it to be, and everything I expected it not to be. It’s boring, fun, relaxing and tense all at the same time. For long stretches the game would drag out slowly and for short bursts it would explode, taking everyone by surprise. I would highly recommend watching a game to any student who comes from a place where baseball isn’t very popular. Whether they enjoy baseball or not, watching a live game is so much more than the sport itself. It’s about the atmosphere, the songs, the hot dogs, the history and the culture. And even if the game if full of strikeouts, the experience will surely be a home run.