This past holiday season I bought my family tickets to the May 19th Red Sox game against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. It would be a battle between the World Series champions of 2017 and 2018 and likely to be an exciting contest. Naturally, I brought my camera along.
Unfortunately, there’s a new obstacle to photography at Fenway these days: netting that protects the fans from errant balls and bats all along the first and third base lines. Although the netting itself is only faintly visible, the cables and stanchions that support the netting stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. They’re barely noticeable when simply watching the game, but they are a big-league distraction when they cut through a player’s head when photographed sliding into second base or home plate.
There are several remedies for this problem: You can get right up close to the field and shoot through the netting from the first row of box seats but who the heck can afford those ticket prices? You can spend hours “photo-shopping” the cables and other distractions out of the image but who the heck has that kind of patience? Finally, you can focus within an unobstructed area and wait for the action to come into view. I chose Door #3.
Mascots Wally and Tessie kept fans entertained as the grounds crew prepared the field after the rain stopped
Another barrier to good sports photography is rain and when we left for the game from my daughter’s home in nearby Somerville, it was pouring. This necessitated a hasty family decision: walk to the bus; walk to the “T”; take an Uber to the park. We chose Door #3 and hardly got wet.
Our grandstand seats behind home plate were under the overhang and bone dry during the one-hour rain delay. I told my family that I strategically selected those seats in the event of rain, but full disclosure, I didn’t want to have to mortgage my house to purchase tickets closer to the action. Major league baseball ain’t cheap anymore as evidenced by the $11 beer and $6 bag of peanuts price tags. My family members were happy to be sitting under the roof. I (and my wallet) was equally happy.
The rain ended just about the time the game was originally scheduled to begin, but it took the grounds crew around an hour to remove the tarp from the infield and make the final preparations. Watching these young men and women in action was a real treat. They worked in unison to pick up the tarpaulin, dump its water onto the outfield grass, roll up the tarp and store it in its designated parking spot along the first base side of the outfield. Seems like in this day and age there should be a better method of keeping the infield dry, but short of erecting a retractable roof over Fenway Park, this technique remains effective.
Dogs have sometimes been known to wander onto the playing surface at Fenway but during the pre-game preparations a German Shepherd named, Drago, was purposely allowed on the field. Turns out he is a service dog and belongs to the head groundskeeper, Dave Mellor, who suffers from PTSD. Drago sat quietly while Dave went about his business of getting the field ready for play. The pooch didn’t get a round of applause for his work, but one would have been well deserved.
It has been a disappointing season so far for the Red Sox. They got off to a horrible start and despite a few flashes of greatness, here and there, they’ve struggled to keep pace with their arch-rivals from New York. Houston, on the other hand, is playing exceptional baseball and rolled into Boston for this three-game series riding an eight game winning streak. They easily man-handled the BoSox in the first two games of the weekend to extend their winning streak to ten. Everyone wondered, could the Sox stop Houston from running the table?
Third baseman Rafael Devers was asleep at the wheel most of the game – even getting picked off first base
A bright spot for the home team was the fact that their ace pitcher, Chris Sale, was coming off a brilliant performance in his last outing against the Colorado Rockies – striking out seventeen batters – albeit in a losing effort. The Fenway Faithful were hopeful that Sale had finally regained his dominating form. He faced former Red Sox prospect, Wade Miley, now playing for the Astros.
Boston took a 1-0 lead in the first inning but Houston quickly tied the game on a wild pitch from Sale in the second. The Astros jumped out to a 3-1 lead in inning number three when Sale served up a meatball that was promptly deposited into the right center field seats for a two-run homer. Former Portland Sea Dog player, Michael Chavis, closed the gap to 3-2 with a home run over the Green Monster in the fifth inning. Shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, drove in single runs in the fifth and seventh innings to take a 4-3 lead that the Sox never relinquished.
I love going to Fenway Park. Win or lose it’s always a memorable time. I know Sports Illustrated won’t be calling me for the rights to these pictures but I’m happy to have them as part of my collection. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll spring for the cost of a front row box seat at field level and have fewer obstacles to contend with.