Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lesson of the Red Sox

After college Mike traveled the world with his sister. He’s a Boston boy but lived in Maine for a while. Then he made a smart move to Montreal. There he met Liane and fell hard. But he needed a job. He was trained as an accountant, and Liane found him a position with the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, close enough for them to meet on weekends either in Stowe or Montreal, where she works as an administrator in a child advocacy firm. When they came to Fern Forest for a night in the treehouse, they held hands while we got to know them, declining cheese and crackers and wine because “We don’t want to spoil our dinner,” Mike said.

Lianne asked about the spa, what time it’s open. She didn’t want to disturb us. It’s open all night, I told her. Help yourselves.

They had no requests or restrictions for breakfast. "We’ll eat anything," Lianne said. "Except mushrooms," Mike added, looking at Liane. Apparently she’s not keen on mushrooms. But I imagine she’d eat them if we served them—just to be nice. She’s Canadian, after all.

Mike is a Red Sox fan, of course, and was at the 1978 game with his father when Bucky Dent hit the homer for the Yankees that crushed the hopes of the Red Sox. With the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox tied for first in the American League East at the end of the 1978 season, the stage was set for a one-game playoff between the two rivals on October 2.

Shortly after Dent hit the game-winning homer, rumors circulated that Dent had used a corked bat. The bat disappeared, and Dent denied the accusation, but the win held. Mike doesn’t remember the game, but he remembers being in the stadium. He was seven years old.

I remember a game at Fenway a few years ago. H had bought four tickets in the grandstand along the third base line. His brother came with a cousin. The cousin and I chatted, and brother Jim kept a running monologue about work, baseball, the Philosophy of Life. We’d gotten there in time to see Johnny Damon lead off with a single to right—back in the days before Damon jumped ship and he was still a Red Sox darling. The Sox were playing the Mariners, and it was midseason, but every game counts. Many beers were consumed along with bags of peanuts, shells littering our feet

In the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox were down by two. The bases were loaded with two outs. The thing about Fenway is that no one leaves before the final out. Every game is a party. But by the final pitches, people were distracted, chatting with neighbors, chalking the game up to experience. Then David Ortiz came up to bat. When Papi’s at the plate, people pay attention. Five pitches—three balls and two strikes. The crowd rose to its feet for the disappointing end.

With the next pitch, Papi made contact and the ball popped up high. An infield fly, it looked like.

Then it happened.

Whether it was the wind or the will of the crowd or the hand of God, the ball hung in the air for just a second. And then it began to move. The crowd grew quiet. Every eye was on the white orb as it traveled toward the outfield. The right fielder punched his hungry glove, but the still the ball floated, over the first baseman, over the grass mowed in wide strips, over the outfielder’s head. And, finally, over the fence, where it dropped into the front row of the bleachers.

Papi was still standing at home plate. It wasn’t until the silence broke and the crowd roared that he started his slow lope around the bases. Suddenly I was part of a huge family, strangers hugging strangers, all of us witnesses to something unexplainable. Something miraculous.

Mike and Liane took a soak under the stars that night before they went out to sleep in the treehouse. I suspect they practice what I learned from that game—that nothing is more important than living in the moment, and every moment is astonishing. Every moment is a blessing.

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