Hooked on baseball: How Jim Rice made me a huge baseball fan

Opinion August 11, 2011 0 Comments

Hooked on baseball: How Jim Rice made me a huge baseball fan

by Adam Serfass

I’m sitting in the only room in the house where I can’t regulate the temperature. It’s hot and getting hotter and I’m reminded of a summer like this one long ago when my pop took me to Yankee Stadium to see the Red Sox.

My family lived in upstate New York for the first 12 years of my life. It was New York Yankee territory. And why not? You can’t really blame them: it’s New York. They have no idea they’re wrong.

A Jim Rice baseball card from 1976.

But Pop grew up in the Poconos and wasn’t attached to any team. He was born in the early 1930s and fell in love with the early Red Sox heroes of the ’40s: Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and, of course, Ted Williams. He chose the Boston Red Sox. Since he made his pick, my siblings and I were destined to be Red Sox fans, too.

Amy and Aaron, my two siblings, are still diehard Red Sox fans. I am, too, although I’ve swayed a bit. When the strike came, I stopped baseball cold turkey. The strike lasted only 232 days, but it hurt the 1994-1995 season, and it hurt me. It took years for me to return.

My first wife, Alexandra, didn’t know me as a sports nut. We lived in Portland, and I didn’t have direct access to any local team. But when I moved here 14 years ago, I got hooked again.  The Phillies were making their big move from the Vet to their new home, The Bank.

By the time the Phillies had moved, I had married again. My wife and I decided to get partial season tickets. (We settled on the weekday partial season-ticket package. It’s now one of the most sought-after packages in Philly.  Who knew?)

But it all reminded me of that summer in Yankee Stadium.

My dad and I arrived at that game early. I was more interested in the popcorn than anything else. I loved the smell of hot dogs in the stadium air and the sticky floors where we would sit.

I couldn’t understand what people were yelling, but I remember the vibe. I tried to root for Carl Yastrzemski — when I yelled his name out loud, I destroyed it.

Pop looked down, laughing.

“It’s okay,” he told me, “I call him Yaz!”

So I did, too. Yaz played his entire career, all 23 years, with the Red Sox. But this story isn’t about him. It’s about the other lifer: Jim Rice, who played left field from 1974-1989.

Dad and I were in deep left field. The left-field corner in Yankee Stadium rose up at a hefty angle, and we sat at its peak. During warm-ups, Jim Rice was signing autographs, and Pop got his attention. Jim signed a ball and threw it up to us. But instantly, before Pop could even touch it, a Yankees fan came out of nowhere and grabbed the ball.

Even Jim was shocked. He grabbed another ball, though. He signed it, and once again, he got Pop’s attention. We walked down to the floor of left field, and he handed Pop the ball.

Pop still has that ball, and I still have that memory.  The care and attention the Red Sox showed for their fans made it easy for us to be intensely passionate fans. It made a huge baseball fan of me.

I might not be instilling in my son a love of the Red Sox, but he’s getting a healthy dose of Phillies fanaticism at an early age.

Andrin has been to a number of games already. He attended his first game at three months old.

Despite my excitement, I worried about what the fans around us would think of us bringing a 3-month-old to a game. But that opening day, I heard story after story from fans who were doing the same thing.

Where there is baseball there is passion.  Where there is baseball, there is love of the game. There are as many baseball stories as there are fans in the stadium.

In the coming weeks, I want to share that passion with you.  I have already four people lined up to give me their stories, and there will always be more. A series of stories will appear from fans close to you.  Read up: You may learn more about your neighbor.

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