You know what? I don't think Boston has the right to consider themselves the scrappy underdogs any more. Last year we whupped New York up one side of a 3GD (after its heinous overuse in the press, I refuse to type out the words "three-game deficit" anymor--aw, hell) and down the other, and then we swept a formidable National League team for the World Series Championship. We were happy scrappy hero pups all the way up to the last out of the fourth game, at which point we turned into the top dogs. The big guys. The Cham-peens. And as the 2005 season opens, the challenge is no longer to to fight your way up from underneath, it's to ensure that nobody else underneath fights on up and knocks you down.
Oops, too late for that.
At any rate, I'm glad the Sox as I knew 'em and cringed about 'em in ages past are back, losing 9-2 to those pinstriped goons. (Maybe the Channel 7 guy was thinking about the part in The Empire Strikes Back where Randy Johnson cuts off Wells' hand and chants "I'm your dad-dy stomp stomp stompstompstomp" while Han Damon lets a run bounce off his carbonite chest and... okay, I got nothin.) Balance needs to be restored to the universe somehow and perhaps that process has begun -- but hey, maybe this year will be topsy-turvy: maybe we'll start off weak and finish super strong again. And maybe it'll rain beer in the Aramark Valley.
Speaking of the Aramark Valley, the mythical land where the food service people come from, I learned something neat from aussie_nyc today. Waconah Park in Pittsfield, my favoritest baseball park in the entire world, has a team again: the Pittsfield Dukes. In ages past, Waconah used to host the Mets' Class A farm team, and many a happy summer night in my early teens was spent over at that ballpark, squinting into the setting sun (home plate faced west, a brilliant architectural move) as minor-league players sent pop flies over the grandstand into the parking lot ("Will the owner of a white Honda Civic, license plate 632-GYK...") and wacky bat races were held up the first-base line as actual bats swooped around the fake owls (hung in effigy from the grandstand rafters to discourage birds from roosting.) Some nights I got to bring a girlfriend along, and we'd make out in the back seat of the minivan as my knowing and sympathetic stepfather drove us home and my little brothers, in the seat in front, tried to ignore us. Ah, memories.
Times changed, however, and eventually the creepy-as-hell Mr. Met mascot (hey kids! g'wan and run up and hug the GIANT MUTANT BASEBALL ON LEGS with his FREAKY GALLIC FACE) packed up his scratchy "LET'S GO METS" recording and departed, leaving Pittsfield without a ballteam. The Astros moved their farm team to Pittsfield for a season or two, which is when I took aussie_nyc to a game, and we had a blast sitting in $5 grandstand seats ($10 would've gotten us box seats, where the real luxury was -- waitresses came by periodically to take their drink orders) and we dodged some wicked fouls sent whizzing into the stands, and talked to an old-timer who gave us a detailed history of the park as she remembered it. She told us how they had to clear out the saplings in the outfield at one point in the 20s or 30s, but left the stumps for a while, confounding many a visiting outfielder. I think aussie_nyc declared it one of his most favorite baseball experiences in America, if not the best. I really can't blame him.
The Pittsfield Black Bears came by a year or two after the Astros left, to ensure Waconah stayed open and populated with ballplayers, but now it's the Dukes' turn. The coolest thing about the Dukes is that they're not a major league farm team. They belong to the New England Collegiate Baseball League, which is a summer league for NCAA-level collegiate players. This means we get the chance to watch a bunch of guys playing ball before they become all jaded and materialistic! Not only that, there's 12 teams scattered throughout New England, some playing in some very very beautiful old ballparks, just like Waconah. I'd really like to go see the Sanford Mainers (and take in a dinner at the Great Lost Bear while I'm at it) or even get back to Keene at some point and watch a Swamp Bats game (and what a great name and mascot!) Looks like I've got an entire summer of Saturdays planned at this point, and all without a car. Imagine that.
At any rate, aussie_nyc and I have planned another sojourn to Pittsfield, this time on July 23. The Dukes will be playing the Manchester Silkworms and we thought it'd be hilarious, in the style of Improv Everywhere's "Best Gig Ever", to show up perpetuating the concept that the Dukes and Silkworms are bitter, age-old rivals. Only thing is, just two of us, well, ain't gonna be much. But what if... just what if... there was an entire rootin' section for one game? (Ok, David, stop chuckling.) What if we could fill as much of a bleacher section as we could with Dukes fans who show up to the game in the belief that, maybe just maybe, this year we'll defeat the Evil Manchester Empire (those bums!) Cheering on these kids as if we've followed them all season long, maybe picking one as a "fan favorite" to holler and stomp the loudest for, and of course urging them loudly to beat their feared rivals... and what if they did? Wouldn't that be a spectacle?
And wouldn't it be worth the trip to the Berkshires?