Mark Spellun talks relationships, love and parenting in a Yankees-Red Sox world.
“Tell me about yourself,” my future wife asked, already bored on our first date at a tony Manhattan restaurant. It was January 2005. I told her I hit 300 my first year in Little League and life had been downhill until three months before. On October 27 at 11:40 pm, things started to turn around. For those of you who aren’t a member of Red Sox Nation, that was the night the Sox won their first World Series in nearly a century. She laughed. Then surprised me by ordering a burger. Walking her to the subway that night, I asked if I could take her out again. Deadpan she said that had I been a Yankee fan, she would have responded “yes,” but only to be polite. Instead she pulled out her calendar.
Until our son joined our team five years later, baseball had been the centerpiece of our relationship. Before he was born, The Kid already had a lifetime supply of Red Sox onesies and a half dozen Wallys. Some parents play classical music for their kids in utero; our son listened to the smooth voice of Joe Castiglione calling plays and his parents singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” My wife likes to brag to her Boston relatives that The Kid even demonstrated an early proclivity for the game. Four months pregnant, she first felt him kick in the stands at Fenway watching Big Papi hit a dramatic homerun against the Tigers.
Still living in Manhattan, we take annual pilgrimages to Fenway and this past Memorial Day weekend the Rays were in town. Since The Kid was under two-years-old and didn’t yet require a ticket we happily took him along. A Friday night game, there was no need to question the sellout streak, the crowd was roaring. At 17-months The Kid was ferociously curious, but instead of squealing for Wally or cheering for Youk’s RBI single, he clung to me as if I was dangling him off a cliff. The outing was a failure. By the fourth inning we were already heading north on I-93 to my in-laws, the two of us coated in guilt.
This all raised the question of when is the right time to take your child to his or her first baseball game? Given the unforgiving crowds we navigate in Times Square, I thought he could do it. Not one to give up, I started researching minor league games.
The Lowell Spinners (a Red Sox minor league affiliate) were just starting their season and their roster was sporting Deven Marrero, their top draft pick from 2012, and perhaps the Sox’s answer for the hole at shortstop that has plagued them since Nomar was shown the door. We were returning to Boston to celebrate July 4 and the timing seemed right for a second try. I could get an early view of the Arizona State phenom before he began playing at Fenway and The Kid could enjoy a game in a more relaxed atmosphere, or so I hoped.
While Fenway is like Logan Airport the day before Thanksgiving, comparatively the Spinners home park in Lowell is a field of dreams with refurbished 19th Century factories in place of cornfields. Intimate and littered with kids, the local high school glee club performed the National Anthem and alligator mascots shot foam baseballs into the stands. We also had the best seats I’ve ever sat in for a game: third row, right behind home plate. All for $10 a ticket. What was not to like? The best part was that The Kid was having a blast. He wasn’t too young to attend a game, he just needed a ballpark more his size.
During the game, Deven Marrero grounded out to third, but looked slick in the field, as is his calling. Maybe the next time we see him play, the green gators will have been replaced by the Green Monster, the Red Sox will have their shortstop for years to come and our New York born son will have consummated his lifetime love affair with Fenway. At the very least, The Kid, bred to be a Red Sox fan, will have long secured a spot in his mother’s heart as I once did rooting against the Yankees.
Photo: Mark Spellun