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Fenway and all MLB ballparks provide magical memories

July 16, 2014 - Matthew Peaslee
BOSTON — It was late Spring in 2000 when my family was planning our annual summer vacation.

Put-In-Bay? Myrtle Beach? Walt Disney World?

No, we went to Boston — thanks to the nagging of my father.

Beantown obviously isn't the most exotic location in the world, but at the time it could have been a trip of historic proportions. My father heard rumors circulating that Fenway Park was to be demolished and being a big baseball fan, he figured the pilgrimage to see one of the sport's crown jewels was necessary.

Obviously, Fenway is still standing today. But it wasn't a wasted trip by any means as that Red Sox game against the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays was one of the best games I've seen in person.

There's been a lot of memorable moments in Fenway Park, now in its 101st year. From Carlton Fisk's game-winner, just inside the left field foul pole in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series to Jon Lester's no-hitter in 2004. Ted Williams homered in his final at-bat here in 1960 and then was wheeled out in a special ceremony nearly four decades later at the 1999 All-Star Game.

My Red Sox moment on Aug. 13, 2000 may not be recalled in the minds of even the most die-hard Red Sox fans, but I'll never forget it.

Neither will Rico Brogna.

A journeyman for most of his nine years in the major leagues, Brogna — a native of Massachusetts — spent just one season with the Red Sox and he was mostly used as a utility man off the bench. With Boston and Tampa Bay tied at three runs each, Brogna was called upon to pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded.

Fans chanted his name a he exited the dugout, took a few practice swings in the on-deck circle and the decibel-level reached an apex as he stepped into the batter's box.

"Rico! Rico! Rico!"

He didn't disappoint the home fans, nor the Peaslee family from Youngstown, OH.

Brogna planted a grand slam in the Red Sox bullpen, only 10 feet in front of our seats in right field.

"Rico! Rico! Rico!"

A walk-off winner in the most beloved ballpark in America. It was one of those magical instances that only baseball can provide — once in a lifetime, really.

Maybe twice in a lifetime.

On Sunday, I had the privilege of returning to Fenway Park to cover the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and the Lowell Spinners in the ninth annual Futures at Fenway game.

Who says you can't mix business with pleasure?

I watched the game — a 6-1 Scrappers win, with all of Mahoning Valley's runs scored with two outs in the top of the ninth, no less — from the press box and wandered throughout the entire ballpark which is the oldest in all of Major League Baseball. I got my swede shoes dirty on field before the game and watched batting practice from the seats atop the Green Monster in left field. I signed "Pesky Pole" in right field and even sampled a Fenway Frank.

Even more magical instances that only baseball can provide.

The nuances of a ballpark are unique to baseball, too. Every football field is 100 yards and every basketball court is about 90-feet. The dimensions of a baseball outfield vary from stadium to stadium. At Fenway, for example, it's a massive 420-feet to straightaway centerfield and the right field corner winds at a slope rather than an angle. There's also obstructed view seats, aisles that are barely three-feet wide and you can't forget about that "monster" of a 32-foot, two inch wall in that sits just 315-feet away from home plate.

"This is baseball," said Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak. "This ballpark has withstood the test of time, for good reason. There's so much history ingrained here and they better never tear it down."

Plenty of major league fields have come and gone since Fenway Park was built in 1913, including Cleveland's old Municipal Stadium and Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. Talk about being privileged, I saw many games at both stadiums before they were demolished in 1994 and 2001, respectively.

I've also been to 32 other ballparks — both new and old. I'm lacking only SafeCo Field in Seattle, once I'm able to hit up the Pacific Northwest, I will have seen a game in every Major League city. For that feat, I have my family to thank.

That Boston trip in 2000 helped get the ball rolling. Our summer vacations over the years were all about hopping from ballpark to ballpark, all across the country. Yes, I've chanted along with the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium, devoured Skyline Chili at Great American Ballpark, sang "Deep in the Heart of Texas" at Minute Maid Park and the Ballpark in Arilington and I've even kayaked along the McCovey Cove at AT&T Park.

My teenage years and early-20s have been filled with baseball and I can't wait to carry on the tradition of visiting as many parks as possible again with my future wife and children.

In my opinion, that's better than lounging along a shoreline or getting a hug from Mickey Mouse.


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