By Heather Nelson
It started in fifth grade when I discovered what the Green Monster was. My fifth grade teacher assigned the class an art project to create a perspective drawing of a cityscape. I was determined to create a cityscape of Boston.
I had no prior knowledge of Boston. I didn’t know anything about it other than that Paul Revere had famously made his night ride through this historic city.
I forged on with my cityscape project. I created a quite accurate, miniature version of Boston. That’s when my teacher suggested adding the Green Monster.
“What’s that?” I said. “A monster that lives in Boston?” I was baffled.
My teacher explained that it was the large, green wall in left field at Fenway Park – another word that was unfamiliar to my minuscule sports vocabulary. In the last few months of school, I began to ask my teacher more questions. I wanted to know more about baseball. (I asked my dad so many questions that I think he’d have rather watched a game without me).
When I was in sixth grade, I finally learned the true meaning of the sport and of true (and insane) fandom. October 2004, the Red Sox entered the ALCS against the New York Yankees. I hardly knew the magnitude of these games. Especially, the fact that the Red Sox were able to escape a 0-3 deficit against the Yankees.
And then, the team swept the Cardinals in the World Series. My dad called his cousin in Boston; we spoke with her on the phone. (I could barely hear her voice over the screaming fans she was surrounded by in the Boston bar). My sister and I screamed and chanted as we ran up and down the block with our Red Sox flag. Even better, we stayed up past bedtime on a school night.
The team of “Idiots” won the World Series, which silenced the endless taunting I had received from a gang of Yankees fans in my class. Because I was the lone girl sports fan, I was easy to pick on.
I missed the school day to watch the Red Sox parade through Boston on my TV. (I did that again in 2007, when I was in high school. This time I faked sick).
After the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, my family took a trip to Boston. And even though the Red Sox followed such a thrilling win with a horrid season, I enjoyed every minute of my trip to the city. I became infatuated with Boston. The trip opened me up to the possibility that I’d be a Sox fan forever.
So, I followed baseball religiously. My dad taught me how statistics were acquired. I found myself getting caught up in a pitcher’s count – I knew when the coaches should consider taking him out of the game. I picked favorite players. My first was Trot Nixon, but after he left the Red Sox, it became Josh Beckett.
My fandom progressed and spread as former Sox players dispersed across the league. I found myself rooting for more than just the Red Sox. Only a few years earlier had the sport put me to sleep.
The Kansas City Royals farm team, the Stormchasers (formerly the Omaha Royals) is based in my hometown, Omaha, Neb. My dad started taking my siblings and me to the games. I saw Alex Gordon before he was a shining star and Saltalamacchia before he was a Red Sox. I started to learn what farm-system teams were all about.
Since then, I’ve gained an appreciation for the sport. I understand the deep rivalry within the American League East – arguably the toughest division in baseball. I run my own fantasy team, which requires some help from my dad. But, more importantly, I long to watch baseball year-round. During the offseason, I complain to friends and family about how long I will have to wait for, at least, spring training to start.
I aspire to write for sports someday. I tell anyone who asks that I will write for any sport, but my heart will always belong to baseball.