The story of a first date.... I think this actually wants to be something larger, but right now it's just a snapshot of the date.
With the exception of her brothers’ little league games, Amanda had never been to a baseball game before and would have been content to go through life without ever stepping foot in Fenway Park, but a bet was a bet and she lost.
It started in the school cafeteria that day when Jerry Schwartz and his friends had taken over the table she and her friends normally ate at. He said they’d leave if she’d go on a date with him. She told him she’d arm wrestle him for the table and if she won, he’d leave her and her friends alone the rest of the year. If she lost, they’d leave the table and she’d go on a date with him. Since she could beat her brother who was a fullback on the school football team, she wasn’t worried.
Not only was she surprised that Jerry pinned her almost immediately, but as he picked up his tray, he said, “I’ll pick you up 4, I like to get to Fenway in time for batting practice.”
What could she do? A bet was a bet and she lost and now here she was, standing outside the gates set up on Yawkey Way with Jerry. His longish dark hair poked out willy nilly from under the ever present dark blue baseball cap with the red “B.” His lopsided grin was as goofy as she ever saw on his face as he handed their tickets to the man with the handheld scanner. The security person did a quick check of her backpack before affixing a bright orange tag to indicate his approval of her bag’s contents.
Jerry grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the large red brick arches. As bright as the outside was, the inside felt enclosed and dark as they headed down a ramp into the heart of the park with the crowd.
“My dad has had season tickets forever but he can’t stand when teams like the Royals or Mariners come to town. He only wants to see the top performing teams. The seats are amazing, you can see pretty much the whole park from them. They’re in the lower box behind first base.”
“This means something to me how?” she rolled her eyes at his excitement.
“Haven’t you ever been here before?”
“Um, no. I don’t do baseball, basketball, football or hockey. I don’t do lacrosse, soccer or anything else. I go to the ballet. I go to plays. I go to the symphony. I don’t do sports.”
“That makes this so much better than I thought! I can’t wait to see your face when you see inside the park! Seriously, I want you to tell me what you think when you first come inside.” He began to pull her towards a ramp out of the concession area and into the stadium itself.
“I said a date, not a drag. You could slow it down a bit.”
The grin spread across his face again.
“But of course.” He bowed and swept his arms out to indicate the directions she should go. She walked past him and up the ramp. At the top, she stopped. It took her a moment to catch her breath.
“What do you think?”
“It’s so … green.” Everywhere she looked, she saw the color green. The field, the walls, the trim on the walls that surrounded the seats and balconies through out the park.
“Bill Lee, a pitcher from the 70’s, once said you should enter a ball park the way you enter a church. I’ve always felt you should enter Fenway the way you enter a cathedral.”
She looked around at the men on the field casually tossing the ball around and laughing easily with each other. She saw people starting to filter in. The swarmed in like ants filling the stands as she watched.
“Come on, the seats are over here. Not only that, you’ll have a great view of practice.”
The older usher lead them to their seats, wiping it down before she sat in the seat.
“Thank you,” Amanda automatically answered.
“I get the impression you’re impressed,” Jerry said.
“This is all a little more overwhelming than I expected.”
“Maybe, by the end of the night, you’ll be a fan.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself there pal. I agreed to a date, nothing more.”
“Fair enough but I’ll keep explaining things to you as we go along to help you enjoy the game.”
Amanda rolled her eyes, “Whatever.”
Through out the evening, Jerry kept his promise, explaining aspects of the game as they went along. The way the players would shift in the field when certain batters came to the plate. He explained the little dance that would play out in front of them at first base when the batter would take a lead and the pitcher would throw back to the base to keep him close.
“Why isn’t there a clock?” she asked at one point.
“That’s one of the beautiful things about this game,” he replied. “Sometimes the game will fly by, sometimes it feel like it will never end. You have low scoring games that are pitcher’s duels. Sometimes you have high scoring home run derbies. It’s really quite zen in how it all unfolds and no two games are alike.”
“It’s soothing,” she said absently.
“Why did you want to go on a date with me?”
Jerry was surprised. He stammered a little, “Um… well, I guess because you’re interesting.”
“Then why didn’t you just ask?”
“No, you set up a confrontation.”
He shrugged and grinned, “Maybe I didn’t think you’d go out with me.”
All of a sudden, he jumped up with the rest of the crowd around them as the batter at the plate hit the ball hard enough for it to sail deep into the yard before bouncing off the large green scoreboard and ricocheting back onto the field. The outfielder threw it back in, but the handsome man in the Red Sox uniform was standing on second base, brushing the dirt from the field off his uniform as the crowd cheered.
As they sat back down, Jerry watched the game for a bit while Amanda waited for him to answer.
“Why not?” she asked again.
“Because, you’re a bit of snob.”
“Think about it, you hang out with your friends who are all dressed just so. You guys talk about NPR, ballet, community service, yadda yadda yadda. You go to dances but not sporting events. You sit in the front of the room and take notes instead of joining in with the kids who have a bit fun. Why would someone like you want to go out with a goofy guy like me? I figured if I appealed to your pride, maybe you’d give me shot.”
Amanda was shocked. She never saw herself as a snob, she just saw herself as Amanda.
“I thought that maybe if I could get you to come to a game with me, you’d see that there’s a beauty in athletes and an athleticism in beauty. Think about the Boston Ballet performances you go to and look out how Dustin Pedroia plays that spot between first and second bases. When you see him leap or dive, is it any less beautiful than watching a ballerina leap? Just watch for a little and see what I’m talking about.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
“I know and I also know that if I walked up to you and asked if you wanted to come to a game, you’d say no. If I offered to take you to the ballet which, by the way, my folks also have a season subscription for and I go to pretty regularly as well as for Huntington Theatre Company, the Bruins and a bunch of museum memberships, you’d go.”
She sat in stunned silence. He was right, she would have said yes to those things.
“What if sports don’t interest me?”
“Why? My hope is that when you leave tonight thinking about coming back or watching a game. Maybe, just maybe you’ll be able to understand a bit more and then your friends will learn to open up a bit and then guys like me won’t have to arm wrestle you to get you to join us at a game.”
“You could have tried asking.”
“But pinning you like that was so much sweeter,” his grin was back. Amanda was starting to like that grin more and more and smiled back at him.
“So how about you explain the rest of the game to me and, if I start to get a grip, maybe you can just try asking me out to a game sometime.”
“Tell you what, I’ll explain the rest of the game to you and I’ll let you take me to the ICA next week.”
She laughed. “Deal.”
Jerry slipped his arm around her shoulder so he could direct her attention to a play in the field and Amanda leaned into him a little. The Sox were on their way to the win and, it seemed, so were they.