Going to a Major League stadium for the first time is the ultimate experience for a baseball fan. Up until that point, you’ve watched games on TV, listened on the radio, collected baseball cards, and poured over magazines.
But, man, nothing compares to the electricity that courses through your body when you first step foot into Big League territory.
The sensations are incredible …
The intermingled smells of pretzels, popcorn, beer, and hot dogs (and less savory aromas).
The faint, constant murmur of the crowd that permeates every corner of the place.
The green, green outfield grass.
The bigger-than life physical presence of the players as they take the field for the first time.
The crack of the bat and the pop of leather as teams practice before the game.
The excitement of the first pitch.
Man! I’m ready to head to the ballpark right now!
And that’s one of the reasons why, on this Day 25 of my 2019 Spring Training Baseball Card Challenge, I decided to look at a card showing a stadium where I’ve seen an actual, real-live baseball game.
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Now, the easy route for me here would have been to choose yet another Cincinnati Reds card, with Riverfront Stadium looming in the background.
Thankfully, though, I have other choices. And one of those choices is an all-time classic.
See, when I was just beginning my professional career in the late nineties, my employer at the time sent me to the east coast for a conference … in June.
And by “east coast,” I mean … Boston.
And, the Red Sox just happened to be in town those days.
I had basically no expendable income at that point, but I somehow scraped together enough change to hop on the subway and head toward Yawkey Way.
After getting turned around and making a few poor choices in terms of where to get off the train, I finally landed at whatever stop put me within viewing distance of Fenway Park. I walked the couple of blocks — or however far it was — on a cloud of air and hesitated only briefly when I found out the cheapest ticket I could get at the box office was $28.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime deal, right?
I felt that old zap of electricity that had buzzed me years before on my first trip to Riverfront, and the history of the place (Fenway) oozed from floors, off the rafters, and down every pole.
And that’s pretty much where my memory stops — behind the pole planted right in front of my seat.
I don’t remember much about the game other than that the Red Sox were there and that the seats were small. Tiny. And I couldn’t see much of the action on the field.
I could see the field, though, and from my position tucked up under some overhang on the first-base side, the Green Monster lurking in left field.
It was not a great overall experience, but I was satisfied — I had stepped into the belly of the legendary beast.
All of that makes the 1975 Topps Mario Guerrero card a perfect choice — for me — to celebrate Spring Training and the stadiums I’ve visited.
Guerrero was a light-hitting middle infielder who made it to the Sawx in 1973 and stayed just two years. He appeared in 66 games in 1973 and 93 in 1974, enough to land his Topps card in ’75.
There, we find Guerrero doing the old “big-bat follow-through” into the camera with the Fenway infield stretched out behind him. He’s standing to the foul side of the first-base line, and the “Buck Printing Co.” sign looms in right, against a beautiful blue sky.
I like to think that, if Guerrero panned to his left just a skosh and looked into the stands, he’d see a younger version of me craning to get a better look.
And maybe, just maybe, he’d wave.
Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.