Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I went out to Fenway last week to, well, do some research.

I've been going to ballgames for forty years, since I worked for a Kansas City farm club. And enjoyed every game, win or lose.

Yes, I had a Fenway frank. Okay, I had two. Lots of mustard, and onions. And a beer. Well, okay, I had two of them, too. And, a bag of peanuts, of course.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox lost. To Kansas City. But it was a great game. Beautiful weather.

It brought back a lot of memories, 40 year old memories, back to when

I worked for a baseball team, a farm club of Kansas City. Only it was the Athletics, not the Royals like last week. I was there between high school graduation in January and college in September.

Sioux City, you see, had an unusual school system-half the kids graduated in January, the midyear class, the rest in June. We ran each year that way. Kindergarten, January through December, for example. Summer break of course, right in the middle of each school year.

So there I was, working for the Sioux City Soos. It was a very exciting job for a 17 year old just out of high school. Unfortunately, it wasn't a very exciting year for the Soos. It turned out to be their last year, actually.

Graduating in January 1960 gave me a great job-about eight months of working in a two-person office literally running everything from ordering baseball bats, for example, to figuring the stats for each night's program.

And, of course, there was an entire team of athletes to work with. Few went on to any fame-Diego Segui did, and Dick Howser. Most were on the way up, or the way down. I had a real crush on a player from Massachusetts, Ron Hogg.

But, I digress. Back to Fenway. And I write about it because I want you to know that I do enjoy baseball. But, sometimes, a team just can't be helped.

The Soos-out of business.

The Red Sox-looking for a new stadium. Overall, the Red Sox want to spend $627 million on a new Fenway, with $352 million from the team and taxpayers contributing the rest.

And the question I ask of you is: should the state fund any part of this new ballpark?

Good old Fenway. The Wall. The crowds.

But some changes, too. The big Jumbotron didn't work; one player's picture was up there most of the night. No crowd shots. And the scoreboards were out of sync.

But what I disliked most was the music. Whatever happened to the good old organ music? Do we have to have rock piped in at about a gazillion decibels?

Why the entertainment on the screen? The old footage of old plays. And old players. Can't we just enjoy batting practice? And admire the work of the groundskeepers?

Some things haven't changed.

The kids, for example. Lined up before the game hoping to get an autograph, or just a "hello" from a player, any player.

The little kid in front of me, standing at the front of the reserved seats, glove in hand. Maybe 5 years old, no more. Waiting to catch a ball.

And the batboy, carefully grabbing a foul ball, running by the little kid, putting the ball right into the kid's glove. The kid's smile. A million dollar smile.

Was it a $275-million smile? In taxpayer dollars? How much money are you willing to put in? Is it fair for the Red Sox to ask for public assistance?

Frankly, I have difficulty voting to put any taxpayer money into a new Fenway, especially after the dollars spent on the Patriots and the Big Dig. And, it's hard to have sympathy for a company, with millions in profits every year, begging for dollars.

Red Sox supporters, on the other hand, argue that it's not a move based on greed, but on need, and that the City of Boston stopped them from building a less expensive park on the waterfront, without taxpayer dollars. And, the Sox are willing to put up more front money than any other team has ever committed.

The state's share, sought by the team, would go for infrastructure, streets, the subway station and, a parking garage. But, as I write, we've said "no" to the parking garage, because the Sox want a cut of the fees.

The Red Sox have a great history, 99 years worth! A charter member of the American League in 1901, they won the first World Series. And no other state is so associated with a single sports franchise than Massachusetts and the Red Sox. As many as a third of out of state visitors come to Massachusetts for the express purpose of going to Fenway Park.

I don't know. What do you think?

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