If you were a suburban kid growing up in Essex Junction, Vermont, the odds are pretty solid that you played little league baseball. And even more likely that your MLB team of choice was the Boston Red Sox. Of course, when I say 'choice', I mean 'here is the team that will be torturing you and your friends for the rest of your baseball-watching lives.' Even though Montreal was less than two hours north, New Englanders were Red Sox fans. Period.
You may grow older, leave little league far behind, even stop watching or caring about baseball entirely during college and some years after. But for some reason, you come back. The foundation's still there, the pre-teen programming too strong, so you start paying attention again. You reinforce dusty memories (and old trading cards) of Fisk, Yaz, Dewey, Hobson, Burlson, Remy, Rice, Lynn, Eck, the Spaceman, and Boomer Scott with new moments from Manny, Pedro, Nomar, Ortiz, Damon, Millar, Mueller, Kapler, Lowe, Wake, Tek, Pokey, Trot, Bellhorn, Mienky, Foulke, Embree, Timlin, Cabrera, and Schilling.
As a kid, I spent my little league summers wanting to be them, and now I spend my summers watching from my Allston livingroom, or if I'm lucky, from a too-small seat at Fenway. It's a place that seemed so far away back then, but is now just a couple miles from home. There are still times when I pass the park on the pike, and the little kid in me says "I can't believe I live near Fenway!".
Yeah, we spend these summers getting set up for the letdown, but we hang in there, even after we shout "I'm just not watching anymore!" at the TV. 'Cuz that's a lie born of frustration, and there's a reason it sounds so familiar every time.
So here's where it all started, why I'm forever a Sox fan, and why I'll keep on believing no matter what I might say...
Photo #1: The 1978 Essex Jct. Little League Royals Standing: Coach Couture, Craig Couture, Jeff Liu, Neil Gillespie, Belinda Hathaway, Jennifer Couture, & Coach Willis
Seated: Steve Uttecht, Chris Willis, Todd McGinnis, Don Dingman, Cam Larkin, & me
Photo #3: At a 1978 Toronto Blue Jays game, outside the old Exhibition Stadium, with childhood neighbor Jeff Cheek (son of longtime Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek). Dig his Close Encounters t-shirt.
Photo #4: The 1980 Essex Jct. Little League Rangers Top: Steve Roque, Mike Bessette, Mike Wiley, & Geoff Grove
Middle: Aaron Belchamber, Mike Barrett, Jim Lemieux, & Jeff Gabriel
Bostom: Todd McGinness, Don Grady, me, Sean Marble, & Craig Couture
Coaches (not pictured): Mr. Couture, Mr. Barrett, & Mr. Bessette