Take me out to the ball game / Take me out to the crowd / Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack / I don’t care if I never get back
The only problem is, I don’t like peanuts OR Cracker Jack—or crowds—and I know nothing about baseball except that the moments of excitement seem to be few and far between. But for me, attending a Red Sox spring training game at JetBlue Park on St. Patrick’s Day was less about keeping score and more about the adventure.
Three of my favorite girlfriends joined me, Sarah, Melinda and Liz. Excursions like these always start with trying to figure out what to wear. I still haven’t forgotten my college football experience last fall when I made the mistake of wearing an ankle-length linen dress to a game at the University of Florida. (Word to the wise: Moving up and down bleachers in a giant tent of a frock can be both awkward and dangerous.) For my foray to Fenway South, I chose a green T-shirt and white pants—it was St. Patrick’s Day after all, and I didn’t want to risk getting pinched by any enthusiastic Bostonians who had decided to be Irish that day.
I actually love the influx of Red Sox fans that Southwest Florida gets every spring. I love the festive Red Sox gear they wear all around town; I enjoy that they all sound like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in Goodwill Hunting (I’m a sucker for a Massachusetts dialect); and I admire their fierce loyalty to their beloved team.
I sometimes wish I had a team, but other than rooting for Tiger Woods during golf tournaments, I’m just not a sports aficionado. My husband has the Tennessee Volunteers, my son loves the Cleveland Cavaliers, and my dad is a big fan of the Tampa Bay Rays. The best thing about all the men in my life supporting sports teams is that it makes buying Christmas and birthday gifts for them a lot easier—you can’t go wrong with a hat or a jersey.
We started our adventure at Melinda’s house—she lives fairly close to the stadium—where we fortified ourselves with a delicious brunch casserole, some tasty bloody marys, and lots of gossip and girl talk. It was comfy, the air-conditioning was nice and cool, and I’ll reiterate—there were bloody marys. Couldn’t we just stay there?
Alas, it was time to venture forth to our 1 p.m. baseball game, where I quickly learned that just wearing a green shirt was not enough for all of the St. Patrick’s Day revelers at JetBlue Park. I saw dyed-green dreadlocks, bright green overalls; there was green face paint and there were green glittery skirts. Leprechaun costumes were everywhere, and I kept hearing a mixture of tough Boston accents and fake Irish ones. It was deafening, but delightful—mix baseball with Boston, beer and the biggest Irish holiday on a hot, sunny Florida day and you’ve got lots of happy people in a sea of green.
If only I drank beer. I run into this obstacle whenever I find myself at sporting events, and something about sipping wine in 80-ish- degree weather didn’t sound particularly refreshing. It’s a good thing we had the luck of the Irish with us. Melinda had the ingenious idea of buying shots of vodka at the cocktail stand and taking them a few steps away to the Ice Goddess stand, which featured a variety of deliciously cold slushies made with fresh locally pressed juices and organic cane sugar. They were perfect—and with a shot of vodka, they were divine. I immediately felt better about navigating the maddening crowds and dealing with the fiery sun.
We made our way to our seats just a few rows behind home base and sat down. It was hot—very hot. My watermelon slushy started to melt. But, we were at a Red Sox game, and it was important to document it for Facebook. Everyone else does. When I’m stuck working, I’ll scroll through Facebook on a weekday and discover that a handful of my more than 2,000 Facebook “friends” are at a spring training game and are committed to posting photos in an effort to make their friends jealous. I was not immune—we took some selfies with home plate in the background and busily posted them as we typed away on our phones. I noticed a couple of older hardcore fans nearby giving me the side eye, as if to say, “Can’t you young people [Disclaimer: The youngest of our crowd was 45] stay off your phones during this exciting game?!” The answer is no.
We sat in our seats for about 6 more minutes before we all looked at each other sweating and got up. “Well, that was fun!” Sarah said.
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“I need air-conditioning,” I whined pathetically as I headed toward the bar and then the Ice Goddess again.
Our Facebook posts proved to be fruitful. A friend who truly had the luck of the Irish on her side was up in a fancy suite and invited us to join her.
Cool AC, a spread of food, comfy seats and an elevator ride up—now this was my idea of a proper adventure. I was back in the zone and ready to sing Sweet Caroline during the seventh inning stretch.
I’m already looking forward to spending St. Patrick’s Day with the Boston Red Sox and my girlfriends next year. If you’re there, too, you can find me near the Ice Goddess stand.