Fenway Park, Boston

My trip to Maritime Canada had been a wonderful experience, and the only sad thing was the need to bring it to a close. I still had a long distance to travel from New Brunswick back down to Baltimore, and I planned to split that up over two days by spending a night in Boston and catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. This is the oldest stadium still in use in Major League Baseball, even older than Wrigley Field in Chicago, and it's a place that any serious baseball fan needs to see at some point in their life. These are some of the sights and sounds from this stopover in Fenway Park en route to home.

The drive from Fredericton down to Boston takes roughly six to seven hours in total, with the bulk of that time spend passing through the state of Maine. I had a particular interest on this otherwise nondescript drive, and that was to see the starting point for Interstate 95 at the American border crossing just outside Houlton, Maine. Interstate 95 (I-95 for short) passes within two miles of the house where I grew up, and it's the highway that I've spent the most time on by far in my life. I've driven almost the entire length of I-95 at one point in time or another, from the starting point here in Maine down to its terminus in Miami, Florida. I always wondered what the starting point looked like and this was my chance to see it for myself, with the reality being a typical border crossing station not unlike dozens of other locations along the USA-Canada border. It was still pretty cool to see the "BEGIN Interstate 95" sign though, the start of a road that runs for well over a thousand miles to the south. After passing through customs, I found myself surprised at how much more traffic there was in Maine as opposed to the traffic on the highways in the maritime provinces. We tend to think of Maine as a sparsely populated state, and it is, but there were a lot more cars on the road here than there had been back in Prince Edward Island or Cape Breton. I was returning to more densely populated areas now after spending this trip in some remote locales.

I made it to Boston without incident and arrived in the midafternoon, several hours before the baseball game for that night was set to begin. Fenway Park is located about a mile west of Boston's oldest buildings in the historic downtown, across the river from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and near the campus of Boston University. Like many of the oldest sports stadiums, Fenway is built right into the fabric of this Boston neighborhood as opposed to being out in the middle of a highway complex. A ring of bars and pubs surround the stadium and this was where I decided to spend the next few hours, getting some food for dinner while watching the buildup to the night's game. The 2010 World Cup was still taking place at the time, and I was watching one of the knockout stage matches while getting food in one of the bars. Spain narrowly edged Paraguay 1-0 on a late goal from David Villa en route to winning their first ever World Cup a week later. This was sports fandom multitasking at its finest.

By the time that the World Cup game wrapped up, it was getting closer to gametime and the streets around the park were filling up with fans. Fenway Park has been hosting Red Sox games since 1912 and there were lots of banners on display commemorating past championship teams and Hall of Fame players. This team is old enough that Cy Young pitched for them in the first decade of the 20th century. As far as those banners went, unfortunately I have to mention that the Red Sox won two more World Series in the decade following this visit, in 2013 and 2018, bringing them up to a total of nine championships as of this writing. Those titles have been distributed in almost comically uneven fashion, with the Red Sox winning five championships between 1903 and 1918, then famously no titles for 86 years, and then four more championships between 2004 and 2018. Have I mentioned that I hate the Red Sox and was hoping that they would lose this game? I want to make that point clear lest any readers get the wrong impression here.

Because Fenway is such an old ballpark, it has some highly unusual dimensions for a stadium. For those who are unfamiliar with baseball, there are no standard dimensions to the outfield walls and different stadiums can have different configurations. The oldest stadiums from the early 20th century had some bizarre setups, like the infamous dimensions of the long-demolished Polo Grounds in New York where the right field fence was only 258 feet away from home plate but straightaway center field was 483 feet distant. Fenway Park's unique feature is the presence of an extremely tall fence in left field known as the "Green Monster" that stands 37 feet / 11 meters in height. Due to the short distance from home plate out to left field, many batted balls hit the fence in the air and it can make playing defense very awkward for visiting players. The Green Monster still has a manually-operated scoreboard down at its base that keeps track of out-of-town games, and seats were added on top of it starting in 2003. Those seats are supposed to have some pretty amazing views but they're also among the most expensive tickets in the park.

Fenway Park has long had the reputation as a hitter's ballpark, due to the presence of the Green Monster and the similarly cozy dimensions down in the right field corner. The distance down the right field line is only 302 feet, the shortest of any ballpark in baseball, and something that wouldn't be allowed in a new stadium design. My seat for the game was over in the right field corner of the stadium, a few rows back from "Pesky's Pole" as the foul pole in right field is named. I used the time prior to the opening pitch to watch batting practice taking place and to get some different views of the stadium. One thing that I didn't know from watching the games on TV was that the seats in right field get blinded by the setting sun. I also discovered that Pesky's Pole was pretty disgusting up close, covered with graffiti from decades of fans sitting next to it.

The Red Sox were playing host on this night to my beloved Baltimore Orioles. Unfortunately, it was a total mismatch this season because the 2010 Orioles were having yet another bad year, coming into this game with a record of 24 wins against 57 losses, not even close to the Red Sox and their 48-32 record. The Orioles started out the 2010 season by losing 16 of their first 18 games, and that was it, the season was over in mid-April. This game proved to be no better, as the Red Sox pummeled Orioles starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie with three doubles in the 1st inning, piling up a lead of 4-0 before the end of their first at-bat. The score got as bad as 9-1 at one point before Jake Fox of all people homered in the 9th inning to make the finishing score 9-3. Here is a link to the Baseball Reference entry for the game. I can distinctly remember listening to the postgame coverage on the radio that night, with the Boston hometown announcers quite literally taking pity on how bad the Orioles had been for the last decade. I think that's the lowest point of sports fandom, when your supposed rivals feel sorry for how bad you've become. The Orioles would eventually manage to turn things around and enjoyed a sustained run of success from 2012-2016 before bottoming out again in 2018 due to player mismanagement and poor contract decisions. As for the Red Sox, they have been consistently successful in the decade since this game took place, and as mentioned before won two additional championships in addition to having a historically great team in 2018 that won 108 games. Bah.

This baseball game brought my trip through Maritime Canada to a successful conclusion. I drove back home to Baltimore the next day and enjoyed another set of fireworks for the American Independence Day on July 4th. For a trip that lasted just over a week in duration, this was a fantastic experience that covered a lot of ground. I had the chance to visit one of the best national parks in the USA at Acadia, then cross the border into Canada and experience the crazy high tides in the Bay of Fundy. I managed to be in Halifax at the same time that the city was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian navy, then braved the wild terrain of Cape Breton Highlands and relaxed in the peaceful rural landscape of Prince Edward Island. The maritime provinces are frequently overlooked by Americans, to the point that most of them probably don't even have more than a vague understanding that these places exist. I'd encourage more people to take the chance to visit: there's some truly beautiful scenery up there waiting to be explored. As always, thanks for reading.