The rain only lasted long enough for Karin and I to get Liam wheeled out of his van and make the walk across the parking lot. It was enough rain to make me wonder out loud if making this trip was even going to be worth it, so of course the rain would calm to a drizzle as soon as we made our way through the gates. Luckily for us this night was a giveaway night and as one of the first 3000 fans to enter, all three of us were entitled to a free camouflage towel which we could use to dry off our seats. In the time it took us to find the elevator and navigate Liam’s chair to the right section the drizzle had fizzled and the sun started poking through the clouds. Karin and I dried our two seats. The special seats with space enough between them for a wheelchair. We had made it. Liam was ready for his first Pawtucket Red Sox game at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket Rhode Island.
We got there early. In part because it was towel day but more so to avoid the big rush of the crowd entering just before game time. We made it in with the crowd though because this night, a little over a week ago, was also military appreciation night and so we were fortunate enough to be present for a great ceremony before the game which even included cannons. Badass super loud cannons.
If you haven’t already you can read here about Liam’s first Boston Red Sox Game at Fenway Park and how important that experience was to me but in many ways taking Liam to McCoy to see the Red Sox AAA international League farm team was even more important to me. I grew up here. Only a town away from my childhood home and always a cheaper ticket than going to the movies I spent many a summer evening watching my true “hometown team” play the game I love so dearly. Over the course of every summer our house would become littered with the giveaway bats, and towels, and the commemorative reusable soda cups that cost more than the price of admission. Our little league would have a cookout here every year. Then a week later my Boy Scout troop would see a game. My mom worked for one of the sponsors advertising along that centerfield wall and so free tickets would come her way fairly often as well. Oh, and I also played the national anthem before a few games with my junior high school marching band. I know this place. I really like this place.
Before Liam was born I was able to live out a life long dream and play base ball here, on this field, as a member of the Providence Grays Vintage Base Ball Club. I Even got to sit in the dugout with an up and coming pitcher battling back to the major leagues after beating cancer (You may have heard of a fella named Jon Lester) while he marveled at how gloriously goofy we all were to be playing old-time base ball without the aid of gloves of any kind. Since I could probably go on (and on and on) let me just be clear about it, McCoy Stadium has always been, and probably always will be, one of my all time favorite places in the world.
Our seats, as you can see, were wonderful. Third base side and only about 6 rows up from the field. Close enough that the risk of a foul ball forces your constant attention to the action on the field. I explained the intricacies of the game to Liam even though he’s watched hundreds of games with me on television. The staff was great and the usher working our section made it her business to introduce herself to Liam rather than only to Karin and I and checked in on him often throughout the game. It was a small thing, yes, but one that was very appreciated. A few minutes after Paws, the team’s mascot, ran across the field shooting soft baseball toys into the crowd the same usher returned with one of them and told Liam that Paws had meant to shoot this one right to him. It was sweet and she needn’t have done it since there were plenty of other eager kids in the crowd who would be going home without a squishy baseball, but it was of course appreciated as well.
The PawSox didn’t win. They didn’t just lose but got their butts kicked is more like it and by the 6th inning we had made a decision that to beat the crowd leaving early because the game was getting out of hand that we would have to make the jump even earlier to make maneuvering Liam’s wheelchair through the park, and by the 7th inning we were trying to find enough available space in the parking lot extend the ramp on Liam’s van. Luckily for us there is a fire station sticking into the parking lot and the firefighters sitting on lawn chairs and listening to the game between calls were more than happy for us to use the space so that we could get it done slowly and safely. So, you know, yay for firefighters.
Win or lose the night was amazing. I was able to show Liam a place that had meant so much to me and for what it’s worth he seemed to enjoy it. As easy for him to fall asleep in nearly any environment or situation including large and loud crowds, he stayed awake and engaged in the action, or at least in the attention he was being paid, all the way until the ride home. Liam doesn’t usually spend much time out of the house after dark and it was getting pretty late for a three and a half year old.
There are always going to be things that I won’t get to do with Liam because of his medical diagnosis. It’s a good thing that most of them don’t really matter. And on those days when I find it hard to remember that those things don’t really matter I know just what I’ll do.
Pack up the van, call up the McCoy box office, and take in a game with my little buddy. Because I have to tell you,
It really doesn’t get much better than that.