Category Archives: Parenting

No East Coast Kids Saw This

There are two minutes left in game four, and the Celtics are up by 4. The Celtics have just overcome a 24-point deficit, on the road, for one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history. My 9 year-old son would have loved to have seen this. Too bad the game started an hour after his bedtime (though we let him stay up, and he made it through the first quarter before passing out on the couch). A whole generation of future Celtics fans is missing the creation of new Celtics legends — even if they want to see it live. They’ll have to settle for seeing the highlights on Sports Center tomorrow. I know it’s a business. I know that’s why the games start so late (9:00pm) and end so late (about 11:45pm). I get it. That doesn’t mean it’s not a real shame, though.

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What Have You Done 500 Times?

So Manny finally connected for his 500th career home run (and then his 501st, 502nd, and 503rd). Only 24 people in major league history have achieved this milestone. That’s one of the marvelous things about baseball — performance is so quantifiable. We KNOW that Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest 24 home run hitters of all-time. It’s simply not debatable.

So this got me thinking — what’s the equivalent of hitting 500 home runs in non-athletes’ careers? What’s a high level of accomplishment in your field that only 24 people in history have ever reached?

I was a teacher for eight years. Perhaps the equivalent to 500 home runs in teaching is having 500 former students credit YOU with having taught them an invaluable life lesson.

For a pediatrician, how about accurately diagnosing 500 difficult-to-diagnose cases, keeping the patient and parents calm, and prescribing proper follow-up care?

For a minister, priest, or rabbi, the equivalent might be delivering 500 truly superior sermons.

For a parent of five (like me), I’d say showing up for 500 little league games, soccer games, swim meets, karate tests, dance recitals, school plays, class art shows, teacher conferences, and graduations — without missing one — would be the equivalent of hitting 500 home runs.

Probably during the season of 2011 or 2012, Manny will hit his 600th home run. I don’t even want to think about what it would require to be a 600-homer parent…..

Race To See A No-Hitter

I have always wanted to witness a no-hitter in person. Tonight, I finally did. Did I have a ticket to the game? No. Did I watch the whole game? No. In fact, I slept through a couple of innings. But I was at Fenway for the last two outs. Here’s how I experienced Jon Lester’s no-hitter.

From 7:30 to 8:00pm, I got my boys (9 and 6) ready for bed and read aloud to them. As they fell asleep, I also fell asleep in my chair with the book on my lap. At about 8:30pm, I sat on the couch next to my wife and we spent perhaps 15 minutes perusing digital photo albums of our kids with the Sox game on TV in the background. I noticed the Sox were winning 5-0, but it wasn’t until the middle of the seventh inning that I noticed the zeros in the Royals’ hit column. “He’s throwing a no-hitter!” I said to my wife. “I have to drive down there!”

Wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, I bolted for the car and began my speedy 12-mile sprint down Route 9 to Fenway Park. Listening to the game on the radio, I was distressed when the Sox went down quickly in the bottom of the seventh. “Come on guys!!” I yelled, imploring our hitters to give me some time to get to the park. The top of the eighth flew by too as the Royals went 1-2-3, and it was at that point that I arrived at the section of Route 9 where there is ALWAYS a speed trap. Reluctantly, I slowed down to the speed limit (prudent — the car behind me got pulled over).

As the Red Sox batted in the bottom of the eighth, I hit another sand trap: construction that narrowed the road to one lane of slow-moving traffic. “NOOO!” I screamed. But I hit mostly green lights, and as Lester took the mound for the top of the ninth, I turned onto Boylston Street and searched frantically for a parking spot. Lester threw ball four to the leadoff hitter, Esteban German, at the same moment that I found an empty parking space at the McDonald’s opposite Yawkey Way. A sprint across the street and down Yawkey Way to Gate B, a flash of my Red Sox Nation VP credential to the security dude, and I was in the bowels of the park. Continuing to run at full speed, I headed for the ramp on the first base side and emerged into Fenway at the same moment that David DeJesus grounded out to Kevin Youkilis for out number two. “Wooooo hooooo!!” I had just arrived, but I was immediately in synch with the rest of the crowd that had been there for three hours.

As I walked along the main aisle towards right field, fans jumped up and down, screamed, prayed, clapped, smiles on all their faces. Several people reached out to me with high-fives as I walked by. What a feeling. THIS IS FENWAY PARK, I was thinking. I found an empty box seat just beyond first base and planted myself there to watch the last few pitches. “This is it, I’m finally going to see a no-hitter!” Strike three to Alberto Callaspo! Then, bedlam. Absolute bedlam. The crowd noise completely drowned out “Dirty Water” as it blared through Fenway.

I was there. After all these years, I can say I was there.

Questions of a Six Year-Old at Fenway

As I wrote in my previous article, on Patriots’ Day I took my six year-old to his first Red Sox game, and afterwards we cheered for the back-of-the-pack between miles 22 and 25 on Beacon Street. Someday, this boy will know all the ins and outs about baseball (like his nine year-old brother). But this is the first spring that he has begun to show glimmers of interest in the Red Sox, so a visit to Fenway is different for him than for everyone else at the ballpark. And after he’d asked me a few questions during the first inning, I knew I had to write down all of his questions for the rest of the game. Classic stuff:

Can I have a hot dog? (Sure.)

Why do we have our gloves on? (In case a foul ball comes back here, we’ll be ready to catch it.)

Why is that screen there? (To protect the fans behind home plate from dangerous foul balls.)

But how do the balls come back here? (When the hitter swings his bat, sometimes the bat doesn’t hit the ball squarely and the ball flies in back of home plate.)

Can we do something besides just sit around? (Sure we can walk around a little bit.)

(We were walking past a concession stand.) Can I have some pizza? (Sure.) Can I have a big cup of Coke? (Sure.)

(Back in our seats.) Can I have a foam finger? (Sure, let’s go catch up with the foam finger vendor.)

(The crowd suddenly cheered after a Rangers player popped out for the third out of an inning.) Is that good Daddy? (Yes, that’s good, now the Red Sox get a turn to hit and to try to score some runs.)

(The crowd suddenly cheered after Ellsbury stole second base.) Is that good Daddy? (Yes, Jacoby Ellsbury just stole second base.)

Who’s winning Daddy? (The Red Sox are winning.) Yay, the Red Sox are winning!

Why did they turn on the lights? (Good question, I really don’t know why they turned on the lights on a sunny day.)

What’s the score? (Six to nothing.) Is this normal? (No, this is really good.) I mean, are they major leaguers? (Yes.) This is stupid. (Why?) I thought that major leaguers were supposed to be good. (They are, but our pitcher, Clay Buchholz, is pitching so well, the Rangers can’t get very many hits.) Oh.

Is it almost nighttime? (No, it’s 1:20pm.) Is the game almost over? (Well, we’re in the fifth inning and the whole game lasts nine innings.) So there are four innings left? (That’s right.) Will it be nighttime when the game is over? (No, there’s a lot of daytime left.) Good, ’cause there’s a show I really want to watch on TV tonight. (What show is that?) I forget the name.

Is a trillion more than a billion? (Yes.) How many trucks would you need to carry a trillion dollars? (Um, a hundred.) No, you’d just need one, because you could have one bill with a trillion on it.

Daddy, I made up a number. (Really? What is it?) A killion. And it’s so big, the dollar bill would be as long as Fenway Park. It’s as big as a trillion billion dollars.

(Look, here comes the wave.) What’s the wave, Daddy? (That’s the wave.) Why do they do the wave? (Because it’s fun.)

(We were on the sidelines of the marathon and I had cheered for many runners by reading the names on their shirts. My six year-old was incredulous.) Daddy, how do you know all these people?

Patriots’ Day: Boston’s (and my kids’) Best Day

Patriots’ Day was established as a Massachusetts (and Maine) civic holiday to commemorate and celebrate the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. And in Boston, we know how to celebrate our history in style — a Red Sox game at Fenway for breakfast (11:05am start time), and the world’s coolest foot race (Boston Marathon) for lunch.

Today, I was lucky enough to attend the game with two of my children (9 and 6) and their friend (9), enjoying a rare Monday day game while kids in other states across the country were busy toiling away in school. And after Delcarmen nailed down the final out, we walked three miles from Fenway to Cleveland Circle, cheering on those runners at the back of the pack, the ones who needed our wild cheers the most.

At 9:00am, my boys and I picked up a friend and posed for our first photo of the day.

Daddy needed a cup of coffee, so a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts was required. The Papelbon poster got us into the mood for the day.

We parked the car at a friend’s house near Cleveland Circle, and the small plot of green grass in the front yard meant that forward progress towards Fenway would have to wait for a few minutes…. boys will be boys.

The Reservoir T-stop was crawling with Red Sox fans…

… and we squeezed close together on the train to make room for Sox fans getting on at subsequent stops.

The walk from the Fenway T-stop to Yawkey Way is one of the great walks in North America.

The goosebumps get huge when you get to Brookline Avenue and see the crowd outside Fenway.

This was my six year-old’s first game at Fenway (since he was too young to remember anything), so I taught him to hold his hand over his heart during the National Anthem. He sang at the top of his lungs.

After two innings, my six year-old started getting restless. Hot dogs and pizza helped a little. But what he really wanted (and needed, it turned out) was a Red Sox #1 foam finger!

Let us not underestimate the power of the foam finger! To a six year-old, it can provide hours of companionship, entertainment, and enjoyment!

Then, in the fifth inning, it was time for…. the blankie!

By the 8th inning, many of the seats had been vacated, so the boys headed down to the very front, where they sang “Sweet Caroline” and cheered the Sox to a sweep of the Rangers.

What would a perfect Patriots Day be without a greeting from Wally the Green Monster? (The six year-old is not pictured here, because he was sobbing about his blankie, which he’d dropped into a puddle of beer.)

And I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a player signing autographs at Fenway Park…. but after the game, Josh Hamilton of the Rangers signed for one and all… and made it an extra-special day for a lot of kids.

Then, it was time to head out to Beacon Street to cheer on the marathoners!


Petting the dog wearing the Kevin Garnett jersey was a highlight of our long walk from Kenmore Square to Cleveland Circle. And at the end of our walk, my six year-old proclaimed, “My feet ache all over. But that was the best day of my LIFE!”

A Monday without school, a day spent with family and friends, four hours at Fenway Park on a sunny day, a Red Sox win, the opportunity to high-five courageous runners as they near the finish line of a long, grueling race, and memories to last the rest of the year and longer. What’s better than that?

An 8 Year-Old’s Fantasy Baseball Draft: Emotion vs. Analysis

fantasy-baseball.jpgI started playing online fantasy baseball in about 1995 or so, and it’s now an annual tradition. Draft day has become a holiday on my calendar and is as eagerly anticipated as any day of the year. This year’s draft — my son’s first — will go down in history as my favorite of all-time, for it demonstrated the emotional hold that our beloved Red Sox players have over us, especially when we’re kids.

A Co-Manager Comes of Age

The last two years, my almost-nine year-old son has “co-managed” my fantasy baseball team with me (I’m in a 12-team Yahoo! league with my brothers, sister, father, and several close friends). The main impact of his co-management has been the reliable presence of Nomar Garciaparra on the roster and also in the starting lineup whenever he has been healthy. (“Daddy, put Nomar back in the lineup!”) Although my son was only five years old when Nomar was traded, #5 remains a god in our house.

backyard-and-hes-off.jpgThis past fall, my son managed his own fantasy football team against his dad, uncles, aunts, and grandparents and WON the league. He established himself as a draft wizard, grabbing Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, and Adrian Peterson with his top three picks. So, riding a wave of pride and optimism, in February he asked to manage his own fantasy baseball team. Confident that he was ready to compete with the big boys, we expanded the league to 13 teams.

The Draft: Peavy or Beckett? Sizemore or Ramirez?

We bought all the fantasy baseball magazines and studied them closely for a month. The day of the draft (7:30pm start time), I hurried home from work to be sure he was ready, and when I arrived, I was treated to a wonderful sight. He had created an information cockpit for himself at the computer. Surrounding his seat on all sides were stat sheets, handwritten draft lists for every position, articles about sleepers and busts, and various pages ripped out of magazines. “Daddy, I know who I’m going to pick if I get the first pick,” he proclaimed eagerly. “Jake Peavy!” (Peavy scored the most points in our league last year — so he was a logical choice.)

A few minutes later, the draft order was revealed on our Yahoo! draft site. My son had pick #3, and I had pick #4. “I really hope Peavy will still be there at number three!” he prayed. I set up shop at my laptop in a room adjacent to his cockpit.

jake-peavy.jpgAt 7:30pm sharp, the draft went live. Suddenly, A-Rod was gone. “Yes! He took A-Rod!” The second pick was… Jose Reyes. And the clock started ticking on my son’s pick, number three. He had 90 seconds to click on Jake Peavy. But he froze. Pick Peavy, I urged. “I don’t know, Daddy,” he said, struggling with a decision. “Maybe I want Josh Beckett.” Peavy’s a great pick, Beckett’s a great pick, I told him. 20 seconds left. Make your pick! “I want Josh Beckett.” Click.

Emotion trounced Analysis. How great is that??

Fast forward to the second round. My son had spent the rest of the first round studying his notes to figure out who to take next. “If he’s still available, I’m going to take Grady Sizemore with my second pick,” my son announced. Good choice, I assured him. Then came his turn to draft. And he froze. Pick Sizemore, I urged. “Daddy, do you think I should take Grady Sizemore or Manny Ramirez?” he asked. You’ll be able to get Manny in the next round, I assured him. Go for Sizemore this round. “Don’t tell me what to do!” he said curtly. And suddenly, Ramirez was Beckett’s fantasy teammate.

Emotion 2, Analysis 0.

Let’s jump to the third round. “I think I’m going to take Jonathan Papelbon,” he said. “Do you think that’s a good pick, Daddy?” He’s a great player, I told him, but no one’s going to pick a closer until the fifth round at the earliest. You can get him in a later papelbon-wins-series.jpground. “Don’t tell me what to do!” Click. Papelbon joined his Red Sox teammates on a roster that was looking more and more like a tribute to the posters on my son’s walls.

Emotion 3, Analysis zilch.

Fourth round — analysis had been totally abandoned and emotion had taken over. He wanted to pick Dustin Pedroia but I convinced him that Mike Lowell would be a better pick. And in the fifth round, he picked his first non-Red Sox player: Torii Hunter. By the end of the draft, his team included Tim Wakefield, Johnny Damon, and of course, our favorite player of all time, Nomar Garciaparra (secured with his 24th, and final pick).

Clearly, my son drafted a good team. With Beckett, Ramirez, Papelbon, and Lowell anchoring his roster, he’s got as good a shot as anyone to win the league. But I’ll always remember all the research he did, all the logical planning and rational reasoning his left brain performed, and how the loyalty and emotion of his right brain – the side that loves the Red Sox – swooped in at those moments of truth and buried his analytical, stat-focused left brain. He’s eight. What a fantastic age to be a Red Sox fan!

And for the record, my first pick (#4 overall) was Johan Santana, and the only Red Sox player I secured was Coco Crisp. (My left brain is counting on him being traded, batting leadoff for a National League team, and winning the N.L. batting title…..)

Red Sox Nation is Flat, and other final thoughts from Japan

manny-hits-double-in-japan.jpgFinal reflections from Japan as I wait for the bus to the airport:

An Important Call From Home

Calls from the U.S. to Tokyo are expensive, so when I received a call from my wife on Tuesday morning (Monday night in the U.S., several hours after the Sox’ opening day victory), I knew it had to be about something important. “Your son wants to talk with you,” she said. Then my almost-nine year-old got on the phone. “Daddy, guess what, Manny Ramirez got me 8 points for my fantasy baseball team last night, and I’m in first place!”

OK, who wants to bet with me about who’s going to have more fun playing Fantasy Baseball this year?? (That was a priceless phone call.)

wally-yonamine.jpgWally Yonamine: The First Japanese Player to Hurry

This morning, I read that the first American born man to play in Japan (Wally Yonamine, Central League MVP in 1957, born in Hawaii) was the first professional player to sprint from home to first on ground balls (before him, Japanese pros jogged or walked – could Manny Ramirez possess the soul of an ancient Japanese baseball player?) and the first to break up double plays by sliding hard into second base. That helps explain why no one is ever in a hurry here in Japan.

I mean, I felt no need to wear my seatbelt in the taxis I rode in. You just have to trust me when I tell you that Tokyo drivers are the safest on the planet. No one’s driving is even remotely aggressive. This was a problem when I was in a rush to get to the Tokyo Dome to film some interviews with Japanese fans for NESN. In Boston, my half-hour trip would have been cut down to 10 minutes (at the expense of the safety of other drivers on the road). Drivers here are actually cooperative, as if the people in the cars around them are members of their family or close friends. (Let me be clear: I think this is awesome.)

interviews-with-japanese-fans.jpgInterviews with Japanese Baseball Fans

Before the second game of the Sox-A’s series, I had a chance to interview Japanese fans through an interpreter. Their answers to my questions were truly illuminating. First of all, three different people said, “Please take good care of Matsuzaka and Okajima” in response to my question, “Is there anything you want to tell the baseball fans back in the U.S.A?” Secondly, in response to my question, “What do you think of the U.S. fans who are here at Tokyo Dome?” all six of the fans I interviewed said, “We are grateful to the U.S. fans for coming here and showing their teams so much support.” Grateful is the key word. Several of the fans with whom I spoke said that their favorite Red Sox players were people other than Matsuzaka and Okajima (with Ramirez and Ortiz leading in popularity).

red-sox-nation-is-flat.jpgRed Sox Nation is Flat

Ladies and gentlemen, not only is the world flat, as Thomas Freedman’s book title declares, Red Sox Nation is flat. Although I don’t have a specific quotation to prove it, it’s obvious to all U.S. fans here that the Red Sox fans at Tokyo dome are true fans of the Red Sox, not just fans of their country’s stars playing in the Major Leagues. They talked about the history of the Red Sox, they talked about Fenway Park, and they talked about current players as knowledgably as a Boston fan would. “Manny’s my favorite player because he’s so goofy and relaxed, and a great hitter,” said one young fan wearing a Ramirez t-shirt. “I became a fan of the Red Sox because of Nomar Garciaparra” said another fan. “I love his style of play.”

One fan who believes my powers as VP of RSN are supreme bent my ear for five minutes, expressing her frustration that “the Yankees and Mariners games are all televised in Japan because Matsui and Ichiro are everyday players, but Red Sox games are only televised when Matsuzaka pitches. Can you change that?” She also let me know that MLB-TV doesn’t work in Japan. “All of Japan is a blackout area,” she said indignantly.

remy-orsillo-drew-and-others-in-japan.jpgQ&A With Ramirez, Remy, and Friends

The Red Sox hosted a luncheon for Red Sox fans in Tokyo on Wednesday, and after lunch we were surprised with special guests J.D. Drew, Alex Cora, Manny Delcarmen, Manny Ramirez, President Jerry Remy, and Don Orsillo. Obviously, Ramirez’s presence was electrifying. After they all signed autographs, there was time for a Q&A. Here are the highlights:

One fan asked all of them, “What’s surprised you most about being in Japan?” and Alex Cora immediately responded, “That Manny [Ramirez] made it here.” (laughter) “And by the way, his grandmother’s doing fine.”

Ramirez was asked who he considers to be the toughest pitcher to face in baseball, or which pitcher he fears the most. Manny thought for about five seconds, then responded jovially, “I’m ready. Nobody’s tough for me. I’m ready.”

One fan asked Don Orsillo to name the announcers who have been his biggest inspirations. He responded immediately, “Ken Coleman and Vin Scully.”

A fan asked Jerry Remy if, when he was a player, he ever thought he’d be a baseball TV announcer. “No, because I couldn’t put a sentence together then, and I still can’t.” (laughter) “I really have no idea how this happened!” Then Ramirez added, “When we all saw him playing, we knew he’d be an announcer.”

One fan asked Ramirez if he could please let us know which exact date he expects to hit is 500th home run. “Hey, my goal is to reach 500 this month.” (He currently has 492 career home runs.)

J.D. Drew was asked why the Red Sox don’t run more. “Well, we don’t have a lot of speed. (laughter) And I think we all saw how fast Manny is yesterday.” (laughter – Manny stood at home plate to admire his game-winning double before beginning to run, and was almost out sliding into second.)

When Ramirez was asked to make a prediction for this season, he said, “Man, I’m gonna lead the league in RBIs. AGAIN. (laughter) And we’re gonna repeat, we’re gonna do it again. We’re a DYNASTY.”

kid-red-sox-fans-in-japan.jpgJapan’s Social Culture is Highly Advanced

A Red Sox fan asked me this morning, “What’s been the most memorable moment of the trip for you?” My answer was, “Brandon Moss’s game-tying homerun (9th inning of Opening Day victory) and shaking Manny Ramirez’s hand.”

But I know that the more enduring memories of my trip to Tokyo will be about the people here and the stunningly advanced social culture of cooperation and respect for others. As one Japanese fan said to me in an interview, “We have learned a lot from American baseball players, but we think American players can learn a lot from how the Japanese play the game, as well.” This is absolutely true (the Japanese are obsessed with fundamentals and practicing), but in terms of what all Americans can learn from Japanese culture, the fan’s comment doesn’t go nearly far enough.