It wasn't really the end of an era when the Spirit were knocked out last week.
I guess you could say that it's the end of the era of Fraser Field as a professional ballpark, since it's hard to imagine we will be seeing a pro team there any time soon. But to most people, it was an unfortunate event, but not really the end of an era, so to speak.
But for several of us at a certain age, the loss of the Spirit represents the end of a major part of our lives. For me and Eric and Dave and some of the younger kids like Joshua and Jordan we've really grown up a lot in these five summers, and the Spirit have played a big role in the people we have become.
We all have our own intensely personal stories about what the Spirit meant to us. For me, above all, the Fraser Faithful represented my first true group of friends. In the past, I've had plenty of friends, but I never really had a group of friends, where we were all friends with each other. The Spirit added that wonderful element to my life. The company really was the best part, although the baseball wasn't bad either.
I'd say that 2003 was kind of rock-bottom for me, for reasons that I really don't want to go in to here. But the summer of '03 was electric - for the first time, I had something to do all summer that I really, passionately loved. I wanted to be at the ballpark as soon as the gates opened every night, because when I went to Fraser Field, I stepped into another world - I world I liked a lot better than the other one I was inhabiting.
The winter from '03 to '04 was probably the longest and most miserable winter I've ever had. Things weren't going that well for me personally, or in school, and all I could think about was the coming summer and the return of the Spirit.
Then, in 2004, everything really took off. I met the rest of you guys. In 2003, I went to games with a lot of different friends of mine, but in '04, I felt comfortable just going myself and being with the rest of you. It was a magical summer and left me overwhelmingly happy for the first time in my life. You all probably know me as a bubbly, loud and energetic person. Pre '04 I was pretty quiet and introverted.
'05 added a new element - I dragged along my lovely girlfriend Amanda for the first time, and much to my surprise, she came to love it too, despite never caring about sports before that summer. Her being a part of it really made it even more special and important to me.
I've had so many strange and fun memories since those first few summers, moments that filled me with this raw feeling of excitement and joy - the only real word for it is ELECTRIC - that have rarely been matched at any other point in my life. That NAWBL tournament & Olympic penny hockey, the 12-hour doubleheader against Sussex, the 3-game sweep @ New Haven and marching around Yale Field with the Spirit flag, taking BP on the field a few weeks after the season ended in '05, Jimmy Hurst, all of it -- I get so emotional just thinking of those times even now.
As I told Steve Krause when he interviewed me for the Item when the Spirit announced they were going under, if the Spirit started this year, it probably wouldn't have been that big a deal to me. I probably would have gone to a few games because I love baseball, but that would have been it.
But I was 14 when the Spirit were announced in August of 2002 and at the time, it seemed like the coolest thing ever. And the 14-year-old me was right. I grew up at Fraser, and making it even more special was the fact that a bunch of other people grew up along with me.
My Spirit experience has been with me through all of high school, the craziness of senior year, and the start of college. Outside of the Spirit crew, I don't know how many of my friends from 5 years ago I still keep in touch with. 1 or 2 maybe?
You know how everyone has that place, where they go back and see it as a 40-year-old and it instantly brings them back to their childhood? For me, that place will forever be Fraser Field.
I knew it was a stupid thing to think even in 2003 and 2004, because even then I knew the Spirit wouldn't last that long, but I daydreamed about taking my kids to Fraser Field to see the Spirit and telling them about all the great times I had there.
Fraser Field really was my 'summer home' for these past 5 wonderful seasons. And the first time I see the park without that beautiful Spirit logo behind home plate, without the infield turf, without the big scoreboard in right, without the signage on the walls, without the Spirit logos all around, it's going to be incredibly emotional for me.
It's not something I look forward to seeing. But despite that, I will go back there some time soon. And I will always be back, both physically and in my mind.
We have a tendency to call everything good in our lives an 'unforgettable' experience, but in this case, it's 100% true. These 5 summers were unforgettable.
The names, faces and events that have defined the North Shore Spirit experience - Nick Lopardo, DaveCo, Jon de Vries, RUN IT OUT!, Jonathan Johnson, VERSUS, Marty Ginivan, BJ Weed, Yuri Sanchez, Elmira, Miles Wolff, Fat Eddie, D-Rob, Sussex, the Aces, Buzzy Francis, CELTICS, Spike, Don Boyle, Sparky, Rob Fischer, and on and on and on and on - will swirl around in my mind forever, and will always have a place in my heart, as long as I live.