Back in the summer of 1996 is when I truly started to love baseball.
In school I was, in probably the most brutally honest sense, a nerd. I never had liked baseball, or any sports. However, my grandmother can be credited with changing my view on that. Some of you know me & know I went to Mad Dogs games. At the age of 8 it’s pretty hard to go anywhere alone, so my grandma brought me to these games. I had a blast as I cheered on players, enjoyed the mascot, & grew to really enjoy watching baseball. Then came the end of the 97 season…and the end of the Mad Dog’s stay in Lynn. I was very sad at the time, because I’d grown to love the team & baseball. But my grandmother told me not to worry, another team would come & I’d enjoy baseball at Fraser again in no time.
Flash forward to 2002. Fraser Field is a shell of it’s former self. At points I wondered if it was suitable even for high school baseball. It was on the verge of being condemned…and then a businessman from Wall Street came in. He announced he would bring in a team & re-vamp the entire stadium in preparation for the team & it’s fans. That great man was Nick Lopardo. Mr. Lopardo came in & fixed up this old, crumpling stadium & made it, through $2 million of his own money, the gem of a ballpark it is today.
Flash forward to a year later. I was just 13 at the time and was completely amped to see the first game at Fraser in 6 years. I went to the first few games, & was instantly hooked. I kept going to these games & roamed around the stadium. I started to know a few people by names & made friends with some random kids I always saw & sat on the grassy knoll & enjoyed great baseball. Then the season ended on a sweep in the championship round against Brockton.
Throughout the off-season that year all I could think about was roaming the stands at Fraser again next season. By this time I was in middle school & still had few friends. You see, for some reason few people thought I was cool or nice or anything—they still saw me as a nerd. You can be one of the nicest people in the world, but it won’t matter if people think you are a geek. Outside of school I had VERY few friends, & I still blame my status at school for that to this day. In school I was one of those smart, quiet, & shy types....but I moved on as was, knowing one day I would be accepted for who I was, with little judgment from the friends I would make
2004 marked the end of the existence of my old being.
In 2004 I went to Spirit games again, but a few weeks in I met Johnny Judge. After talking to him for a few games he introduced me to a few of his friends. I’m sure you know them: they would be Joe & Eric. From that point on I was accepted into a group of friends that had their own quirky differences, but held a common bond: a love of baseball. We made jokes, hung out all game, celebrated the wins, & mourned the heartbreaking losses. That year was better than the last because I was still able to enjoy the sport I like, but that year added the element of friendship & comradery. I’m going to echo what Joe said in his post “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.” These guys made going to games one of the happiest experiences I’ve had my entire life. That summer was by far the best I’ve ever had.
Throughout the next few seasons the Spirit kept playing well & I kept meeting more people, making my experience better. I went on to meet Jonathan, Spike, Jack, Willy, Dave, Amanda, Alan, Cassie, Lisa, Corey, Jonathan Weiner, Josh, Dorothy, Ashley, Jane, Dougie, Bob Keaney (again), Doug, & countless staff and other people I meet a few times. We all hung out at the games, cracked jokes, talked to each other, cared about each other, went on trips together, & became like a second family. This made it really special because what Mr. Lopardo did wasn’t just create a team & great place to go for a great night of family friendly entertainment in a deteriorating city—he also created a family. I will honestly say that if I didn’t meet those guys, I wouldn’t quite be the same person I am today. Over the course of 5 years my life completely changed, & I am glad that it happened in a positive way & with friends like you all. Joe also made another good point when he said, “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?” For me I can honestly say there are about 5-8 people from that far back I still keep in touch with--& only 3 or 4 on a regular basis. Those people I said & the people in the front office & staff that I befriended (like Marty, Kevin, Cathy, Bob, Ben, Peter, Mary, Reid, Pat, John Leahy, Mike, & -to name a few) made these experiences all the better.
I just want to steal one more thing from Joe. This following quote is from some poem that Joe took an excerpt from, & it holds true.
“There are places I’ll remember / all my life, though some have changed...”
That holds true, as I know that in due time another team will roll the dice & move into Lynn. This city won’t ever lose it’s baseball roots, so I believe this city will see another team in the future, but as for when I don’t know. But by that time the field & stadium will have changed, sadly it may be for the worst…back to it’s pre-Spirit days. It’s sad….because I was hoping that one day I’d be able to bring my kids to Fraser & point to where Section E was & say “That’s where I sat & cheered for BJ & Josue while talking to the item’s reporter & making fun of a giant blob who liked the Yankees-terrible as they were” then he would laugh & wish to be able to do that him/herself. But this city won’t keep up the place, leaving it a shell of it’s former self with all the Spirit insignia & familiar images gone.
I literally grew up around this team. From the age of 13 to the age of 18 I have been going to these games. They changed my outlook on some things, how I should treat others, how delicate some things are, & some other important life lessons. For some others it is also the case, & for yet more kids this team was literally their first introduction to baseball & friends that close knit. It’s things & people like those that have made the past 5 years the best of my life. While some people say that the high school years are the best of your life I disagree, & say that the Spirit years are the best of my life.
Thinking of these memories now are getting me a little emotional, & that’ll happen occasionally. The other day I was thinking of them all & watching a few videos on the train & I started to get a little teary-eyed. That’s the type of impact this team & group of friends can have on someone if they’ve experienced it like I have……& they always will have that impact on me & a few others.
Whenever I think of great games I will always throw in that incredible double-header last year against Sussex that got rain delayed so many times I lost count. When I think of women’s baseball I’ll always think of NAWBL & the games I attended there. When I think of road trips I’ll think of Brockton & Nashua.
I will always remember the jokes we had that are too countless to list, the fun road trips we had, the way we all cared about each other if something happened, & how devoted we were to a team that many in the area couldn’t see were better than advertised (if they saw any)—among other things.
I’ll always laugh when I hear or remember the “Impeach Miles” signs, the Aces, CELTICS!, Eric hardly working, the “yankeethh!”, Jimmy Hurst, Sussex, Running it out, BEER GOOD!, rides in Alan’s car, the Items, Jonathan’s continuous commentary, etc.
I’ll always cry when I think of that last game & our final goodbyes at BK, our post-game ritual in tact until the end. How we left the stadium, & for some of us a great part of our childhood, behind as those players who we adored—who we rooted passionately for for 5 years--left the field in heartbreak & sadness.
But most importantly….
I’ll always be a member of the “Fraser Faithful” until I leave this Earthly plane, & beyond.
It's been an honor and privilage to know you all throughout the years. Everyone better keep in touch! ;-]