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Friday, June 24, 2011

How to get through four rain delays with a 6-year-old

Wednesday, as a celebration of the first day of summer, the final day of school, and the spirit she’s shown since breaking her arm last week, I took my 6-year-old daughter Rachel to the Red Sox-Padres game. Although showers had been predicted for later in the day, the rain had already been coming down steady for several hours when we arrived at Fenway about 20 minutes before the scheduled 1:35 p.m. starting time.
I expected the Wednesday afternoon crowd to be primarily businesspeople, but there were plenty of other parents with children in tow. I saw one woman trying to photograph three young sons while simultaneously juggling an infant daughter, and upon realizing she was flying solo offered to take a picture of all five of them. It was the least I could do; I only had one kid to keep entertained. How hard could it be?

A few minutes later, as Rachel and I gathered up our Fenway Franks and fries and headed to our [thankfully] covered seats high behind the plate in Section 17, I heard those two dreaded words: rain delay. An endless stream of whining and refreshment requests suddenly lay before me, but I reminded myself of the mom with four kids and hid my fears. The starting time had been pushed back to 2:05, and with a backpack of ammunition and a steely resolve, I vowed to myself that I would get through the next 35 minutes with my sanity intact.
 “Let’s go exploring,” I told Rachel, as we headed out of the drizzle and into a long hallway leading to the outfield concourse. I had never noticed the glass display case featuring Red Sox artifacts that you pass along this jaunt, and I enjoyed showing her the still-crisp signatures of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Jimmy Foxx, and the rest of the 1941 Sox on a letter from Tom Yawkey to a 13-year-old fan. Further down the wall was a series of various Red Sox logos from decades past, and Rachel loved the smiling sock that had adorned the baseball cards of the ‘50s.
Before we knew it, it was time for the National Anthem. We hurried to our seats, took off our hats, and listened to a young lady from the Cape (it was Cape Cod Day) offer a fine rendition. Now came the first of many questions on the day: “Dad, why do they always sing the National Anthem at games?” I thought for a moment and told her, “Well, I guess because we want to remember how happy and lucky we are to live in a country where people have fought and given their lives so we can do things like go to ballgames.” She looked at me pensively and replied, “Well, I’ll be happy when I sing it, but I’ll also be sad thinking of the people who can’t.” Wise beyond her years, this one.
A few minutes later the game started, and the questions continued.

“Who’s winning?” (After Will Venable leads off the game with a home run off John Lackey)
“What’s an RBI?”
“Why did they build the Green Monster?”
“Why are there so many ads on it?”
“Want to smell my cast?”
“How old are all these guys? Older than you?”
Her next inquiry offered a teaching moment.
RACHEL: “Why are there two guys on first base?”
DAD: “Well, one is the first basemen, and one is the runner.”
RACHEL: “No, two Padres.”
DAD: “Oh, one is the first base coach.
RACHEL: “No he’s not.”
DAD: “Yes he is, honey.”
RACHEL: “Then why does he have a uniform on? Coaches don’t wear uniforms.”
After starting to correct her, I realized that her frame of reference was her own softball team, on which the coaches wear shorts and faded tee-shirts. Score another one for the kid.
Speaking of scoring, it was in the bottom of the first that I decided to show Rachel this time-honored tradition. She seemed to enjoy it initially, but by the second inning was back to asking what there was to eat and read in the backpack. I gave her a nectarine and a book and tried to devise ways to keep her interested in the game.
“Hey Rachel, I spy with my little eye, an owl’s eye.” She looked at me quizzically, then out at the field. Back and forth her little head darted, and after begging for a hint -- “It’s near the Green Monster” -- noticed the Wise potato chip ad next to the center field flagpole. I next asked her to find two American flags, and she got them right away – the one on the pole, of course, and the one in neon lights atop the Bank of America scoreboard.
Two snacks and a bottled water later, Rachel asked to go to the bathroom. We luckily found a family restroom right behind our section, but no sooner had we settled back down in our seats when she announced she wanted a “Cool Dog” – an ice cream sandwich that resembles a hot dog. I told her we would stop the next vendor who passed through our section with them, but this was like mentioning a no-hitter in progress: after seeing several of them before her request, we never saw another. And when the rains returned in the fourth – prompting another nearly 40-minute delay – I decided we would go in search of a Cool Dog.
This took a while. The refreshment stand behind our section didn’t make/carry them, but said the one “directly below us does.” We descended a set of stairs, inquired at several more stands, and were still dog-less when we reached the center field concourse. Rachel didn’t realize there was no roof over this section, and since we had left our umbrella at our seats we were quickly getting soaked by the time we spotted an ice cream sign like a beacon in the fog. She had her Cool Dog, and a few minutes later I had a wonderful pastrami sandwich that made the entire trek worth it.

When the game resumed in the top of the fourth the Padres quickly scored four runs thanks largely to two walks, two hit batsmen, two hits, and a wild pitch allowed by Lackey. When Tito finally came out and removed the shell-shocked hurler, the crowd cheered derisively. This led to another probing Q&A with my companion:
RACHEL: “Why are they cheering if he didn’t pitch well?”
DAD: “Well, actually they are cheering because he’s coming out of the game.”
RACHEL: “But that’s not nice. He probably feels bad.”
DAD: “Sure, but not as bad as us.”
The Sox were soon down 5-0, and when the rains (and the third rain delay) returned in the fifth I figured we could pass the time with a game of hangman. Rachel wanted to choose the riddle, and what she thought up brought a smile to my weary face: “W-E A-R-E N-O-T L-E-A-V-I-N-G.” Most other fans lacked such resolve, and after the Red Sox had gotten back one run and left what seemed like 20 men on base, the skies opened up yet again in the eighth – sending most of the remaining spectators for the exits.
We stuck it out by heading to The Red Sox Store (I still call it “Twins”) across the street and buying a Dustin Pedroia figurine as an early birthday present, and when we got back inside the ballpark it was practically empty. We headed down to the box seats, and were set to watch the rest of the game from the front row when it was called off for good.
“We didn’t win, did we?” Rachel asked as we trekked through the puddles to our car. “No,” I said, but deep inside I knew better. There were only a handful of people left at Fenway after more than six hours of on-again, off-again baseball, and I saw none younger than her. She had gutted it out like her old man.


  1. Great post, Saul!! I can totally picture this adventure of a day you had!!

  2. Thanks Cindy...It was wet but wonderful!