The day we stumbled upon the joy of baseball

Rob Bradford
August 22, 2019 - 11:22 pm
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Charlie Berksza made history Thursday afternoon. 

He may have been the first Red Sox fan who attended the completion of a game that began when he wasn’t even born. Aug. 9 young Charlie came into this world (two days after the Sox and Royals were forced to stop their game in the 10th inning). Thirteen days later there he was at Fenway Park, celebrating the hometown team's previously-suspended win over Kansas City with his dad, Jay, mother, Kristy, and another first-time visitor to Fenway, his 3-year-old sister Maggie.

The Berkszas lived the same sort of life so many others had on this most unorthodox of afternoons. The day was about introductions and re-introductions to the great game of baseball.

“My God, baseball needs more days like this,” Jay Berksza said not too long after Brock Holt punctuated his team’s 12-minute reunion with the Royals with his walk-off single. “Imagine if they did this around MLB. Today showed me baseball still has a heartbeat, they just need to capture it with things like today. Makes me want to go play catch.”

Amen.

This was supposed to be little more than an inconvenience, the completion of a game neither team was really all that antsy to complete. Kansas City didn’t get to its hotel until 1:30 a.m. from Baltimore and would be flying right back out to Cleveland after whatever semblance of a thing they found at Fenway. And the Red Sox? This was cutting into what was going to be a calendar-circling off day in San Diego.

It became so much more.

“That was fun,” said Holt on the Red Sox Radio Network postgame show. “That might have been the funnest baseball game we’ve ever played in. … The atmosphere was so cool.”

So why did this whole thing leave so many with such a unique feeling? It was, after all, going to be nothing more than a novelty. Kids get in free. Everybody else pays $5. Hot Dogs were a dollar. Before the game fans could walk around the warning track and after the youngsters could sprint around the bases. No National Anthem. I could tempt fate by parking at a two-hour parking meter. And the Red Sox could tempt fate by not holding their usual hitters’ meeting or pass along any sort of scouting report.

The radio and television stations had no pregame shows. There was no pregame media access to players or managers. Not a single Kansas City reporter made the trip.

Sure, it was somewhat exciting because it was somewhat different.

But we all got more than we bargained for.

One clear payoff was the natural introduction of a very foreign demographic to a sport starving for its attention, the kids. Normally, a parent will attempt to try and immerse their son or daughter into Fenway Park via an ultra-expensive commitment that quickly ran thin as the game dragged on. Once the food ran out — usually around the third inning — it was time to go home. This was the problem: It was hard to show the kids the desired payoff, a final out of a Major League Baseball game.

This time a total of 16,441 fans had their tickets scanned before getting a chance to see seven batters come to the plate and 12 minutes of baseball, including that final out. It was just right. How many times have got a chance to say that?

Within the 603 words I had the privilege to utter alongside Joe Castiglione during the radio broadcast there were a few that actually were on target. Those were the very first relayed into the microphone after Joe set the anything-but-normal scene: “Joe I can tell you what I haven’t look forward to a baseball game in a long, long time. It’s not only because I’m sitting alongside you. It’s because this is sprint baseball. There is an excitement about having to get a run first. Everything about it is so unique.”

“Sprint baseball.”

This was another piece of the puzzle that made us realize how good the game can be. Every pitch was important. Each swing meant something. Strategy became a priority. And desperation hovered from the minute the fans had been kicked off the field. It was an abberation, which is unfortunate.

So, where can this lead us?

Maybe the games should be shortened by a few innings. Or perhaps one of these sudden death deals can be dropped in once or twice a season. Let the kids in free more often. Who knows?

What we do have is the memory of Thursday. Surprise, surprise.