My $11 beer…

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…tasted great, even though it was a watered-down Bud Light in a plastic cup. What made it taste especially good though, was the fact that as I enjoyed it, I was perched high above Yankee Stadium watching my beloved Red Sox pummel the New York Yankees 11-1!

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Sam just started a summer internship in Manhattan this week, so he and I were making our way down to the Lower West Side of the city to get him installed temporarily in Aunt Joan’s now empty apartment. It was late on a Saturday afternoon as we zipped along the Merritt Parkway through Connecticut, and as we flipped between the local radio stations, we realized that the somewhat surprising first place Sox were going to be in town at the same time we were.

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It was a gorgeous evening at the tail end of what had been the first really hot weekend of the summer, and we both now wondered how difficult it might be to get ourselves to the stadium for the 7:10 p.m. game. We knew that since the new Yankee Stadium is so big, there was a good chance we would be able to get tickets easily, so Sam went to work on the phone. Ten minutes later… score. This version of Yankee Stadium is an impressive place. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, and the combination of mid-80 degree temperatures and a cool upper deck breeze made for a pretty amazing experience.

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The last time I was in Yankee Stadium was for the infamous night when Grady Little left Pedro in too long and when Aaron”bleeping” Boone hit a 10th inning Tim Wakefield knuckleball for a walk-off home run to send the Red Sox crashing out of the playoffs. That night I was snuggled in with the bleacher creatures – and boy was that an experience – but this time we were in a much more comfortable, and safer, environment. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer evening than watching baseball (and the Red Sox)… even if the beer did cost $11. Go Sox!

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Growing up playing sports

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A composite of several photographs showing Sam's baseball swing

I grew up playing soccer. From I was no age at all, I was playing soccer… morning, noon, and night. I played non-stop, and it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I played every morning before school, at recess we threw jackets down for makeshift goals and played, I hurried through lunch so I could have even more time to play, and you guessed it… I played every day after school until it got dark and we couldn’t see the ball anymore. In fact, I was that kid who literally dribbled a ball on the way to school and back… seriously… there are pictures somewhere to prove it!

I spent my younger years in a part of the world where there is a tremendous passion for the game, and as a kid I was certainly swept up in it. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED playing soccer – or football as it is rightly known – and I needed no encouragement whatsoever to devote countless hours to doing what I loved. However, looking at that experience through my “parent” lens today, I can see that it did take up an awful lot of time, often at the expense of other potential enriching pursuits. Maybe that’s why Lori and I have been reluctant to push too hard with the boys when it comes to youth sports?

Sam at the plate

Despite our reticence when it comes to youth sports, Sam dabbled in most activities while growing up, and although he is still an ardent fan of just about every game, he eventually settled on playing baseball, which he excelled at. As a teenager, he spent endless days practicing on the Little League fields, and I can remember playing some serious catch with him on the side of the yard as he honed his pitching skills. The heel of my left thumb still hurts when I think of the times spent kneeling as a catcher trying to deal with his fastball. When he learned to throw a curve ball… forget about it… my days as catcher were over!

Sam on the mound pitching

Anyway, we have been really hands off with Jack to this point when it comes to organized sports. We didn’t want to push him into team activities, but at the same time we don’t want him to miss out on what we believe can be a very positive growth experience. He has played rec. soccer the past couple of years and although he enjoys the game, it doesn’t seem to be something he is especially passionate about. Lately though, just as we began feeling a little guilty for not signing him up for more activities – quite coincidentally – he has started taking more of an interest in baseball. Maybe it’s the poster sized photograph of his big brother Sam playing in the Senior League World Series that hangs over his bed, or maybe it’s because his friends are all getting into that scene? We also just rediscovered the huge collection of baseball cards that were accumulated when Sam was younger, so it does appear that Jack is genuinely starting to develop an affinity for the game.

Our newest little baseball player

So, when asked if he wanted to play organized baseball like his friends this spring, he immediately jumped at the chance. Last Saturday we headed out to the local sports store to buy him a new glove… one of his own that will fit him until his hands grow big enough to use Sam’s old glove. He was thrilled to be able to choose the one that he liked, and we went straight to the gym to try it out and break it in. He is a good little athlete (some say he gets that from his mother’s side of the family), with pretty good hand/eye coordination and a willingness to work hard, so it looks like we might be jumping in with both feet to see if baseball becomes Jack’s thing. It might seem strange considering my upbringing and association with soccer, but I absolutely love everything about the game of baseball. Perhaps Jack will too, and that would mean I get to shoot sports again… and maybe it’s also time to feed the fire and schedule another trip down to Fenway to see the Red Sox!

Giants and Athletics

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The giant Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove are something that everyone should see. Their journey through life provides us with evidence of strong but gentle giants that have reached high up into the sky for many, many years. They tower as high as 200+ feet above the forest floor, and some of them can measure more than 90 feet in circumference. This time around, we didn’t stop for long as we wanted to continue our journey on to San Francisco and see the sights of the city. I think the entire Patterson clan fell in love with this eclectic and vibrant city on our visit last summer, and I know that Sam was very excited to return.

Map in hand, Sam navigated our way over the Golden Gate Bridge and then through the streets of San Francisco, and before long we had returned our rental car and checked in to our hotel. We decided not to let the fatigue we were feeling get in the way of our chance to add to the list of memories we have been making, so we hopped on the BART train toward Oakland to go see our own hometown Red Sox play the local Athletics. The chilly “summer” temperatures which were only in the high 50’s didn’t dampen our enthusiasm, and JD Drew getting good wood on the ball to pull one foul right over our heads kept us on our toes. We both marveled at how easy it was to actually get a ticket to a Red Sox game, and even though the Sox lost this time out, it was definitely exciting to be able to see them play on the opposite coast.

Red Sox Ticket

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It was a very chilly and windy 20 degrees here in Maine this morning when I began the annual quest for Red Sox tickets. With the NFL, NBA, and NHL seasons now in full swing, baseball spring training and the date for pitchers and catchers to report seems like a long way away. I am hoping that – on this morning – most of Red Sox nation is too wrapped up in other sports to remember to try to get their Sox tickets. Ever since breaking the curse in 2004 and winning it all again in 2007, Red Sox games have become a very tough ticket to get – at least at face value. The first day that tickets go on sale has become a pretty big deal to me. I love going to Fenway Park, but unless you want to pay an arm and a leg through Ebay or the official scalper of the Red Sox (ACE Tickets), the moment tickets to selected games become available at 10:00am you have to be armed and ready – prepared to work the phone lines and/or spend considerable time in the virtual waiting room just to have a shot at what are probably the worst seats in the park being sold first.

I gave up using the phone method a few years back… too much hassle redialing three phones at the same time, and the family weren’t too impressed that I was hogging all of the phone lines in the house trying to get through. Using the phone, I NEVER got anything but a recorded message, always failing miserably in the quest to talk to a human being and order tickets.

My chosen method of obtaining tickets is now the Internet virtual waiting room. I have had some success using this method, scoring two Sox Packs (same seats to 4 games) last year at this time that went down very well as presents for Sam. You click on a link to purchase tickets and are magically transported to an Internet holding area… from there you watch the clock countdown from 15 seconds… at that point the clock refreshes for another 15 seconds (and another, and another), or you are lucky enough to be chosen at random and offered a chance to purchase tickets for the upcoming season. After last year’s success, I was feeling pretty good about my chances, especially with my patented strategy.

Like the lottery, I figured the more times you are entered into this process, the more likely you are to be selected. With this in mind, I opened 60+ browser windows (see the screenshot below) and sat for over an hour waiting and watching them refresh every 15 seconds, hoping just once to be welcomed into Red Sox ticket-land. It worked last year, so it should this year too, right?

At 11:08 and 25 seconds I called it a day. My eyes were exhausted from scanning each of the browser windows as they refreshed, and besides… at that point I figured that there weren’t going to be any good seats left anyway. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t really a bad seat in Fenway Park, but to try to get 4 together over an hour into this frenzy would likely have been futile.

So… hello Ebay and a healthy profit for those fortunate enough to have been able to navigate the virtual waiting room process and interested in re-selling their tickets. Even though I struck out this time, and I am feeling somewhat bitter about the elevated cost of supporting the Sox in person, that will not stop us from visiting Fenway Park again this summer. Nothing compares to a warm summer evening spent in America’s most beloved ballpark cheering on the hometown team and eating an Italian sausage… go Sox!

Classic Americana

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More from Fenway Park. Can you tell that I adore this place?

The Italian Sausages were good, and we got to see Jon Lester pitch 8 innings of 2-hit ball. Boy does he look good these days! Mike Lowell drove in the first run, Jason Varitek hit a rope of a 2-run single to right field, and Jason Bay looped one down around the Pesky Pole for a home run. With the 4-0 win the Red Sox finished off the sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, and moved further ahead of the Texas Rangers in the hunt for the AL Wild Card playoff spot.

Our seats were great, not only for the ball game, but also for the spectacular show put on in the skies above Boston. I knew that as the evening wore on the cloud formation up above the stadium might create the chance of some nice light sneaking under the clouds and lighting up the twilight. I figured that a moment would come when the colors in the sky would balance with the artificial lighting from Fenway (which though blown completely doesn’t bother me in this pic), and at that point everything might come together for quite a scene… here it is.

The visit to Brown University went well. We got to see a thriving campus with classes in full swing, and a quite eclectic and diverse student population going about their business. I was glad that Sam picked up on the “vibe” of the place… quite relaxed and easy-going, not always the case in a somewhat urban and very challenging academic setting.

We participated in the scheduled admissions informational session, and were treated to a wonderfully informative campus tour by a senior who did a really nice job conveying not only her love of Brown, but also lots of good information relevant to someone interested in learning more about the university.

Sam obviously enjoyed the campus, and when asked if he could see himself going to school at Brown, he replied most definitely in the affirmative. I get the feeling though that many of the schools that Sam is going to visit will impress him… they all have rich academic traditions and thousands of prospective students clamoring to attend them. One of Sam’s biggest challenges will be finding a way to distinguish between the schools he is looking at… that and successfully applying to those he is most interested in.

Fenway Park and College Visits

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Sam and I are heading down to Fenway Park soon to see the Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox are very much still in the hunt for the wild card, so it is still an exciting time to be in Boston. The photograph above is from a previous visit to Fenway several years ago when the Sox faced the Seattle Mariners – this is from when Ichiro was still a big draw, before there were seats on the Green Monster, and before the Red Sox had broken the curse. As a big fan of the Red Sox it is always thrilling to make the pilgrimage to Fenway Park to see them play, but even if you weren’t a die-hard baseball fan this park is a sight to behold, and something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

One of Sam’s presents last Christmas was a Sox Pack of 4 tickets to see the Hometown Team at Fenway. Pretty cool deal where you get two tickets to the same seats for 4 different games… sort of like a mini season ticket holder! Generally tickets for Red Sox games are still quite difficult to get, so having four guaranteed games throughout the summer is a nice thing.

In addition to going to see the Sox, we are embarking on the first of several college visits we will be making this fall. Sam is at that point in his life where he is planning on applying to several colleges and universities for next year, so it is time to hit the road and spend time exploring and experiencing some of the campuses he is most interested in.

Our first road trip will include a visit to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. We visited Brown earlier in the spring, but at that time we didn’t get a chance to meet with admissions or get an official tour. Brown is definitely one of Sam’s top choices at this point, so we are hoping to be able to glean some good information from this visit that will help in the upcoming decision-making process. There are several more college trips planned for this fall, so it is shaping up to be a busy but exciting time of year.