Fenway is my church | Things I’ve Learned From Strangers

In July, I will be leaving my hometown of Boston and going to New York City. I am excited for the move for many reasons: living with my best friend Bridget, bagels and bottomless brunches. However, springtime in Boston has begun and it has started to pull at my heart strings — and for one reason in particular.

Shanzah Rafiqi | Senior Graphic Artist

I am going to miss Fenway Park. 

If you’re the type of person that can cheer for any team, I think you probably live a much easier life, but I wasn’t raised that way. In fact, I was recently stopped on the street by a woman talking about religion and she told me that sports were my religion and Fenway Park was my church. Now, I don’t know if she crawled inside my mind or if she was taking an educated guess based on the hat, shirt and red shoes I was wearing. I’d like to note that I’m not always a walking Red Sox mascot — I had just come from Opening Day.  

I’m not much of a religious person, but I was like, “This lady’s got a point.” If I had a church, it would probably be Fenway. 

I went to Fenway for the first time when I was just about two years old. It’s always been a family affair. Take a dad who grew up as a die-hard fan in Massachusetts and a mom who wrote for the Red Sox yearbook and voila — you go to the Sox a lot. Even my babysitter worked for the Sox, so my mom could drop me off for a nap at the top of the ninth and pick me up to watch the final pitch of a 13-inning game. 

Later, our family of four would take turns going to a Sox game every week in the spring with mom and dad’s two season tickets. More than that, my brother and I would just sit back and observe all of the friends that my parents had made during their times at Fenway. We noticed this as we got our tickets checked by the really tall man, hands stamped by the two guys who looked like twins and when we got free drinks at the bar though I was on lemonades at the time. The best of all was Danielle, who worked the seats and who we saw get married to the guy who worked the section over. 

This was the community that my parents built from years of commitment to this team and this stadium. It was like a family — and families have your back. 

So, when I went to my first Sox game without mom or dad at 11 that’s what happened. While I thought I was being all independent, cool and mysterious, my parents’ friends on the inside were sending live updates. 

A text went to mom and dad when I passed the ticket booth. A text went to mom and dad when I got to the club. A text went to mom and dad when I got to my seat. I was not aware of this undercover text system until years later. Otherwise, my middle-school self probably would’ve been mortified. Thanks everyone for keeping a good cover. 

For years it was like that — Lili out in the wild on her own, cheering on the Sox, eating a million Fenway Franks and screaming “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. 

Eventually, my brother and I started arguing over who got to take our friends to what games. We argued so much that my parents had to remind us who was paying for the tickets in the first place. Hint: it wasn’t me and my piggy bank. 

Then, one day, the kids grew up. And the tickets got sold. Why? Because that’s just how things go sometimes.

So, what does Fenway look like now? It looks different for all of us — and yet it feels the same. 

My parents make it back to see their friends on occasion. I’ll hear about how Lauren from the bar is doing and how Danielle has a kid. 

Although I’m frequenting the Student 9s of Box 89-93 instead of my old stomping grounds, I’ve realized that the beauty of Fenway is that good people are all around. People ask you how you are and they really want to know. People wrap their arms around each other to sway to “Sweet Caroline” and rejoice when we win — and more often point you in the direction of the nearest bar when we lose. 

Will these people turn from strangers to friends? That’s just the thing about Fenway. They already have. You just have to get in there and open your heart to it as well. 

Eat a hot dog, drink a beer, and stand up to tell the ump that it was a bad call. Do what you want to do. This is Fenway Park, baby. This is the place I grew up and where I feel at home. 

So, is Fenway my church? Is the Citgo sign my steeple? 

Just open the doors, and meet all those beautiful people. 

That is a poem that I made up completely by myself, and I think the religion lady on the street would be proud of me.

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