Cancer took my mom last month. Today would have been her sixty-second birthday.
When I came back from boarding school with a renewed obsession for baseball, my mom humored me, watching all the games with me (with intermittent naps), and even picking a favorite player (David Ortiz). After I read Mike Lowell’s book, I knew she had to read it, too. The above passage caused Mikey to replace Papi in her affections.
The Red Sox were something that we shared. She didn't have any real affinity for professional baseball before I did (though she grew up in rural Connecticut, so the Sox would have been a logical choice), but she started paying attention because it was important to me: I loved the Red Sox, she loved me. Therefore, she loved the Red Sox, too. The other members of my family are what you would term "casual fans," they don't know very much about the players, don't really watch on TV, but, like all good New Englanders, they have Sox hats and are happy when the home town team does well.
When we were in the hospital last month, the Red Sox were on the television every night. The first night we were there was the night of Victor Martinez's two-out, go-ahead double in the ninth inning, and when he hit it I leaped out of my chair, feeling that I shouldn't yell in a hospital. My mom felt no such qualms, and shouted her excitement. She then looked at me and said, quite seriously, "You know, I really liked Justin Masterson... but this new guy looks promising." I couldn't have said it better myself.
The Red Sox provided an escape these last few years when I needed one, and they were something for my mom and I to enjoy together when we could. Her first trip to Fenway was last June, and Tim Wakefield pitched the Sox to a win over the Diamondbacks. We went twice this summer, once to see Jon Lester pitch 7+ perfect innings (and a complete game) against the Rangers in June, and once to see Brad Penny toss a gem against New York the next week.
"I never thought I'd get to go to Fenway Park," she told me more than once. I'm so glad that she did.
Even when I was away at school, she would watch the games so she could talk about them with me (and, as a lifetime coach and phys. ed. teacher, she had a deep love of sports). I have a saved voicemail on my cell phone from April 26, 2009. She called me during the game, while my phone was off, and left the following breathless message: "Wow, Kayla, I really hope you're watching the game, because Jacoby Ellsbury just stole home, and it was AMAZING!" As soon as I got the message, I called her back and we discussed it at length.
My mom valued sportsmanship highly, perhaps because of her keen awareness that life isn’t fair, she expected sports to be fair… She even infamously pulled out a rulebook in the middle of a field hockey game last season in order to correct the referee. As those she coached well know, she never advocated arguing with the umpire, so if she was upset, there was something very wrong. Sure enough, she was right, and another person learned that it’s very unwise to doubt Deryl Fleming when it comes to field hockey. She taught me to always respect the umpire, and the only time I ever saw her visibly upset over a call in MLB was last year. Mikey Lowell, whose book she had just finished, starting arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. "Well," she reasoned, "Mike never argues, so if he thinks it's a bad call, it's a bad call."
I can't thank everyone enough that helped her and our family through everything: all the food, and the rides, and the support, meant more than anyone will know. I wish there was some way for me to thank the Boston Red Sox, and specifically Mike Lowell, for giving her, and me, something to believe in and hope for right up until the end.
She had always wanted to swim with dolphins, so we went to Florida in March. As you can see, she was rarely without the Sox hat I gave her.