Our plan had been to go in at 5PM to watch batting practice, but we also wanted some time in the team store. So we got to the park a little after 4PM. We moused around the store, I got a new hat and Jonathan got a Jonathan Papelbon t-shirt.
About 4:30 or so, they close of Yawkey Way from pedestrian traffic. This allows them to set up the security check points. There we were standing in line waiting for things to open. Jonathan is bored and sitting on the ground because half an hour lasts about 8 hours when you are 7 years old. Just minutes before the gates open, a Fenway Ambassador walks up and asks Jonathan, "Do you want to be the kid who yells 'Play ball!'?" My immediate reaction, "Of course he does!" We explain it quickly to Jonathan and he says, "Sure!" We're quickly ushered through the crowd to another Ambassador named Nina. She had us write down Jonathan's information, our address, age and our seat assignments. She explains they will take a picture of him saying "Play ball!" and that they will try to deliver it to our seats before the game ends, otherwise they will mail it to us. Nina tells us that we'll be allowed to hang out on the warning track within the ropes (basically running from dug out to dug out) while batting practice is going on. Then at the appropriate time, Jonathan will join the honorary ball boy & girl behind home plate while we wait off to the side.
It was so surreal, and because no one can go in and out without permission, it was safe to let Jonathan wander around without us being right by his side. He had his glove with him and had a couple of players sign his glove, and I had bought 2 team packs of Topps baseball cards, so we had those handy when Mike Lowell came out of the dug out. Now, when I bought the tickets back in December I was all excited because they were right across from third base and I really like Mike Lowell. Then he got injured a few weeks ago. Which meant Kevin Youkilis would be playing third base. Because Mike L. was injured, he was in the dug out when the rest of the team was still in the clubhouse. He was doing some interviews and then came out. That's how we got him to sign our baseball cards and I asked if he'd pose for a photo. He was most gracious and said yes he would. If he hadn't been on the DL, that probably would not have happened.
At the appropriate they had the kids line up and we were shuffled off to the side. Now the honorary ball boy & girl were siblings from Fairfax, VA who had been wearing Livestrong t-shirts. Lance Armstrong was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch (he's in town to run the Boston Marathon today). That's how they got picked out of the crowd. Their mom, Laura was videotaping everything. So we exchanged mailing addresses and have promised to send each other our pictures and her video. It was incredible. Jonathan did so well and the Ambassadors said he was one of the best. Apparently kids get up there and get stage fright or are so quiet they are barely heard. Not our Jonathan!
After he started the game we were ushered off the field. As we were walking up the aisle to get to the walkway, people were high-fiving him, congratulating him, and cheering for him. That's when I started tearing up. At one point the foot traffic stopped and a couple about my folks age were telling him what a good job he did and the wife noticed me with tears in my eyes. She patted me on the shoulder and told me to savor the moment. I told her I had hoped my folks were watching the game, but it wasn't likely to be broadcast at home. She said she was a grandmother, so she was proud for him. That was very sweet. We got to our seats and were surrounded by a lot of really nice families. We lucked out in that we didn't have any drunken chuckleheads being obnoxious around us. When the Fenway Ambassador came to deliver the photo everyone around wanted to see it as they had heard what Jonathan had done.
The one drawback of the night was it was cold. I had worn shorts thinking I'd be too warm. It wasn't bad for me, but poor Mr. Jonathan was quite cold and tired by the time it ended. He did get his energy back when Closer, Jonathan Papelbon, came out to pitch the 9th inning (we were up by 2 at that point). Papelbon does this funky dance during celebratory times after games. Because we were right on a walkway, Jonathan got down and danced to Papelbon's theme music (Dropkick Murphy's "I'm Shipping Off to Boston") and that got the crowd all ramped up and giving him more high fives.
The other fun thing, Matthew McConnaghey was at the game, sitting not far from us in the VIP section next to the Rangers dugout.