Skip to main content

I am a Red Sox fanboy

By Darren Garnick, Special to CNN
updated 9:34 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pitcher David Price mocked reporters as "'nerds." Darren Garnick says: guilty as charged
  • Like many reporters, he's a fanboy, and spent a recent Tampa trip spotting ball players
  • A ride in cab where Jonny Gomes had sat, a Dustin Pedroia sighting were thrilling, he says
  • Garnick: The trick is not to become Chris Farley-like fanboy. With Series starting it's not easy

Editor's note: Darren Garnick is a freelance writer and filmmaker based in New Hampshire. Follow him on Twitter @darrengarnick or at his Culture Schlock blog.

(CNN) -- Is baseball hothead David Price right? Are the millions of us who never pitched beyond Little League just a bunch of starstruck wannabes?

During the American League Divisional Series, the Tampa Bay Rays star lashed out at the media after giving up seven earned runs in seven innings. "Nice questions, nerds!" he hissed at reporters. Then Price got mean. On Twitter, he called Sports Illustrated scribe Tom Verducci a nerd who "wasn't even a water boy in high school." He stopped there, passing up the temptation to mock Verducci's prom date or how much he can bench press.

Price's snotty attitude exists for one reason. Many of my fellow baseball nuts DO think players are cooler than the rest of us. The fact is, no matter how successful we may be in our professional lives, many of us would instantly trade in our careers for a (your team here) uniform.

Darren Garnick
Darren Garnick

As my beloved Red Sox battle the Cardinals in the World Series this week, spotting my favorite players outside their natural habitat remains a thrill for me, even though I am old enough to be rookie Xander Bogaerts' dad. Still, I'll appear stoic and resist the urge to ask for a picture or autograph. My inner child is disappointed but my dignity is intact.

During a recent business trip to Tampa, my celebrity-seeking was put to the ultimate test. I was staying at the same hotel as the visiting Red Sox; my hunt began the moment I stepped off the plane:

Day One. 1:45 p.m. Tampa International Airport --My friend and I are wearing Sox shirts, prompting our shuttle driver to mention he just took "a bunch of players with beards" on a deep sea fishing trip. One of the beards, he says, used to play for the Rays, and he "couldn't stand up straight" when it was time to pick them up.

Jonny Gomes! I am sitting on the same sweaty seat as Jonny Gomes, the Sox party animal who pulls off the Army helmet look much better than Mike Dukakis. This is the guy who celebrates victory by punting beer cans to the crowd.

"I do care. I care about Reddick's favorite ice cream flavor and whether Big Papi ordered the swordfish or sea bass."

Day One. 2:30 p.m. Vinoy Renaissance Hotel -- We check in at the front desk and again our Sox shirts spark conversation. The clerk giddily tells us she once worked at an ice cream stand where she'd scooped for ex-Sox outfielder Josh Reddick. I am intrigued, explaining that Reddick is now a 30-home run guy whom the Sox never should have traded to the A's. A few minutes later, as we're walking past a seafood restaurant, an off-duty waitress rushes up to us. "You'll NEVER guess who I just saw!" she gushes.

It was slugger David Ortiz--not surprisingly, a fabulous tipper. He was my first guess because he is a larger-than-life caricature who can't hide behind sunglasses. I had been in Florida for only an hour and already three strangers felt compelled to share their Sox sightings with anyone pretending to care.

I do care. I care about Reddick's favorite ice cream flavor and whether Big Papi ordered the swordfish or sea bass. And now I want some sightings of my own. Being able to identify players in their civilian clothes, without the help of baseball cards, is an intoxicating game. So far, all I've got is footprints.

My hotel is the red carpet for Sox sightings, but also a forbidden zone. No Autographs/No Photography signs are posted everywhere to "protect the safety and privacy of all our resort guests."

Night One. 11:30 p.m. Hotel Lobby -- I spot a diminutive bearded guy briskly walking toward me. It's second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the 2008 AL MVP. "Hey, good game tonight!" I say. Dustin is wearing headphones and could have pretended to be absorbed by the music. But he turns back, stares at me with the same intensity he reserves for Justin Verlander, and says "Thanks." It was "thanks" with a period, not an exclamation point. But it was a long day and he certainly didn't lack any enthusiasm on the field. And then, just like in "Field of Dreams," he vanishes.

Decoding the perfect baseball swing

There's an inherent awkwardness in fan-player meetings for both parties. We feel like we "know" them and briefly suspend the reality that we're strangers. Only Ortiz and Pedroia don't have posters of us on their bedroom walls. If the opportunity existed for them to sit on the couch and watch a live video of us at work, they'd be bored.

The goal is to avoid becoming comedian Chris Farley's obsessed fanboy character from "Saturday Night Live." Farley meeting Paul McCartney:

Farley: You remember when you were with the Beatles?

McCartney: Yes. (Awkward Pause)

Farley: That was awesome!

Day Two. 2 p.m. Hotel Lobby -- Near the front desk's complimentary jellybean bar, I see the greatest Red Sox pitcher of all time, the retired Pedro Martinez, blankly staring in my direction. I give him a friendly nod, the kind guys silently exchange in the halls at work or at the gym. He doesn't pick up on the signal, so I don't bother to tell him that the jellybeans are free. Free! Then, just like a regular person, Pedro checks into his room.

I never saw Pedro again.

Rest assured, I don't need any self-esteem counseling about my failure to make the Major Leagues. I buy into the "Field of Dreams" Moonlight Graham message that there are far more important things in life than baseball.

But as I watch the World Series, forgive me if I temporarily transform into a Chris Farley fanboy. And if I'm lucky enough to score tickets, I know exactly what to yell to Dustin Pedroia during batting practice: "Hey Dusty, remember when we met late at night in that hotel lobby and I said, 'Great game!' and you said 'thanks'? That was awesome!"

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Darren Garnick.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT