Skip to main content

I am a Red Sox fanboy

By Darren Garnick, Special to CNN
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 1334 GMT (2134 HKT)
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
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
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.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
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.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
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
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
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.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT