Boston, faithful fans share bond unlike any in sports

Gabe Kapler celebrates a playoff berth with the Fenway Faithful.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

 

(In the coming weeks, you’ll see in our series at FOXSports.com what the Boston bombing means to more than two dozen people directly affected at last year’s marathon. So 2014 is the comeback, because 2013 was the knockdown. This is our next installment. Read their stories.)

From Malibu, Calif., but written with a soundtrack: “Boys on the Docks” by the Dropkick Murphys

An act of terror like last year’s Boston Marathon bombings may be intended to tear a community apart. The perpetrators may have visions of chaos and finger pointing, the icing on the cake, a region divided. Boston was the wrong city for these alleged criminals to mess with.

I learned after spending 2003-’07 experiencing the ins and outs of the Boston Red Sox organization and its hometown, how uniquely spectacular the people, the fans and the baseball are. More than anything else, I saw a reflection of my underdog mentality in the community and its inhabitants.

In 2003, I was released by the Colorado Rockies. Still in the midst of the mind-bogglingly devastating ego blow, my phone rang. It was my agent, Paul Cohen.

Two teams had called interested in signing me, no more.

“Who?,” I asked. “The Red Sox and the Cardinals. You need to make a decision quickly,” Paul told me.

We discussed the needs of each roster, and I consulted with my Rockies teammate, Mark Sweeny.

“Sweens," I said, "What do you think?"

Sweeny had played in St Louis and grown up in Maine and subsequently had intimate knowledge of each town/area’s culture and fan base.

“Kap,” Mark said. “You can’t go wrong with either.”

If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit torn. Don’t get me wrong; St Louis is as solid as they come when it comes to baseball.

There is an intangible possessed by the city of Boston and epitomized by its players. It’s an intuitive, somewhat difficult to articulate energy.

Boston Marathon Tribute

I felt like an adopted son not just wearing a dirty or bloody uniform, but when speaking my mind on WEEI or the Sports Hub, or walking into Zaftig’s Deli just off of Beacon Street. I rode the "T" to connect with people and share stories. I was always rewarded with kindness and warmth.

There is nowhere on Earth like Boston for a player.

If you’re the 22nd man on the roster or David Ortiz, the fans appreciate you, particularly if you display grit.

If you sacrifice your body for the team, it never goes unnoticed. The Fenway Faithful bleed alongside the players.

Hitless in your last 10 at-bats? So is Steve Altman in the bleachers in right field — he’s sick right beside you.

Struck out with the bases juiced to end the game? Amanda McCarthy, season ticket-holder from Maine, didn’t stop crying after you disgustedly faced Dan Shaughnessy, Bob Ryan and the countless other media members you were on a first name basis with, and took responsibility in the clubhouse after the game.

I was a working-class player, and Boston is a working-class town. It felt like a match made in heaven.

Gabe Kapler

Think it’s a coincidence that Dustin Pedroia signed a below-market deal, think again. Passion begets passion. Shake yourself.

There is no line between players who wear and who have worn that uniform and the city. We stand united as members of an exclusive crew. I wear it like a proud badge of honor wherever I go now. I played, but more importantly, I lived in Boston.

The city mirrors the ballpark. Want to experience the Boston CliffNotes? Go to Fenway and take in a baseball game. It’s blue collar, no frills, all substance, pure unfiltered, unrefined devotion and loyalty.

The resilience of the baseball team is congruent with the toughness and determination of the city. No wonder players like Trot Nixon and Billy Mueller from my teams, and Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino are so appreciated. My favorite quote when speaking to a media outlet: “I was a working-class player, and Boston is a working-class town. It felt like a match made in heaven.”

It came as no surprise for me, even from afar, that the tragic bombings from this time last year simply strengthened the resolve of the community – the family of Boston.

AROUND THE HORN

And like the affiliates of a powerful street gang, the surrounding Massachusetts cities and all over New England from Rhode Island to Burlington, one by one protected the East Coast’s greatest city’s back. The rest of the US followed, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt the undeniable leadership qualities of my home away from home.

For the children and families whose lives were forever altered by an unforgivable act of terror, they were able to be — if nothing else — fully supported by the capable, powerful arms of a caring community who publicly demonstrated on a national platform its genuine love and authentic concern.

From South Boston to Brookline, from Worcester to Quincy, you’ll find fighters. You might land a right cross, but this city won’t stay licked. It’s gonna rise, and no matter how many rounds it takes, it’s gonna whoop your ass, metaphorically, of course.

“It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.” — George A Custer

Boston, Mass. is proof of that concept.