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Root for The Boys of February

Dan Dunn

It is the second week of February. For most people, especially most MITpeople, that doesn't mean anything. But for baseball fans, it means that the season is finally beginning.

Pitchers and catchers are reporting to training camps all across the Sun Belt. A couple of weeks after that, the positional players start working out. And then exhibition season begins, and just as soon ends.

When you look at it that way, the first week of April seems just around the corner.

What does the start of the season mean? More SportsCenter to watch. More box scores to pore over. Media books and stat sheets. It means a green world of peanuts, leather, and cheers.

Baseball fans have endured the last few months by participating in the "hot stove league." That's where you sit next to the woodstove and discuss what trades should or shouldn't have been made, what contracts should be offered and demanded, what could have been, and what is going to come next season. It passes the time between games, but the real thing is so much better.

For me, there are few things as thrilling as the first game of the season. I walk through the underground bunkers of hotdog, pretzels, and souvenir shacks. I walk up the stairs, and step into a sunny world that takes my breath away.

The grass is far greener than any lawn ever was. The infield is closer than on TV. The Green Monster looms over the scene, with its vintage, manually-operated scoreboard. The air smells of vendors' foodstuffs. The crowd murmurs and yells around me. It is an experience for all of the senses.

If you have never been to Fenway Park, or worse yet, a baseball game, you have to go at least once. Fenway is a gem, and there are none greater. Not going to Fenway is like skipping the Grand Canyon when you are already within a mile.

I am not just a baseball fan. I am a Red Sox fan, one of the diehard caliber - I even subscribe to Diehard magazine. There are bigger fans than me, but you have to look for them. Almost every year I predict, "This is the year!" This year, I can even defend the statement.

The Red Sox bought themselves some serious starting pitching with National League Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez. The bullpen has improved dramatically, because of the subtraction of Heathcliff "The Arsonist" Slocumb, if for no other reason.

The infield is one of the best in baseball, from Valentin to Garciaparra to Frye to Vaughn. The outfield is our weakest part, but Buford and O'Leary are a great starting point. When you add it all up - a mere $50 million.

Last week I went to Fenway and bought my first installment of tickets. I spent almost $400, and that covers me until June 3. I bought tickets for eight games, with between two and six tickets for each game. I figure that I am doing my part to defray the team's annual outlays.

I make these bulk purchases a few times every season. I send out some e-mail about my extra tickets a few days beforehand, wait for responses, and meet before the game for dinner. I get to see a lot of games and I get to spend time with my friends.

I only buy bleacher seats, the cheap ones. They are a little farther away from the plate, but they feel just as close to the field. The best part about the bleachers is the people you sit with. They are not the boring suits, out to entertain a client. The crowd is raucous and into the game, and not afraid to voice its opinion.

If you have never gone to a game, Patriots Day is a great choice. It is the only 11 a.m. start in baseball. The game is almost always over before 2 p.m. Then you just walk a few hundred yards down to Kenmore Square and watch the Boston Marathon.

So, all you fans out there, take heart. The beginning is close. The rest of you, hang on and listen to us cheer, because this year is the year. And if you have never gone to a game, give me a call. I have a few extra tickets.