Saturday, December 16, 2006
Thursday at about 11:45 I was on my way up to MIT and remembered that I'd finished all my cough suppressant. I took a quick detour to a Rite-Aid on Boylston Street near the Back Bay Fens, got a bottle and took the short cut back to my bank that goes right by Fenway Park. Suddenly I was in the midst of a huge crowd, TV and press everywhere, hundreds and hundreds of Japanese on all sides, and a helicopter overhead. I had strayed unknowingly into Boston's huge new sports story, the triumphal entry of pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka into Fenway Park to be introduced to the public.
Truth to tell, I got myself out of there as quickly as possible before the streets could get closed off or become completely blocked with people. He's already hugely popular in Boston without ever having thrown a pitch, something that was corrected on the mound at Fenway later in the afternoon when he threw a pitch to the Red Sox owner and nearly beaned him. Matsuzaka has a cute, infectious smile and an outgoing personality. He charmed everyone at Boston Garden for Thursday night's Bruins game when he did the ritual puck drop to start things off. He then sat through much of the game, not in press or celebrity boxes but among regular Burins fans, albeit ones with enough money to get seats down front. This man may not speak much English but he's a natural communicator who knows how to reach out and make connections
Boston, in return, has gone bonkers over him. Bars are now selling several grades of sake, and the food joints around Fenway were selling franks streamed in sake accompanied by wasabi mustard. Sports reporters and news anchors are learning fast to pronounce his name -- DICE-kay is the universally adopted pronunciation. Through it all, he just stands there looking adorable as he's showered with team jerseys, attention and money. Lots and lots and lots of money. So much money that nobody's sure exactly how much it really is.
The Red Sox are reputedly offering him something like $60 million, but maybe more, in a package that includes salary and a whole slew of bonuses for everything from signing his name to promising not to fart on camera, for all I know. On top of that, there’s the $51 million the Sox paid Matsuzaka’s home team back in Japan just for the rights to talk to him. OK, I know it’s a dreadful cliché, but In a world so crushed by poverty and misery, isn’t there something better that could be done with close to $115 million dollars than to buy a baseball player, no matter how good, for a period of five years? Somehow along the way, we seem in this country to have slid into an obscene lack of perspective and values.
The vest pocket park next to our building has almost been finished. Last weekend Fritz and I walked by to see four roughly 14’ high dogwood trees had been planted at each of the corners and that the flagstone walk and seating area had been almost finished. The dogwoods are mature trees with huge soil balls that we learned had been rescued from the excavation for new Sloan School of Management buildings. The wildly successful Sloan is another manifestation of the Institute's continuing move more and more into "civilian" science and research. We were told that in a week—meaning today—the final two trees, thirty foot tall oaks, would be dug up with enormous soil balls weighting 20 tons each and dropped into huge holes waiting to receive them.
I saw them today and they look splendid. The crew was just cleaning up after the flatbed that delivered them had gone. It was quite a feat of engineering -- the trees had to be transported upright and the route getting them to the park was tortured due to the fact that trucks aren't allowed on the major road in the area (Memorial Drive) and that Sloan is connected to other buildings by bridges that won't allow thirty vertical feet on a flatbed truck to pass under. But they managed it and now there are just the finishing details left.
The Endless Autumn continues. Temperatures in the Northeast are in the mid to upper 50s by day and mid to low 40s at night. It's strange and a little unsettling. My heating bill is going to be something to treasure, but the long-term implications are more than a little unsettling.
Thanks for the nice notes and comments on the passing of Hans in Vienna. There are tributes on some other blogs that make it more and more apparent what a generous and caring man he was.
Man, I am so out of the loop with baseball. Sad really, but it's always been something I check in on every few months or so, if that. Heh, though, Sake in the pubs?!? I love it!
Never a dull moment in blog-land!
As for Daisuke....it seems that I brought Japan home with me since this all seems to have begun right when I returned.
Discovered if I post comment a second time it usually goes through.