Skiing comes to famous baseball park
Olympic silver medalist Devin Logan pictured herself standing atop the 140-foot ski jump that towers over Fenway Park's Green Monster. She saw herself hitting her jump and then coming to a stop right about where a batter would stand.
"Sliding into home plate. Coming in safe. Hearing the crowd cheer like I just hit a grand slam," she said. This was before practicing for a freestyle skiing and snowboarding jumpfest at the home of the Boston Red Sox. "It's gonna be sick."
The baseball park that John Updike praised as a "lyric little bandbox" was totally tricked out -- Dude! The event was called Big Air at Fenway. The event was held Feb. 11 and 12. A concert stage was where third base would be. The Red Sox batting cage was changed into a room for waxing and tuning skis. And, of course, a 14-story ramp was right in the middle of the snow-covered diamond.
More than 75 athletes from 25 countries were expected to compete. They would face off in men's and women's snowboarding and freeskiing. It's part of an attempt to bring the sport down from the mountain and into cities. The idea is for more people to be able to enjoy seeing it. There are about a handful of Big Air events each year now on ramps made of scaffolding. That is according to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
"Putting this stadium inside Fenway Park is a bodacious, bodacious concept," said Calum Clark. He is a vice president of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
"It's not too often that we get to ski in urban environments," Olympic slopestyle gold medalist Joss Christensen said. He signed his name inside the Green Monster scoreboard. He also looked around the visitor's clubhouse when he went to check out the site. "Usually we spend a lot of time up in the mountains, away from cities. It's huge for us to be able to show people what we do."
Snowboarder Ty Walker said she had been to Fenway for baseball games. She said she saw Derek Jeter's finale and a Goo Goo Dolls concert. Most recently she saw the Boston College-Notre Dame football game. She won a gold medal at a World Cup Big Air. It was held in Istanbul in 2014. She remembers hearing the crowd cheering all the way up at the top of the ramp.
"There's going to be 20,000 people here," said Walker. She grew up in Vermont. "To think of that in a place that so much has happened, to hear people I know cheering me on is very special to me."
Practice on a windless and cloudy afternoon came on the same day as "Truck Day" at Fenway. A few dozen Red Sox fans stood behind barriers outside the ballpark. They were there to watch the team's equipment loaded for the trip to spring training. It is in Fort Myers, Florida. Truck Day is an odd tradition. But it is one that signals the impending arrival of spring. It is meaningful for those who have run out of patience with the ice and snow.
Inside the ballpark, though, winter was still being celebrated.
A light dusting added a touch of natural snow to the tons of man-made stuff. It had been lifted onto the ramp by a crane. The snow was tamped down by skiers. They replaced the tractors typically used for mountain events. "Pretty sick," snowboarder Julia Marino said. She climbed the steps from the Red Sox dugout. Then she pulled out her phone and began shooting video.
Marino is a Connecticut native and an alternate for the event. She said her father is a New York Yankees fan. She said he was "super-psyched" that she might get the chance to ski at Fenway. "It's insane, really," she said.
The ski ramp is just the latest addition to the ballpark's lineup. The century-old landmark has been drafted for duty for other events. It's not just for baseball and concerts and football, but also for ice hockey and soccer. After the college football game last fall, Irish hurling will also be at Fenway.
Red Sox officials said they were pleased after watching the first snowboarder hit the jump. Organizers had been working on the event for nine months. But they couldn't be sure everything was going to work until the athletes hit the ramp.
Big Air snowboarding will debut as an Olympic sport in Pyeongchang, South Korea. That will be in 2018. It is part of an attempt by organizers to tap into a younger audience. To do that, X Games-style sports are being added. Skiers and snowboarders say they hope events like the one at Fenway also help attract a new, bigger audience to their sport.
Putting them in the middle of a city instead of away on a mountain somewhere can't hurt.
"It's just one event. But it's an event on a 150-foot scaffolding in the middle of Fenway Park," said Gus Kenworthy. He took home a slopestyle silver medal and a family of puppies from the Sochi Olympics. "So I think it'll be OK."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are promoters using a baseball park for skiing?
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