There are several quality player shirts hanging in my closet, though I am drawn to my Jonathan Papelbon shirt from the Boston Red Sox the most.
When I was growing up player shirts were not very prominent. I wish they would have been, I would have done my best to collect all of them I could. In the attempt to make up for lost time, I’ve accumulated several, with the Jonathan Papelbon Boston Red Sox shirt being my favorite.
Born and raised a Montreal Expos fan, I was around to see the disappointing conclusion to the 1994 strike-shortened season, the fire-sale thereafter, and the losing seasons which piled up until the team was finally relocated to Washington DC, in 2005.
More from Call to the Pen
After being a die-hard Expos fan I became a lukewarm Washington Nationals fan and more of a fan of the game of baseball. As I got older I came to appreciate the subtleties the good players and good teams had to offer.
On a trip to the storied Fenway Park, I fell in love with the oddities of the stadium. Being a baseball traditionalist I enjoyed the ballpark’s intimate nature and focus on baseball as the main entertainment.
I walked all the way around the stands and paused by the right field foul pole to look at the black sharpie markings on the once-crisp yellow paint. Turning to my right and I looked into the bullpen which had gobbled up many outfielders who lost track of their spot on the field, as they tracked the flight of a fly ball.
Perched on the bench in the bullpen sits a closer, one of the most stressful jobs in all of baseball. For Papelbon, as soon as that door swings open, and Shipping Up to Boston starts blaring on the loudspeaker, the nerves melt away.
I throw that number 58 shirt on my back, do a few nostril-flares and I’m ready for Francona to motion me in from the right-field gates.
A 2015 trade of Jonathan Papelbon to the Nationals from the Philadelphia Phillies made my shirt more valuable in my eyes. And the subsequent choking of Bryce Harper did nothing to tarnish my opinion of Pap or keep me from wearing this shirt proudly.
I’m not sure I could acquire a player-shirt that could overtake the Boston Red Sox #58 as the number one shirt in my closet.