Monday, September 10, 2007
Inside The Park (2)
Christopher Trotman Nixon debuted for the Red Sox in 1996; he appeared in two games. In his rookie season, three years later, the twenty-four year old lefthander hit .270, with fifteen Home Runs and fifty-two Runs Batted In. Trot would occupy Right Field for the Sox for the next seven years. He never hit thirty home runs, he never drove in a hundred, and he hit over .300 just once (ignoring his injury-restricted contribution to the glorious summer of 2004). He wasn't quick, he wasn't graceful, his swing was energetic but inconsistent (particularly when facing left-handed pitching), he had protuberant ears and a complexion like boiled meat.
The fans loved him.
Early in 2006 he overswung at a pitch low and inside, sundering muscle from ribcage, and sending himself, once more, to the Disabled List. He would recover, and finish the season, but it was around this time that Red Sox management decided to look elsewhere for an everyday right fielder for next year, the fateful finger falling, eventually, on J D Drew. Drew was also left-handed, and prone to injury. The similarities extended little further, however. Where Nixon was a hot-headed terrier, hustling and bustling on every play, his replacement carried himself around Right Field with an air of efficient ease. In the batter's box Trot uncoiled himself with a kind of unbalanced savagery. Drew's swing was beautiful, arcing over the plate without apparent leverage, and, all too often, without contacting the ball.
The fans were unimpressed.
Trot ended up in Cleveland. This is his first game at Fenway in the uniform of another team. He jogs out towards us for the bottom of the first, home once more in the confusing polygon of green and brown that he has patrolled for three outs, for nine innings, for seventy nights or so each summer for the last seven years. His last game here was a soggy five inning affair, back on October 1st. It's as if the crowd has been holding its breath all winter, waiting to welcome him back. The applause builds, the fans become more vocal, Trot lifts his cap, looking almost embarrassed by the attention. He is a totem of the 2004 victory, but with the demeanour of an everyman caught up in historical events; he is us, mirroring our short-tempered, blue-collared, hard-working, make-the-most-of-what-you've-got selves, but he is also an agent of our catharsis. This cartharsis is ongoing, it seems. Some of the men around me are squinting hard. Women are blotting their eye makeup with tissues. Slowly, reluctantly, the noise subsides. The game begins again.