Hallowed ground: Color guard
marches on the soil of Fenway Park © Sept. 30, 2011, Norwich University Office of Communications
To stand on the field at Fenway Park is a dream come true for anyone in Red Sox Nation. On Aug. 31, 2011, the Regimental Color Guard for Norwich University’s Corps of Cadets lived the dream.
“For me, walking on to that field was probably the coolest thing ever,” said lifelong Red Sox fan Sam Keenan, an international studies major from Dorchester, Mass., and member of the Class of 2013.
Keenan, who works in the public affairs office for the Corps—where students lead a military lifestyle—had contacted the team by email earlier in the season, offering their services to display colors during the National Anthem. He saw it as a way to raise public awareness of the University and the Corps.
After the National Anthem, I felt kind of euphoric. So far, it’s been the pinnacle of my college career here.
international studies major
“I told them that we were the Military College of Vermont and that we had an excellent color guard, and would love to bring the color guard down to Fenway,” said Keenan. “I really didn’t expect much of a response from them.”
The Regimental Color Guard, comprised of eight standard bearers, is the official color guard for Vermont. Keenan’s girlfriend, who attends Northeastern University, was an intern for the Red Sox this season, but knew nothing about the invitation.
About seven days before the game, Keenan received an email from the team inviting Norwich to the second of a three-game series with the New York Yankees (AKA “the evil empire” to Red Sox Nation). Within 48 hours, Norwich’s leadership approved the trip and arrangements were complete, said Keenan.
The color guard’s appearance, after a three-hour bus ride from campus in Northfield, Vt., to Boston, went smoothly. Afterwards many fans at Fenway congratulated the cadets for a job well done.
“The whole experience of being there was great,” said William Deveau, ’13, an international studies major from Salem, N.H. “After the National Anthem, I felt kind of euphoric. So far, it’s been the pinnacle of my college career here.”
Don Dibastiani, ’12, who commanded the color guard at Fenway, confessed that he was trying to sneak a glimpse of the stadium’s Jumbotron video screen without moving his head and breaking attention.
“I liked the old-time feel of the ballpark. Everything is really close,” said Dibastiani, a double business management and accounting major from Whitehall, Md., who also made the most of his opportunity to explore the 99-year-old institution.
“I went everywhere. I went to see the Pesky Pole, sit on the Green Monster, stuff like that; the things you think of when you think of Fenway Park,” said Dibastiani, an Orioles fan who nonetheless rooted for the Sox on this occasion.
Command Sgt. Maj. Geraldo Mercado, who accompanied the trip, was the lone Yankees fan among the Norwich group. When the Bronx Bombers came from behind to lead in the top of the sixth inning, Mercado started to tease the Red Sox fans.
“He rubbed it in,” says Deveau. “Now, every time he sees me he has to remind me about the standings.”
The color guard’s position along the left field line also gave Mercado the opportunity to shake the hand of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Deveau added.
After their appearance, members of the color guard were in high spirits despite the loss.
“Everyone was trying to hide the smile on their face, but everyone knew they did a great job and everyone was pretty proud of the fact they actually got to walk onto the field at Fenway,” said Keenan.
After this successful marketing move, Keenan has reached out to the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins and is hopeful the color guard will appear before games by both teams. He hasn’t contacted the New England Patriots because the team’s pre-game ceremonies for the season are set. Still, Keenan would “love to go to Foxborough.”
Unfortunately for the Red Sox and their fans, the team’s fortunes took a downturn after the game as Boston fell behind their biggest rivals and began to lose sight of a slot in the American League playoffs. But the season (as of this writing) was not over yet.
“I remain hopeful, just like a true Red Sox fan would,” said Deveau.