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By Ed Niser

eniser@nashobavalleyvoice.com

‘Will we make it on time?’ That was the thought I had Wednesday afternoon, April 13, while I was sitting at my desk. My friend, Jon, and I purchased tickets for the Red Sox game against Baltimore and it appeared that he would be getting out of work late.

Yes, we did make it on time, but that’s not the real story. Choosing seats at any sporting event is the equivalent of inserting a couple of quarters into one of those grab machines with the stuffed animals — you pay your money, but you really do not know what you are going to get, if anything.

Are you going to be seated next to the guy who routinely makes bathroom runs as the inning is still being played, or will you have the belligerent drunk spilling his drink all over you while screaming obscenities in a pronounced Boston accent?

Ahh, Fenway Park.

The crowds at a ballpark are diverse from your businessmen just off work still in their nice suits to the blue collar Joe in his tattered Red Sox hat. These are some of the people you could have the privilege of watching three or more hours of baseball with.

As we nestled into our seats in Right Field Box 2, Row N, we thought we would at least be able to have that one seat buffer so we could stretch out — wrong. A few minutes later, an usher taps me on the shoulder and instructs us to move down a seat.

Next thing I know this 5-foot-7 man in a bright orange puffer jacket with a Baltimore Orioles visor sits down.

At first, I sarcastically thought to myself, Oh, here we go. This should be fun.

But, actually, it was.

The man promptly introduced himself as Antonio and little did we know that this guy would go from being a stranger to a friend by the time we left the game.

From the moment he sat down, he quickly popped up with a mixed drink in his hand and exclaimed: “What a great ballpark. There’s nothing like it. Our seats are awesome. Aren’t they, gentlemen?”

He was just there to have a good time, which is the whole point of going to a baseball game in the first place, right?

Before every Baltimore batter, he would give some funny off-the-cuff analysis.

And, boy, was he loud. But, so are Jon and I — the people next to us did not seem too pleased by our non-stop conversations about baseball and just sports, in general.

There really was not a topic that was off limits. Somehow, the fact that I attended college in Charlotte, N.C. popped up.

Antonio informed me that he was a teacher in Charlotte for five years before settling in Portland, Maine, with his wife.

We even bantered about the best fried chicken joints in Charlotte (Bojangles, hands down!) because Jon is heading down there in a couple of months for a wedding.

Perhaps the funniest thing was that his wife seemed to be almost embarrassed by his outgoing and fun-loving demeanor. Something tells me our ole’ pal, Antonio, has been targeted by ballpark bullies in the past for his exuberance.

Regardless, we had a great time. Antonio sparked a conversation about how Boston never truly appreciated what David Ortiz, who is in his final season, did for the team.

When he first mentioned it, I had thought, what the heck is he talking about?

Ortiz’s face is plastered all over every Dunkin Donuts promotion and billboard around the city.’

Ortiz is a baseball god in New England for that matter — especially during the first game after the marathon bombing of 2014 when he grabbed the microphone and said: “This is our (expletive) city.”

What Antonio was referring to was how the Red Sox made him practically beg for a contract extension.

But, hey, baseball is a business.

Antonio is a Washington Redskins fan and mentioned that he started following the team in the 1980s. Of course, I dropped my local football knowledge and asked he if he remembered Jaime and Joe Morris, who all of you reading this probably know are from Ayer. Antonio said, “Of course I do, do you know them?”

Know them? Joe Morris jested that he was going to snap my neck at this year’s inaugural Ayer Shirley High School Athletics Hall of Fame banquet.

Yeah, I guess I do know him.

So those annoying baseball fans we feared would be seated near us, loudly talking throughout the game, were indeed there, and we had a great time!

Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout: @EdNiser

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