Jennifer Lemmerman is no "Pink Hat."
Not even close.
Her first Red Sox game was sometime during the early 1990s, when she was a 13-year-old girl growing up in a real-life "Brady Bunch" blended family. Her family was so intertwined that it had two Jennifers, in addition to an Andrew, a Nicole, a Rob and a Sean.
Like any girl in a family with three boys, the tickets to Fenway Park, the old and new Garden or Sullivan/Foxboro/Schaefer-and-then Gillette Stadium were often distributed along gender lines that favored the males. For her, watching the Red Sox has always been first a social experience with family and friends, rather than an obligation, rite of generational passage or undiagnosed mental disorder.
Still, she was no Fenway Park novice on Aug. 28 when she was sitting in the WEEI suite at Fenway Park [the corporate box, not the broadcast booth].
Excited by her surroundings, she was fully immersed in Facebook on her iPhone when a Daniel Nava foul ball glanced off the hand of a fan in front of her and hit her squarely on the cheek. The ball landed in her step-dad's lap. He still has the ball. She wasn't hurt, but it was a wake-up call.
The ultimate baseball "Godsmack."
"My brother in law told me that was Sean's way of telling me to get my face out of the phone and pay attention to the game," she told the OBF Blog Tuesday night.
Those tickets to the WEEI suite that night were just part of an emotional evening, courtesy of the Red Sox, that honored her brother, slain MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, who was killed on the Thursday night following the Boston Marathon bombings [allegedly] by the Brothers Grim.
This Improbable Dream of a baseball season for Red Sox Nation could end in Game 6 of the World Series Wednesday night with a worst-to-first championship, Boston's first title-clincher at Fenway Park in 95 years. Tickets on Stub Hub ranged from $991 to $12,322 Tuesday night. The game will be broadcast for free on Fox, although Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will likely exact a hefty toll from us through verbal aggravation.
For Lemmerman and her family, the 2013 Red Sox season has provided both a solace and an alternative reality that has helped, albeit in a small way, in their healing process. That night in August, when Jennifer and her siblings jointly threw out the first pitch in Sean's honor, was a rare opportunity for those "kids' and their families to get together.
"That's what make that night so special, all of us getting together," she said. Of course, it was still too soon and too difficult for Sean's mother, Kelley Rogers, to attend.
For Andrew Collier, that family time on Aug. 28 was irreplaceable. "Throwing out the first pitch was great. Truly once in a life time. It was fun to get together with my family for the throw," he told the OBF Blog via email. "These events are hard, but they get the family together which is why I like them. Plus we helped the Jimmy Fund raise some money, so that is just the cherry on top."Sean's generosity to the Jimmy Fund indirectly led to that trip to the WEEI suite. During one of the station's radio-thons, Sean heard the stories about kids beating cancer and he set up a contribution via automatic withdrawal from his bank account that continued until his death.
Sean Collier was both an exceptionally above-average man who gave his life in service to his community and your typical Red Sox fan. He had worn-out Red Sox had that he often wore, along with a Dustin Pedroia jersey that came out for games and other special occasions.
Lemmerman, 31, said Sean, who died at the age of 27, always loved a good underdog story and "would have loved what's going on with this year's team" not to mention the VIP treatment his family received at Fenway Park.
For Lemmerman, who lives in Melrose with her husband, John, "Boston Strong" has a both public and private meaning.
"It's become a rallying cry for the city, and we're a sports city, so the connection and sense of camaraderie with this team, following the bombings, I can see how it's connected through sports," she said. "It's all part of giving the city a distraction and something to rally around."
The story of the 2013 Red Sox and the Boston Marathon bombings have been intertwined since the Red Sox hung that "Boston 617 Strong" jersey in their dugout in Cleveland the day after the attacks and once Ortiz gave Boston its best nickname since beans were invented.
"There are two worlds for me," Lemmerman said. "There's Officer Collier, than there's my little brother Sean."
And the pain of losing a "little brother" cannot be simply wiped out by a World Series Championship. "It's difficult from my perspective," she said. "The public events, the people, and 'Boston Strong,' and all of that. That's been wonderful and the people have been so wonderful. Then's there's just the part that's my brother, and that's difficult."
Andrew Collier, who works as a mechanic for Hendrick Motor Sports out of Charlotte, N.C., shares his sister's sentiments on the use of "Boston Strong" as a rallying cry for the Red Sox. "It is the city's to use. I love "Boston Strong." It means more to some and less to others. It is a way of healing and there are a lot of people here who need to heal. Sports can really help with that, so use it if it helps you."
Andrew plans to show that passion permanently with a "Boston Strong" ribbon tattoo on his body.
"I want the ribbon with the three victims' names [Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lu Lingzi] on it and the quote 'Stop Hurting people' above it and 'Peace' below it. That will be my tribute to the bombing and I will get something special just for Sean. And this is from the guy who said he would never get a tattoo. But I use 'Collier Strong' more than anything."
The Red Sox are one win away from their third World Series in 10 years, following the Great Collapse of 2011, Boston's Baseball Nuclear Winter, the Great Salary Dump/Organ Transplant of 2012, Bobby Valentine, and 69-93.
The surreal nature of that followed by this season of #WalkOffCity comebacks, the redemption and renaissance of Lackey and Jon Lester, the emergence of Koji Uehara and the creation of a new star almost every night, is dwarfed by the other-worldness of the daily experience shared by Lemmerman and her extended family.
"All of it, every day, is surreal," she said. "[With the Red Sox winning], the city is rising up from a horrible thing that happened. It's a great underdog story and it's the kind of story Sean would have loved he would have been thrilled to see them in the World Series now."
Sean Collier was set to go in on Patriots' seasons tickets with his step-dad this season.
But the day-to-day happenings with the Red Sox aren't paramount in the life of Lemmerman or her brother.
"It is awesome that the Sox are in the World Series," Andrew Collier said. "I think I have paid less attention to the Sox since Sean died. There is just so much going on and so much I need to do to take care of myself that sports have fallen off a little bit."
Sean Collier is buried in Peabody next to his sister, Kristal, who died as an infant in 1985. On Oct. 18, the six-month anniversary of his murder, MIT unveiled a temporary memorial in his honor. [Lemmerman is seen at left in this photo during a candlelight vigil with her sister, Jenn Rogers] A permanent monument to honor Collier on the school's campus under construction.
"That was special. The MIT police have become family," Lemmerman said.
But that ceremony was just another reminder of what Lemmerman, her family and everyone else Collier touched lost when he died.
"Is so up and down, you feel so proud of him and the influence he's had on people's lives," she said. "But then you think of something like that game [on Aug. 28th] and we kept thinking Sean would have loved this."
So what would Sean be doing tonight when Lackey uncorks the first pitch against the Cardinals sometime around 8:07?
Andrew Collier has a pretty good idea:
"He'd be cheering on the Sox, probably watching with a beer or a Jameson in his hand."
A real Red Sox fan, indeed.
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