I don’t like working in locker rooms. They’re hot, they’re crowded, there’s lots of extraneous sound bouncing off the walls and too often I’ve recorded some guy saying “no,” or shuffling away after turning his back on me.
But not always.
One summer day, years ago, I was in the visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway Park a couple of hours before a night game.
Whomever I was looking for wasn’t there yet. It happens a lot.
"I asked him what he was reading, and he showed me. It was one of those books meant to help the reader enhance his vocabulary.”
I stood around for a while feeling uncomfortable and superfluous. A TV was tuned to the highlights of the previous night’s games. Nobody seemed to be watching. In the center of the room, several guys in their shorts were playing cards. In one corner a young player sat in front of his locker, hunched over a paperback book.
I walked over, introduced myself and wondered if I could ask him a few questions.
“Sure,” he said.
I asked him what he was reading, and he showed me. It was one of those books meant to help the reader enhance his vocabulary. Each page featured a list of words down the left side, and then a list of sentences, each with a word missing. The idea was to fill in the blank with the appropriate word.
As I recall, the young man had filled in about half the blanks on the page.
“Maybe one day I’ll take your job,” he said.
On another day in the same clubhouse, I sat down next to a player who was looking over his team’s media guide.
“Look at all these guys who were here at the beginning of the year, and they’re gone,” he said.
“This is my first time at Fenway Park,” he said. “First time in Boston. Harvard’s here, right?”
“Yes,” I said. “In Cambridge. Just up the river, on the other side.”
“How long would it take to walk there?” he asked.
“Maybe 45 minutes,” I said. “Why?”
“I thought I might walk up there,” he said. “Some of the smart might rub off.”
I smiled. He laughed. Locker room talk.
This segment aired on October 15, 2016.