Batter up! Hubbell, Donohue tour Fenway ParkU.S. ice dancers get behind-the-scenes look at historic stadium
Growing up in Madison, Connecticut, Zachary Donohue spent his youth within the sphere of Red Sox Nation, but the ice dancer didn't become a baseball fan until his teenage years.
"I was not into baseball at all until I was maybe 15," Donohue admitted. "I went to a Baltimore Orioles game with my brother. About the time I moved to New York, I became a Boston fan. That's been my team ever since."
"Baseball is my favorite team sport," said Donohue's ice dance partner, Madison Hubbell. "I go to a baseball game almost every year, to watch our local team in Toledo. The atmosphere of being outside at the baseball field is so exciting. It's definitely my favorite sport to watch live."
On Friday morning, fresh off a stellar free dance and sixth-place finish at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships, Hubbell and Donohue took a private tour of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Their mothers accompanied them on a circuit of the venerable stadium, which took them from the top of the left-field Green Monster wall to the seats behind home plate. The skaters even got a peek at the garden on the roof, where some of the produce served at the park is grown.
Both ice dancers were a little tired after the historic night before, which saw all three U.S. dance teams finish in the top six for the first time ever. Hubbell and Donohue's Daft Punk program drew a loud standing ovation from the crowd, and Hubbell was still smiling at the memory.
"The three teams are very competitive with each other, and it's creating quite a dynamic," Hubbell said. "It's possible for all of us to be at the top in the next two years. It's been a long time since we caught a standing ovation; it's really what you perform for, the crowd reaction. It was a great way to end the year."
At the ballpark, Donohue was wide-eyed and excited to be in the home of his favorite team for the first time.
"I've been to a couple of Red Sox away games, but I've never been to a home game," he said. "Going to a game here is definitely on my bucket list."
Along the way, Donohue was thrilled to see all sorts of moments from Red Sox history, including the actual foul pole screen that Carlton Fisk's famous home run just missed in 1975. The tour began at a trophy case where the World Series trophies from 2004, 2007 and 2013 gleam behind glass, along with a faceted crystal bat.
"I think we should get a crystal skate," Hubbell said. "That's my favorite of the trophies...it's the most beautiful."
Donohue, rolling his eyes a little at the figure skating love of sparkles, leaned close to see the 2004 trophy, which ended the 86-year "Curse of the Bambino."
"That one should be glowing," Donohue said. "That was my favorite win. Training in New Jersey and being a Red Sox fan, it was fun to take a lot of flak from Yankees fans. So when they won, I was like, 'Yes!'"
Next, the tour entered the seating area and the skaters got their first view of the field, which is being primped for the April 11 home opener against the Orioles. After learning about the history of the construction and renovation of the building, the dancers passed through the Hall of Fame, admiring bronze plaques for the many greats who played for the team over the years. Donohue would later say this was his favorite part of the tour.
After the Hall of Fame, the dancers got to see a gallery of Sox uniforms, from the current shirts to a rather ostentatious early 20th-century jersey with a big red sock on the front.
"Hee-hee!" Donohue laughed. "Sue, I hope you're getting some costume ideas."
(Hubbell and her mom, Sue, are very involved in the team's costumes; Sue has made many of them over the years.)
The tour next went along the top of the stadium over right field, where Donohue admired the views of the city stretching in all directions.
"Of everywhere I've been in the U.S., this is the only city where I'd want to live," Donohue said. "I love living in Montreal, I have no plans to move back to the U.S., but if I could live in Boston, set up a school here, I would definitely do that."
After a visit to the press box and a lot more history, the dancers were taken down to the main entrance area, currently full of machinery, soon to be full of excited fans. They had a chance to climb into the little baseball-shaped car in which relief pitchers used to be ferried from the bullpen. On a more serious note, they saw the Boston Strong "617" jersey the team keeps on display to honor the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. (617 is Boston's area code.)
Finally, Hubbell and Donohue were taken into the prime seats just behind home plate for one last look around the home of the Fenway Faithful.
After the tour, Donohue was all smiles, particularly when he reminisced about watching the Red Sox defeat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series in 2004.
"It was beautiful," he said. "That was probably my favorite moment."