In 1998, when Rob Hathaway was just 10 years old, he used to play a lot of whiffle ball in his back yard. One day he decided the yard needed a little landscaping. Then a little more. And a little more. One thing led to another and before long, he and his parents, Bob and Christine, had a mini Fenway Park on their hands.
Fenway Park, which opened in Boston on April 20, 1912 (the same day Navin Field opened here in Detroit), is famous for its giant left-field wall, known to Red Sox fans as the Green Monster. And while Navin Field (later known as Tiger Stadium) closed after the 1999 season, the Boston Red Sox still play at Fenway today. It is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball.
Over the years, the Green Monster in Boston served as the backdrop for many a famous left fielder, including Manny Ramirez, Jim Rice, and Ted "The Kid" Williams, who made his mark here in Detroit by winning the All-Star Game for the American League in 1941 with a walk-off home run at Briggs (later Tiger) Stadium.
For nearly a decade in Grosse Pointe Woods, Rob Hathaway was "The Kid."
As the Hathaways' back yard evolved and their mini Fenway Park expanded, word spread throughout the east side, and it eventually came to the attention of Detroit Tigers head groundskeeper Heather Nabozny.
Nabozny, who today heads up the Tigers' grounds crew at Comerica Park, started her major league career in 1999 at old Tiger Stadium, its final season as a big-league venue. In 2003, when Hathaway was still in high school at Warren De La Salle, he landed a job working on the grounds crew at Comerica Park, and ended up working for Nabozny for five seasons, including the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
After Rob graduated from high school in 2006, Hathaway Field, as it came to be known, hosted its final full season of whiffle ball before Rob headed off to study turf management at Michigan State. Hathaway Field remained mostly intact for several more years, but with Rob now living and working in Minnesota, the time has come for the kid to bid adieu.
"It was a ton of fun looking back on it now," says Hathaway, now 27. "All those great moments and games will be something I remember for a long time. My friends and I still bring up those extra-inning thrillers and that one time the unlikeliest of heroes hit the walk-off."
And no doubt that little kid felt a little like Carlton Fisk.
For more pictures of Hathaway Field through the years, click here.
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