Manchester's Christopher Duffley wows Fenway crowdBy JOHN HABIB
New Hampshire Union Leader August 18. 2015 8:37PM
Ovations at Fenway Park are usually reserved for a pitcher after a stellar performance, a milestone, a homer, a game-deciding hit, a rare achievement like a triple play or the return of a former popular Boston Red Sox player or manager.
On Monday, before the Cleveland Indians-Boston Red Sox game, another type of ovation erupted before and following the rendition of the national anthem sung by 14-year-old Christopher Duffley of Manchester, who is blind with autism.
Singing the national anthem has become an old hat for Duffley, who has already dazzled thousands of people at places like New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Manchester’s Northeast Delta Dental Stadium and Verizon Wireless Arena and, yes, two times previously at Fenway Park (not to mention many other places across the country).
But on Monday something entirely different happened to Duffley. When he started to sing, he quickly learned his microphone wasn’t working. At first, Duffley paused and, moments later, began tapping the microphone with his hand, trying to hear if it was working.
Knowing what had happened by watching him on the jumbo screen in center field, the Fenway faithful, along with the players and coaches from both teams, began to urge Duffley on. The roar of the crowd was telling him to try again.
Sure enough, after he jumped up and down elatedly a few times, Duffley, wearing a red, white and blue bow tie, quickly regrouped and sang brilliantly without any hesitation that produced a heartfelt ovation from the 32,701 fans in attendance.
“I can’t recall anything like that ever happening,” said Christopher’s mom, Christine, referring to the microphone. “We placed Christopher on his mark (on the field) and I reminded him to take a deep breath before he started to sing. But what all of us didn’t know at the time, and I’m talking about Christopher, myself and the crowd, was that the microphone wasn’t turned on yet when he started to sing.
“Then when the crowd started to clap, chant and cheer, Christopher became shy and politely decided to wait until they quieted down. That’s when I started to get a little nervous, because the time for him to start singing the national anthem had arrived and he was still waiting for the crowd noise to simmer down. In his autism way, Christopher was just waiting for the right time to start.”
Standing a few feet in front of her son, Christine decided she needed to do something. “That’s when I began to shout out for him to start singing and fortunately he heard me,” said Christine. “The Red Sox had to start their game on time and I needed to let Christopher know now was the time to sing. Fortunately everything went well and the crowd was just supportive throughout. They were simply outstanding.”
Click below for video of Christopher's performance:
After the anthem when Christopher was taken to his game seats by his parents, he said he heard many complimentary remarks from the fans. “I heard the words ‘amazing’ and ‘awesome,’” said Christopher.
His mom said Monday’s experience was similar to his first singing appearance at Fenway Park in 2010.
“The first time Christopher was asked to sing the national anthem at Fenway Park, it was ‘Disability Awareness Day’,” said Christine. “And I’ve got to tell you, the reaction that day was much the same as the one Monday night. The only difference was, the first time our seats were in the bleachers and we had to walk a ways from home plate to get there. Along the way (Red Sox second baseman) Dustin Pedroia darted out of the dugout to greet Christopher, who was on my husband’s (Steve’s) shoulder. Applause followed us from the crowd as we walked to our seats, where we were met by many teachers from Christopher’s school at the time, Northwest Elementary.”
Christine said in attendance was one of Chrisopher’s teachers, Donna Park. “Donna is an amazing teacher and she was the one who taught Christopher how to sing the national anthem,” said Christine. “Donna and every teacher we encountered when Christopher attended Northwest showed a willingness to invest in every child in their classroom. As a parent, I was thrilled to have Christopher attend that school. The teachers made a special trip to Fenway Park that day to watch Christopher sing the national anthem and to have them part of our celebration was very meaningful to me and my family.”
The last two times Christopher sang at Fenway Park, in 2013 and this week, the Red Sox promoted “Autism Speaks Day” at the ballpark.
“The Red Sox go out of their way to make the whole day fun and worthwhile,” said Christine. “For Christopher, signing the national anthem is his way of giving something back to the Red Sox and the community as a whole. We also met many people who were at the park Monday for the annual Jimmy Fund campaign and we shared our personal stories and passions. Together we felt we were doing something to make this world a better place to live in.”
Christine said Christopher is currently enrolled in the Virtual Learning Academy Charter school based in Exeter. “It’s in partnership with Parkside Middle School and they provide support services,” she said.
Christine said she wakes up every day feeling blessed. “I thank God for giving Christopher a mission in his life. God has given Christopher the gift to sing and he has put it to good use. I can’t tell you how much it means to us when people tell us they love to hear him sing.”