Fenway Park is one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve been going since I was a kid, and although I live a little farther away now, I still make a pilgrimage to “The Chapel” two or three times a season. The excitement on the streets around Fenway on a game day is palpable. Yawkey Way is packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, with fans. Old-timers who remained devoted to their beloved Red Sox through decade after heartbreaking decade before their historic redemption in 2004. Young kids with ball gloves eager to catch a glimpse of their idols–Youkilis, Varitek, Papelbon–in person. It is worth arriving a couple hours before the game just to experience the electricity emanating from the Fenway faithful.
While the Red Sox are known for having incredibly loyal fans, I think that Fenway Park has as much to do with their MLB record-setting attendance (over 450 consecutive games, and counting) as the players. The draw of watching America’s favorite sport in the oldest ballpark still in operation in the majors certainly contributes to the droves of fans filling every seat, at every game. So much of that park is significant in the history of the sport. One of the last hand-operated scoreboards in the majors; the single, red seat high up in the bleachers, marking the landing spot of Ted Williams 502-foot bomber in 1946 (the longest measurable home run ever hit in the park); Pesky’s Pole; the Green Monster. Regardless of team loyalty, anyone who loves the sport should visit Fenway.
My favorite moment of attending a game is when I walk up the ramp from the dark concourse and get my first view of the field. I was in awe as a child, and no matter how many times I take the same path, the feeling is still there. It is always greener, bigger and more perfect than I remember. I can only assume that the 30,000-plus other people in attendance experience the same thing.
I wonder how many of those people understand how much hard work goes into creating that kind of turf perfection? I’ll admit that before I became involved in the industry, I had no clue. The only glimpse I had into the grounds crew’s job was a quick infield raking between innings or a hurried rush to lay out the tarps for a rain delay. Of course, I now have a better understanding of what it takes to maintain a field of that caliber–or a Little League field, for that matter. The goal is the same no matter the league: create a safe environment for the players and an aesthetically pleasing experience for the fans. Your dedication and hard work is responsible for protecting athletes and providing spectators with a memorable day at the park. While you play a critical role in the sport, I suspect that not enough people realize how important you are to the game, and maybe recognition does not come as often as it should. So, from the Major League management with millions invested in players, from the parents watching their child’s first at-bat, from the kids walking up the ramp at Fenway Park, and from this fan … thank you.