Thursday, April 19, 2012 – Fenway Park
Fenway Park Open House
I got home from Wednesday night’s game after 11:00, and less than 12 hours later I was headed back in to the old ballyard. On the eve of the game marking Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary, the Red Sox had the day off, and they decided to open the park to the public. Full of exhibits that made Fenway Park “a living museum,” the event was billed as a chance to explore the park at your own pace and get access to places that are normally off-limits to fans. I had requested the day off from work back in the fall when I first heard that something was planned for that day, and the closer it got the more fun it sounded. I planned to meet up with the friend I go to most of my games with as well as friends of mine who have three young boys.
When I got to the T station and had to wait in line for half an hour to get to the front to pay, I started to realize how many people had the same plan as me. It was school vacation week, and everyone getting on the train was wearing Red Sox attire. I texted my friends: “It’s gonna be packed”, but I had no idea how packed until I arrived at Fenway and there was a line to get in. I met up with my friends inside Gate A, where there was another line to sit in the cart that was used in the 1970’s and 80’s to drive pitchers in from the bullpen.
Next we headed out to see the field, where there was a long line of people walking around the warning track. We got in line under the stands and came out to the field through Canvas Alley, where the grounds crew sits during the game. As soon as we came out to the field, we saw shortstop Mike Aviles walking around and posing for pictures with fans, and we called him over for a picture with my friends’ kids. I thought that meant there’d be other players around, but he was the only one we saw. That probably means he was just passing through as he worked out on his off-day, which makes it even cooler that he took the time to greet fans.
Our first stop in our walk around the warning track was the home dugout. It was really crowded, but we got the chance to sit on the bench and get a quick picture. It’s too bad the bullpen phones were tied down, or that could have been another photo op. From there, we walked around to the visitors’ dugout for some more pictures, and then around to left field. Along the way there were cardboard cutouts of third basemen, pitchers, and left fielders, like Mike Lowell, Wade Boggs, Tim Wakefield, and Ted Williams. The line slowed to a crawl as we approached the Green Monster, because everyone was getting the opportunity to peek inside the open door at the small room inside the wall where the scorekeepers sit.
It took well over an hour to complete the circuit around the field, and then we headed back around to the stands behind home plate to eat lunch. I decided our next stop should be to take them up on the Green Monster, but first we had to wait in yet another line in the third base concourse. I’ve been to open house type events at Fenway Park before (twice in 2004 and twice in 2005) but there have never been as many people as there were today. I had come in thinking we’d have plenty of time to see all the behind-the-scenes pieces of Fenway, and I was still looking for as many of the new historical plaques as I could find. (When we came in, they gave us a map that identified all 100 markers, which took some of the fun out of looking for them. And some that I did see had so many people standing in front of them that I couldn’t get a picture, so I quickly retired that idea.)
After sitting on the Green Monster for a few minutes, we stayed on the upper level and walked through a hall lined with framed Sports Illustrated covers that had featured Red Sox players, past the entrances to the luxury suites. One of the doors was open (and had only a short line) so we went in to take a look. When we stepped outside, I liked that in addition to the rows of regular stadium seats, there was a row of stools at a countertop, and the stools were padded – even their seatbacks - unlike the ones on the Monster. A little further around we found another open suite. This one was bigger, and I thought it was cool that they have scorecards available for their patrons, and that their dinner plates have Red Sox logos. Eventually we came to the Red Sox Hall of Fame display and the luxurious EMC Club. We got to step inside the EMC Club and see half of it, but the other half was blocked off and had a really long line to get in, because players were signing autographs throughout the day. With the kids having already walked all over for hours, we decided to forgo this line, and instead checked out the right field roof box seats and sat at tables on the roof deck.
We went up to the Pavilion level – the fifth and highest floor at Fenway – but there was another really long line that would have been too much for the kids. It was almost 3:00 and they had been there since 10:30, so my friends headed home. I went down to the concourse level behind third base, where the Absolut Clubhouse had displays of Ted Williams memorabilia. I thought at that point that I had seen everything, but then I noticed some people just below the ramp that goes from Gate D to Gate A, near the ramp going out to the seats behind home plate. It turns out that’s the entrance to the visitors’ clubhouse, and there was no line at all. I went in and looked at the clubhouse – I have to admit it is pretty small – and then got to walk down the tunnel that leads out to the visitors’ dugout. There was also a really long line outside the door the the Red Sox clubhouse. I debated about waiting in that line, but it was so loosely delineated that I figured there’d be a lot of cutting and it would take hours to get through, and I had gotten to see the clubhouse once before. (It turns out they weren’t going into the actual clubhouse – since this was just one day off, there were probably players using it – but we would have been able to see the batting cages and walk through the tunnel that leads to the home dugout. That’s something I’ve never done, so I would have waited if I had known.) When I got home I found out that over 53,000 fans had attended the open house throughout the day (with the Red Sox – and me – expecting about 5,000 like the other open houses they’ve had). It was a little crazy with the large crowds, but it was fun to experience some sides of Fenway that we don’t normally get to see.