There are quite a few things that Minute Made Park and Fenway have in common: Baseball games are played there, they both have bleachers and a scoreboard, hot dogs and beer are served regularly, and to be completely honest, that’s where the similarities end. Even the way fans react to the game in progress is completely different at Fenway. As an observer, I was quite taken aback.
I have rarely been afforded the opportunity to visit a ballpark outside of MMP and when my family had the chance to attend a cousin’s wedding in Boston, my wife and I took advantage and made sure we got tickets to a Boston Red Sox game, as they are sort of my de facto American League Team. The hype surrounding storied Fenway and it’s uber dedicated Red Sox Nation were a little intimidating for a guy who is such a fan of small market baseball.
My wife and I took the Mass Transit system into the Fenway Area of Boston (beats driving and the expensive parking required) which dumped us off essentially right into the heart of Red Sox Nation, Yawkey Way.
Due to the downpour that was occurring two hours before game time, we slipped into the Cask and Flagon to have a quick beer and dry off. I was amazed at the amount of merchandise shops, and food vendors that were just outside of the ballpark. Fenway was a bustling hive of activity even hours prior to game time. We walked all around the park just to get a look and see all of the historical sites such as the Red Sox Hall of Fame banners hung outside, the Legends Statues, and the outside of the legendary Green Monster.
I have to admit, it was all a bit overwhelming. This stadium has over 100 years of history, whereas the stadium I love so dearly only has 10.
Once we were inside the stadium, my wife and I made it a point to travel around the concourse, as we had an hour and a half before first pitch. The first thing that hit me was the smell; two hours of rain, 35,000 + people and 100 years of history made for a pretty interesting cocktail on the olfactory sense. Fenway is obviously a park that is very old, and the inside looks it, although at the time of the game many sections of it were under construction or being updated. Even the vendor cubby holes inside were small and seemingly outdated, yet anyone wearing Red Sox gear, or season ticket holders specifically (they were easily identifiable due to the paper bands given to those carrying bags inside the park) were greeted by said vendors as if they had been family friends for years. The Fenway staff was very accommodating and friendly.
We took our seats in the Center field Bleachers just as the LA Dodgers were starting batting practice. We were located just to the right of the Green Monster and right in front of the scoreboard. We saw Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp both launch balls right on top of the Green Monster and I kept thinking, "Only Puma could possibly hit a ball hard enough to get up there". Fenway just seemed so stretched out and far. The interesting thing was how each different section of the park was a different elevation. The Right field Bleachers were set back lower than where we were sitting. The advertising boards set up so strategically in MMP are kind of haphazardly set around Fenway.
For all of its flaws, Fenway does have the old stadium charm. The weather was a little crummy, so the fact that Fenway has no retractable roof made me miss MMP just a little more. On the plus side, Fenway does have the greatest ballpark hot dogs known to man. Fenway Franks are fantastic. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay through the 7th inning to hear the iconic singing of Neil Diamond’s "Sweet Caroline" or my favorite closer Jonathan Papelbon exit the bullpen to Dropkick Murphy’s "Shippin’ Up to Boston", As a DKM fan, I was looking forward to that moment. Mass Transit Trains run until 11:05 pm, which was about the beginning of the 8th inning (8 pm game time) which forced us to leave a little earlier. Another reason I love National League Baseball, the games don’t run four hours long,.
I did enjoy getting to see a game at Fenway, although it did make me miss seeing a game at Minute Made Park. For me, there is just no replacing seeing the Home Team on home turf. I have to admit, the tradition and history was sort of lost on me. I am baseball fanatic and have enjoyed games at Tiger Stadium and Old Yankee Stadium as well. There was just something not the same about being at Fenway. I have to believe it was the fans. I felt pangs of jealousy at the amount of people who were there to cheer on the hometown boys. I guess I was being a little pouty due to the state of the Astros and how well the Red Sox have been playing lately.
It may seem like Baseball purist blasphemy but I’ll take a new park, a closed roof, air conditioning and comfy seats any day. If only we could get those Fenway Franks…