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Home » Opening Day 2022: Changes fans can expect as they return to Fenway Park – GBH News

Opening Day 2022: Changes fans can expect as they return to Fenway Park – GBH News

Fenway Park will welcome fans to the stands once again on Friday, April 15 for the first full capacity home opener game since 2019. Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy joined Paris Alston and Jeremy Siegel on GBH’s Morning Edition to talk about welcoming fans back this season after pandemic disruptions, and what changes people can expect to see at the park. This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Jeremy Siegel: We’re excited for opening day. So what’s the mood like there at the ballpark, especially after the past few years?
Sam Kennedy: Well, it’s very special, just given what everyone has lived through the last couple of years. You know, 2020 we had no fans in the stands, and then we had restricted capacity last year, and the whole city has navigated this so well. It’s been challenging on everybody, but such a great vibe and energy to have a little bit of normalcy starting to creep back into our lives. And baseball at Fenway is a great way to move forward this season.
Paris Alston: And the Red Sox are going to be honoring the life of longtime announcer and former player Jerry Remy, who passed away last October. How hard will today be without him in the booth?
Kennedy: Well, it will be very, very difficult, Paris. Jerry is a Red Sox Hall of Famer. He sort of is the embodiment of our organization, calling games for decades on NESN, but also as a All-Star second baseman for the Red Sox. So we miss him terribly. He was a critical member of the family, and when you are broadcast into people’s living rooms each and every night, you really develop that close connection. It feels like a personal connection. So we are going to celebrate his legacy all year long and look forward to doing that in 2022.
Siegel: So when people come to the park today, there are some changes that they can expect to see and some upgrades that we definitely want to talk about. One thing is a nearly fully cashless environment — so no more beer-soaked 20s on the counter. You are offering cash cards; basically, people can buy cards to use for concessions with cash that they bring there.
Kennedy: Just about everybody carries either a credit card, debit card or the ability to pay through an app on your phone. But like you said, Jeremy, if you don’t and you only have cash at Fenway and you’d like to make a purchase, we do have the ability with what we call reverse ATMs. So you can just simply slide a $20 bill, $10 bill into an ATM machine for stored value cards to be to be used at Fenway.
Alston: You know, Sam, I’ve got to say — anyone who’s been to a Fenway game knows that sometimes you don’t leave the way you come. There’s a lot going on with the crowds and those beer soaked 20s. So what happens if you lose this card, or if you take it with you and there’s a balance on it, but then you lose it somewhere else after the game?
Kennedy: Yeah. Well, if that happens, we’ll deal with it on a one-off basis. We do have lots of interesting items that end up in our lost and found.
Alston: Yeah, I’m sure.
Kennedy: So we do try to be in the “yes” business with respect to our customers, and making sure that people have a great experience and a great time at Fenway. And so we do take our lost and found very, very seriously because people do lose items, including cash. We’ve had cash turned in and actually people recovering cash and credit cards, so we will do our best. We don’t always bat a thousand, but we do try our best.
Alston: And what about the vendors, Sam? Will they still be able to be tipped with cash? Or is that all going to be cashless, too?
Kennedy: That will all be cashless as well, just like in a restaurant or bar environment.
Siegel: So what other changes can people expect to see when they go back for opening day today?
Kennedy: Well, the biggest compliment we can get, Jeremy, is if people walk in and they say, you know, “nothing’s changed,” because we want to be very careful with how we make our improvements and renovations to a historic, 100-plus year-old ballpark. But the reality is we’ve probably made our most aggressive set of renovations in over a decade. If you look at the right field bleacher area behind the bleachers, we’ve added an entire new concourse, an entire new video board, a function space above that concourse. There will be a new television studio up there for our rights holders, so we hope it will be really well-received by our fans as a new and different kind of neighborhood, if you will, of the ballpark.
Alston: Some fans were very upset and still aren’t over the trading of our beloved star Mookie Betts in 2020. Now some are worried things are going to go the same way in negotiations with players like Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts. Are you committed to signing these fan favorites to keep them on the Red Sox team?
Kennedy: Well, we really are very careful about not talking publicly about the negotiations with any individual player. It was really tough to see a homegrown player like that go. We’ve maintained a very good relationship with him and our hope is to keep Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts a part of the Red Sox organization forever. They’re homegrown players, they’re world champions, great in the community.
When you have discussions prior to a contract expiring, prior to free agency, it’s not often that you line up on valuation and on deals. We didn’t line up in this particular situation, but the good news is they’re under contract to the Red Sox. They’re here in 2022, and we’ll be able to continue those conversations as we go forward. And so I wouldn’t make any promises that I can’t 100 percent commit to. But the goal would be to keep both these guys as a member of the Red Sox forever. We love them both, and they’ve just meant so much to our organization.
Alston: You know, we’re all planning on and looking forward to hearing “Dirty Water” come through the speakers at the end of the game. So to make sure that happens, what are your good luck rituals for today?
Kennedy: Well, you know, on opening day, I typically get here very, very, very early and have a chance to come into the ballpark when the place is just totally empty. And it’s just a beautiful, peaceful setting. I always look out beyond our offices — take a walk outside, look at the ballpark while it’s empty, and just treasure how blessed we are to be a part of this organization, this city. After doing this now for 24 years in Boston, I try not to think about how old I am as my kids turn into their late teens, but it’s just a ritual and a tradition to take a moment to appreciate how special this city is and how special baseball is in Boston, and its place and importance in our city.
Paris Alston is co-host of Morning Edition at GBH News. She was a host of the NPR podcast “Consider This,” produced in conjunction with GBH and WBUR.
Paris served as the host of GBH’s digital series Keep it Social about social media trends targeted at millennial and Gen-Z audiences. Prior to that, she interned at UNC-TV in North Carolina and NBC10-Philadelphia. She has reported on stories from Southeast Asia, Morocco, Panama and Brazil.
A North Carolina native, Paris is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studied media and journalism and global studies. She has worked extensively with print, digital, video, audio and social media.
Jeremy Siegel is a co-host of Morning Edition at GBH. Previously he was the host and producer of POLITICO’s daily news podcast “POLITICO Dispatch.” Before that, Jeremy was an anchor and reporter at KQED Public Radio, where his coverage of wildfires won a Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism award for breaking news. His reporting has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, The California Report, BBC News and The PBS Newshour. An Ohio native, he graduated with a degree in Rhetoric from the University of California Berkeley.
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