Ballparks of Baseball: Fenway Park
Last Monday I shipped myself to Boston for a couple of days to celebrate my birthday in a ballpark doing the same. Fenway Park turned 100 this year and it had been a goal of mine to see the Yankees and Red Sox play there this season. Boston is an expensive city, but I found a few ways to cut down costs. I stayed with my friend Sarah in Somerville, which is just north of Harvard on the subway. The subway system is awesome and there is a free Silver Bus from the airport to the South Station stop this summer. Look for hotels off the subway line in the suburbs to avoid high prices of the city. As for sightseeing, there are plenty of tours and what not to choose from and if you want a guide I suggest getting a Boston CityPASS. But for people who love free like me, just pick up a Freedom Trail map at Faneuil Hall and walk it yourself. I also stopped at the Sam Adams Brewery for a free brewery tour (its donation only) and beer tasting. Getting to Fenway was easy via the subway and I was there in no time. There’s very limited parking around the ballpark and what is there is quite expensive or requires a pass, so public transit is the way to go.
I had read that the ballpark blends into the surrounding neighborhood and even Roger Clemens didn’t realize he was at a stadium when he arrived. Uh, it totally looks like a baseball stadium and I seriously can’t believe Clemens is that dumb. Well anyways, for being the oldest park, Fenway looks fantastic! The outside façade is the classic brick with some charming patterns inter-worked. The walls are low, so you can see the green steps to the upper levels. I bought a ticket for a tour of the park at Gate D for $16 and will say I was a bit disappointed with the tour. All we did was go around the stands, something you can do yourself at the game. The tour guide was nice and obviously gave a great presentation on the park’s history. I’m just comparing this to a tour I went on of old Yankee Stadium where they took us in the press box, on the field, and even in the dugout (heaven!). After the tour I went over to the Bleacher Bar and watched the Yankees warm up a bit, since it has an opening to the field. I saw Swisher and got him to “I-O” my “O-H.” Buckeyes for life! I hung here with a Twins and A’s fan trading stories before deciding to eat dinner at the Cask n’ Flagon across the street. Get to this place early on game day or you won’t find a seat! My New England clam chowder was surprisingly yummy and the fans next to me at the bar were great company despite their team affiliation ;).
For this game, I bought my ticket on StubHub! since I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of standing in line before the game (select amount of tickets are available 90 minutes before the game) or scalp. Because of this, I ended up paying more than normal because of the fees. I just wanted to fully enjoy this game, so paying a little more was fine this time. Yawkey Way was packed before the gates opened and we poured into the park quickly. I made a beeline to the stands to watch Yankee batting practice and show off my amazing sign. By far the most popular sign I’ve ever made- I even got a laugh out of the Yankees security guy who normally is not impressed by my sister and my signs (success!). This is where Sarah found me and we hung out until the seat holders showed up. We headed towards Pesky’s Pole (right field), but paused in field level walkway for the anthem. Since it was 9/11, there was a special ceremony and during the anthem they covered the Green Monster with the American flag. We hurried up to the standing room behind the field level seats to catch the first Yankees at bat and take in the park fully.
For being 100 years young, Fenway has been preserved impeccably and is even hip to the new technology with two large score boards over the center field bleachers and even has bullpens. Even with those, the score is still manually kept at the bottom of the infamous Green Monster by three gentlemen. The standing room at Fenway is sold by area, but Sarah and I had almost no problems walking around to check out the various views and angles. We reminisced about our Cleveland Municipal Stadium days, joking about those pesky poles (I’m proud of this pun) that obstruct your views. Best standing room view from the concourse around the back of the field level is by far the 1st baseline. The view from the area behind home plate was ok, but the usher there was adamant on us having a ticket. There is a concession area here, so stand in line and catch the game. We did find that there is only a family bathroom, which they’re not big on non-families using them, so be prepared to go down to the main concourse. We continued on our own little tour to the standing room in left field. This area is large with tables behind the stands and another concession area, but the view isn’t that great with the poles and people in the stand’s heads.
This game was moving quickly so we decided to head upstairs and see if we could finagle our way onto the Green Monster. Turns out it was really easy. There’s a small area for a private party before you hit the actual seats and you can stand there for about an inning until they ask you to leave. It was really neat to see the game from up here for even an inning- it’s one of the hottest tickets in baseball! We climbed another set of steps to the Coca-Cola Corner Pavilion and hung out in that standing room just long enough to see Jeter to reclaim the Yank’s lead. This area has a nice view of the entire park and some picnic tables off to the side similar to the standing room at Rangers Ballpark. We had a good time with the fans in this section (they were a lively bunch) before heading back down to the 200 level and around to right field. We passed by more picnic areas, concessions, The State Street Pavilion, and a little closed walkway of Sports Illustrated covers before coming out to the other side.
We ended up watching the remainder to the game from the standing room behind the Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck, since the view of the field was great and the game was getting down to the wire. We were treated to quite possibly the best rendition of “God Bless America” by “The Singing” Sergeant Dan Clark. This guy killed it! I’m going to blame him for stunning the crowd, because the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was the worst 7th Inning Stretch I’ve ever experienced. It was better at Minute Maid Park with maybe 3,000 people. I was shocked, but they made up for it during the middle of the 8th singing of “Sweet Caroline.” The Sox ended up pulling off the upset (4-3), which in retrospect was a good thing, since I think I would have spontaneously combusted with happiness otherwise (and you’d be sol for the last three ballparks!). Won’t lie, I was momentarily sad faced until I heard Fenway playing “Happy Birthday” to me (or Jacoby Ellsbury- but who’s he?).
Sarah and I headed down to the main concourse and walked around a little to wait out the crowds (and I didn’t want my day to end). We found some famous former players hand prints and ran around much like I did at Camden Yards with the home run plaques. I found my favorite third baseman, Wade Boggs and gave him a high five. He’s over at the Gate B entrance, which is the most fancy of the entrances with the large concourse of concessions, picnic tables, team shop, and pennants proudly flying. We did walk back into the stands for one last goodbye and this was probably my favorite moment at the park. The stands were cleared and some of the lights were off, but Fenway had a post victory glow to it. We stood there for a moment in silence- me reflecting on this sport’s history and all joy and heartache shared in just this one ballpark alone and Sarah probably wishing I would hurry up so we could go home. She managed to get me to leave with the promise of frozen yogurt next to the subway. Perfect ending to the day! For this trip I spent $149 on my flight (had a $200 voucher from Seattle trip), $31 on my ticket, $10 on transportation, $16 on Fenway tour, and $25 on food and drinks ($231 in all). For how expensive a city Boston is, I think this was pretty good! I absolutely loved the city and the fans and staff at Fenway Park were awesome. Sure it’s a little different when the teams are neck and neck, but I didn’t experience anyone rude and made it through the game without a beer dumped on my head (heard that happens in the bleachers). Fenway Park is still a close second to Wrigley in my book, but I can’t wait to plan a trip back with my sister!