Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pleasantly Reprised

The Red Sox had a problem at Fenway Park. It wasn't managerial incompetence or a lack of talent on the field. The problem was Fenway Park and the ballpark experience.

Adding seats contributed revenue, as did more signage, and aggressive merchandising. But more than renovating the ballpark, they improved the experience.

On a previous visit to Fenway, I criticized fan behavior that frankly embarrassed me and my family, with drunken, disorderly, foul-mouthed fans ultimately removed in the eighth inning. The Sox provide a Help Number to address this before the game. I saw and heard no problems.

The concourses are much improved for negotiating the ballpark. Historically, the sound system wasn't great, but the musical selection was worse. The infield looked terrific and the ground crew repeatedly manicured it during the game.

No, every fan didn't get a visit from Sox VP of Merchandising Sam Kennedy, but he wasn't visiting me, rather my host from San Diego. My host was more than excited to have his first trip to Fenway, but another fan sitting in front of me (a firefighter from Phoenix) said he was practically in tears upon entering the park.

And the game didn't prove to be a sidelight. Jon Lester showed again why John Farrell predicted he could be a big winner, dominating the Blue Jays after yielding a first inning home run. Mike Lowell had an outstanding game at third, and the Sox got the benefit from several close calls on the bases. Jason Bay proved his value, and Jacoby Ellsbury was hell on wheels on both the bases and in the outfield.

Jonathan Papelbon's 38th save lacked some artistic qualities, as the Jays hit him hard as he couldn't find the strike zone with his splitter, but a close call on an Overbay wall ball double bailed him out.

Yes, the concession prices are about a standard deviation of excess beyond Disney, but hearing "Dirty Water" made up for that.

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