Thank US!

The "thank you" signs on the field as the fans left the bleachers after the game

The "thank you" signs on the field as the fans left the bleachers after the game

I’ll have other entries about this weekend and about the end of baseball in general, but I wanted to get this one out while it was fresh in my mind.  Yesterday, during an Twitter conversation, I was telling Caryn @ Metsgrrl about the different things the Red Sox did to thank the fans this weekend and thought it was something that should be shared with everyone.

On Friday, before the rainout, they had a “Thank You Fans” sign on the Green Monster.  There was also a tribute to Ted Williams and the plan to sing “Happy Birthday” to Johnny Pesky.  Now, while both of those things are directed at players, you know it’s for the fans.  Fans love to honor the old guys in baseball and Ted Williams is dead and Johnny Pesky would probably rather have been home on Friday, so it was for us.  They did the Williams tribute pre-game but Johnny didn’t get his Happy Birthday song.

Saturday, when we showed up in the, finally, nice weather, we were greeted with the “Thank You Mike” sign on the Green Monster and “Mike Lowell – 25” on the manual scoreboard.  It might not sound like much, but the fans were digging it.  I’ve never seen so many photos taken of the Green Monster pre-game.  We then got the “Thanks, Mike Day” pregame festivities.  Mike’s family was there.  Former teammates showed up.  We got a montage video of  his best moments and then Mike thanked us and talked about how great we are (okay he mentioned other things too, but the sense was this was being done for us as much as it was Mike).  I’ll write more about Mike in a different entry.  Let’s just say for now that every time I type “Mike” I have to stop for a moment and wipe my eyes.

But Sunday…man, Sunday was something else.  Members of the team AND the front office were greeting folks as you entered the park (I got no one famous but I did get a big-ass, 2011 magnetic schedule from a very nice young man).  I’m a fan of the magnetic schedule.  It’s a nice way to show your support of the team (I used to keep one at my desk in my office every year) WHILE getting valuable information.  Win-win.

As an aside, having nothing to do with the team thanking the fans, I was on Yawkey Way with Kelly O and some of her friends when Ken Burns walked by.  He was walking more slowly than he was when I saw him in Kenmore Square a few weeks ago and I had a moment to think “Say something!” instead of just staring stupidly at him, again.  So I touched his elbow as he walked by me, leaned in and said “I really enjoyed The Tenth Inning, thank you!”  That was all.  Said what I wanted to say.  What surprised me is that he actually stopped walking, smiled at me and said “Thank you so much!” before he went on his way.  He seemed very willing to be mixing it up with the rest of the fans and didn’t come across as thinking I had bothered him.  I’m happy I did it.

The signage on the Green Monster was again reading “Thank You Fans” in huge white letters.  Again, it doesn’t sound like much but when you’re staring at it, it hits you.  For all their shortcomings, and every front office has them, this ownership really gets the fans.

Awards of recognition were given out prior to the game to various Fenway employees.  That was pretty cool, I’ll admit.  How many of us get to receive recognition for what we’ve done in front of 35,000+ people?  Then, just before the game began, the Red Sox came out of the dugout and threw baseballs (soft ones we assumed as we were a little too far back to get any) into the stands.  Since 1999, I’ve gone to more final days of the regular season than I haven’t and I’ve never experienced anything like this at Fenway.  The most we have gotten in the past is Nomar Garciaparra coming out when the game was over to thank the fans.

During the game, prizes were given out to the fans by way of choosing sections of the park and giving something to everyone in the section.  Dunkin Donuts gift cards, money on your ticket to go buy food or drinks at the park…a father and son even won an all-expenses paid trip to Spring Training.  That one got the biggest roar from the crowd.

And in the middle of the third inning we all got to sing “Happy Birthday” to Johnny Pesky who was there hanging out with Jim Rice.  I cried.  Many of the people around me cried.  It was just that special.  It didn’t help that after “Happy Birthday” we got a Pesky montage with “Young at Heart” playing on the scoreboard.  Niagara Falls, Frankie Angel.

Throughout the day, they showed the “Thank You” videos that they had the players make (Papi, Youk and Clay) and they showed a video they’ve been showing all of September:  The folks who work at Fenway singing “Build Me Up, Buttercup”.  (A favorite on the organ at Fenway!)  Even the video of the Fenway crew made me a little teary.  But they were setting us up for the biggest treat of all.

I knew they had announced fans would be able to run the bases after the game.  (Incidentally, the tickets for this game were bought back in March because Kelly O had determined that if the Sox were in the playoffs or just the playoffs race, we’d want to be at Fenway and if the Sox were OUT of it we  HAD to be there, and I agreed.)  I wasn’t really thinking about it until people kept asking me if I was going to do it.  Kelly and I decided we would try to do it but if the line was too large and security cut it off before we could get on (which, it seems, didn’t happen.  My understanding is that everyone who wanted to do it got to do it!) that would be okay too.

The line was huge.  Later someone posted that somewhere between 4000 and 5000 people stayed to do this.  But it was a line of happy people excited at an opportunity we never get.  So it was one of those lines where everyone was in a good mood because it was well worth waiting for what we were waiting for.  (Adding to our mood was the fact that the Red Sox had just crushed the Yankees and were part of the reason the Yankees were limping into the playoffs…and on the Wild Card at that!*)

We entered the field at the Green Monster and got to walk along the outfield on the warning track.  Just being IN the park made waiting in that line a treat.  Both Kelly and I followed the lead of many of the youngsters and threw ourselves into the Green Monster just to see what it was like.  Those walls are a lot harder than they look.  There were security guards scattered around barking at us to move it along and, for the most part, people were good about doing the moving.  But, really, most people, including us, were lollygagging.  We were on the field at Fenway.  We understood the security folks wanted to go home but none of us did and we were going to milk the situation for as long as we could.  (To be fair, the security folks weren’t terrible.  You could tell some were enjoying the fans but some were also staring at their watches and praying we’d all be swept up in a tornado.)  I made sure to take some time to enjoy gazing upon the bullpen before I made my way with the rest of the fans.

Once we got close to first base, we noticed there was a tarp-like substance on the ground, covering the grass from part of right field directly to first base.  (There were barriers around the warning track so we stayed on the dirt and never touched the grass all the way around.)  Walking on it, the tarp was soft and bouncy, as if giant pieces of industrial strength bubblewrap were underneath.  I laughed as more than one person noted that if we were going to truly run the bases we should be starting at home plate (we didn’t) and then we were on our way.

Because there were so many of us,  most people weren’t running, but the kids were and a few of the adults did too.  Casually walking the bases gave me time to take in the entire park around me (from an angle most of us will never get to experience) and I couldn’t get over the fact that the Red Sox were letting us do it.  Sure we kept getting scolded to stay off the grass and to “Touch and go!” (touch the base and get the heck out of there) but it was still an amazing experience.  I can’t get the visual out of my mind of how the sky above Fenway looked when I stood at second base and looked up.  It’s quite the view to have while you’re working.

I know that the bottom line for every team IS the bottom line.  Making money is what the team wants/needs to do.  Everything else is secondary, I get it.  But this weekend the Front Office showed us (even if it was only a PR gesture) that they care about the fans.

We’re Red Sox fans.  We spend our money to go to the games (or to watch them if we live out of market), we buy the merchandise, and we schlep to the beer stands because there are no beer men anywhere but in the field boxes.  We sing “Sweet Caroline” and dance to “Shipping Up to Boston” and stay after the games to sing “Dirty Water”, “Tessie” and “Joy to the World”.    When the team loses, we’re still at the park after the game just to take it all in.  Usually sitting on the dugouts taking photos until security runs us off.  We have always believed that we are the Tenth Man on this team so having the Front Office TELL us we are means more than maybe even they know.

The Red Sox finished third this season yet weren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs until the last week of the season.   They endured losing many of their starters and still stayed in the playoff hunt using players from the minor leagues.  They fought hard and made this entire season one of the most fun to watch in years.  It never occurred to me that they needed to thank the fans because, as tough as it was to watch our team suffer some cruel blows, it was never hard to be a Red Sox fan.  I think the fact that they really didn’t have to thank us but did anyway is what makes this most special to me.

* Let me say this:  I don’t think there is a rational person anywhere who really cares if their team gets in on the Wild Card or by winning the division.  Sure everyone WANTS the division, but the Wild Card still gets you in.  I’m sure most Yankees fans are just happy their team is still playing baseball.  But the FACT is that more than one member of the Yankees has voiced the opinion that winning the Wild Card spot isn’t what they wanted to do and wasn’t worth celebrating, so don’t give me crap about saying it’s only the Wild Card.  To many of the Yankees, losing this weekend to the Red Sox and having to go in as the Wild Card team is a big disappointment.  And, yes, that makes me very happy.

For those of you who haven’t seen them yet, this page has the videos of Papi, Clay and Youk thanking us as well as a message from Larry Lucchino, John Henry and Tom Werner.  It also has the video that ended yesterday’s game.  A montage of we the fans with “Tessie” playing over it.  As my friend Alexis said, “This did not make me cry. It made me smile, laugh, and be very thankful I am part of such a passionate, loyal, and INSANE fan base.”  Absolutely, Alexis.  Absolutely.


It’s a little shaky because I took it as we were “running” but here’s my video of the on-field experience!

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