Family fun at Fenway

My father, who died at the end of 2010, was a lifelong Red Sox fan. Summer evenings he’d stand in his chef’s whites at the stove in his restaurant, a bandana tied around his forehead to catch sweat, and an earpiece in one ear. He’d alternately grimace or smile while he sautéed salmon and you could tell from his face that the game was as vivid in his imagination as if he were sitting in one of Fenway’s green wooden seats.

Tommy inherited my father’s name, his long legs, and his passion for baseball, and although the Phillies rule the airways at our house, when we visited Boston a trip to Fenway seemed an appropriate homage. I wanted to get tickets for a game, but balked at the exorbitant price tag: Before buying any food or drink, I would have had to drop a cool $400 for nosebleed seats. How different from my childhood, when anyone could get tickets; I remember long, and to me excruciatingly boring, hours at Fenway – hours wasted on a child with no appreciation for the sport’s poetry or the history of the stadium. Hot hours spent counting empty seats. But now those seats are full. In fact every single game has sold out since 2003.

Since seeing a game wasn’t feasible, I was happy to learn that anyone can tour Fenway. In fact, I’d call this a must-see for any baseball fan with an interest in the game’s history, since the park is the oldest one in the league that’s still in use. It’s also one of the smallest stadiums still in use, making it an accessible and intimate place to learn about the Red Sox and indeed about Boston itself.

Tours start in the Team Store - Yankees fans beware!

Click on photos to see full-sized versions with captions

Tour start at the Team Store on Yawkey Way across from the stadium. The guide quickly susses out what teams visitors root for (in our case it was obvious; Tommy was clad, per usual, in his full Phillies regalia). However, unless you’re a Yankees fan, you’re fairly safe from abuse. But if the Yankees are your favorite team, be prepared for repeated and (relatively) good-nature ribbing throughout the tour.

In the Fenway Grandstand

We started in the wooden Grandstand seats I remembered so well from my own childhood. You’re there for a while because a professional photographer captures each group as they enter; the photos are sold as souvenirs at the end of the tour. Here we started to learn the history of the team and the park, how it was named for the neighborhood in which it was built, how when it opened in 1912 the left- and right-field bleachers weren’t yet complete, how a fire that destroyed those wooden left-field bleachers in 1926 led ultimately to the extension of the Grandstand where we were sitting as well as the concrete wall, how the scoreboard – still changed by hand from behind the wall – was installed in 1934. We learned about this shrine’s Holy Trinity of Ruth, Robinson, and Williams. (Although perhaps a comparison to Judas is more apt when mentioning Babe Ruth.)

The Green Monster seen from the Grandstand

At the top of the Green Monster

Other tour highlights include a visit to the top of that concrete wall, which since 1947 has been painted to match the rest of the stadium and is now famously called the Green Monster. We perched in the seats that in recent years were placed on the top of this most famous cliff in baseball, the bane of so many fielders. Everything in Fenway seems to have a name, a story, a legend, a myth – even the foul poles. The one atop the Green Monster is named for Carlton Fisk, whose 1975 World Series home run forced a seventh game against the Reds (which the Sox famously, painfully, lost).

The Lone Red Seat in the Fenway bleachers

The Lone Red seat in the right field bleachers is visible from various points in the tour. It marks the spot where in 1946 Ted Williams hit the longest home run ever recorded at Fenway. From the opposite side of the field it seems impossibly far, and one can only imagine how it felt to be the man sitting in that seat, hit on the head with what surely was the most famous ball ever struck, and not even getting to go home with it.

The Citgo Sign from Fenway Park

We ended the tour watching the Mariners warm up before that evening’s game. The players pitched and batted and stretched, the air shimmered with heat, the wooden seats sat expectant and empty, the famous Citgo sign overlooked all. Closing my eyes to the satisfying ring of balls connecting with bats I could almost hear the cadence of the announcers, weaving a summer story that my father never tired of.

Travel-with-kids tips

  • Tour tickets are sold in the Red Sox ticket office on a first-come, first-serve basis. The tours do sell out in the summer, so arrive well in advance of the tour you’d like to take (tour times vary; check the website to find one that fits your schedule). Fenway is one of the attractions included in the Go Select Pass from Smart Destinations (it’s also included in their Go Boston Card). Even if you purchase a pass in advance like we did, you’ll have to pick up tickets and may find that the tour you’re interested in is sold out.
  • Tours run year round, but winter hours are more limited. Bear in mind that you’ll be outside for the bulk of the tour and dress accordingly. It was extremely hot on the day we visited; the tour guide did the best he could to keep us shaded, but there were times when we were standing in the sun. It’s a good idea to bring a bottle of water if the day is warm. Tours last about an hour and there’s lots of time for photos.
  • Fenway is easily accessible from downtown Boston on public transportation. Using the T, take the B, C, or D Green Train to the Kenmore stop; you’ll find signs directing you to the stadium in the station and on the street. Numerous MBTA busses stop near the stadium as well.
  • 2012 marks Fenway’s 100th anniversary and the Red Sox have set up a commemorative website where you can check for special events and learn more about the history of the park.

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  1. says

    Getting to Fenway is at the absolute top of our “must do” list this summer. We’re hoping to get some tickets through some friends of ours, but if we can’t, this sounds like a fantastic second option. Thanks for sharing!

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