Last June (2011) I got a very nice invitation to spend an evening at Fenway Park. The kicker was, it wasn’t for a baseball game it was for a private function sponsored by Chase Card Services and Marriott Hotels. I met some nice people, including Luis Tiant, and got to hang around Fenway in the dark when there was no game being played. A very cool event that I enjoyed and then kind of just put in the back of my mind. That is, until I got an invitation a couple of weeks ago:
With baseball season in full swing, Chase will reward its Marriott Rewards® Premier cardmembers and diehard Red Sox fans with the ultimate dedicated fan experience. We invite you to join on July 5 and will provide exclusive access to:
· Red Sox legend Carlton “Pudge” Fisk
· Behind-the-scenes tour of Fenway Park
· Batting cages where the pros perfect their swing
If you would like to join us for the event, we can offer an onsite interview with the Chase and Marriott executives responsible for creating one-of-a-kind local experiences like these for cardmembers.
With the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card from Chase, cardmembers earn five points for every dollar spent at Marriott properties worldwide toward free hotel stays, great vacations, airline miles and merchandise.
How could I say ‘no’ to this? I couldn’t and I didn’t.
So last Thursday I, again, got to head to Fenway with a friend in tow to essentially mingle with the folks responsible for this event and those who were able to take advantage of this offer. As a bonus, I got to say hey to Carlton Fisk and get a photo taken with him for posterity. All in all not a terrible way to spend the evening.
When we first got there, I was given my media pass (credentials seems too fancy a word in this instance) and led to the EMC Club where I was greeted by Shawn McBride from Ketchum Sports & Entertainment. Immediately we were told we could join the Fenway Tour that was in progress so we caught up with the group and took the tour with the cardmembers. A few interesting things to note about our Fenway tour:
* No more mention of “No, No, Nanette”! It’s about freaking time, honestly, that they stopped using that story (especially since it’s wrong). They still talk of how the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth but no mention of Harry Frazee making a horrible decision just for the sake of a bad Broadway show. That was refreshing.
* On the other hand, they now tell the story of why “Sweet Caroline” is played at Fenway and the get it wrong, most egregiously by saying playing it for every game began in 2004. (“Tessie” began in 2004, “Sweet Caroline” began in 2002)
Amy Tobey knows the answer to the ”Sweet Caroline” question.
Tobey began working for the Red Sox through her job at BCN Productions, a film and video communications company, having interned for the Boston Bruins.
Her assignment was to decide what music would be played at the park from 1998 to 2004.
She had noticed ”Sweet Caroline” was used at other sporting events, and she decided to send the sweetness over the Fenway speakers.
The song was picked up by fans, and the more it caught on, the more superstitious Tobey became about playing it.
Tobey would play the song somewhere between the seventh and ninth innings if the team was ahead, depending on whether she felt the team was going to win.
She didn’t go by any specific margin of runs, but rather who the opponent was, and her gut instincts.
”I actually considered it like a good luck charm,” Tobey says. ”Even if they were just one run [ahead], I might still do it. It was just a feel.”
In 2002, when new management took over at the park, they requested that Tobey play the song during the eighth inning of every game.
”They liked it and they just loved the crowd reaction with it and stuff,” she says.
Though Tobey says she was nervous the change would be bad luck for the team, its appeal to fans ultimately ruled.
But I digress.
* They now have a wall, in a section you can only see if you’re in the expensive ticket section where they don’t allow the unwashed masses, displaying pictures from various concerts at Fenway Park. This would be much cooler than it is had they 1) put it where MORE fans could see it, and 2) used more photos that made it obvious the concert was at Fenway. There’s a great shot taken from behind Bruce Springsteen where you’re looking at the back of him and the background is the Green Monster. But there are more photos of bands or singers where the background is just the backdrop from the stage and the picture looks like it could have been taken anywhere. Still, I love the idea.
* Because of the 100th Anniversary they’ve slapped plaques up all over the park to explain various points of interest. This I enjoyed even if it means it takes that much longer to get around the park because I want to read everything.
* There is a tribute to Carl Beane across from the press box that is a cartoon drawing of him (Kelly pointed out it looked like Larry Johnson did it). I didn’t take a photo of it because, honestly, I was struck with sadness when I saw it and didn’t think to take one.
After the tour we headed back to the EMC Club for dinner. Once again, along with other treats, we got pieces of Fenway Franks as an an hors d’oeuvre (this amuses me to no end). We were greeted by Angus from Chase who remembered us from last year and told us to sit wherever we liked so we chose the table the farthest away so’s not to get in the way of the cardmembers. It worked out wonderfully as we ended up sitting with six other people who were eager and excited to talk about Fenway and baseball and the Red Sox. (Two of those people turned out to be Yankees fans who purposely didn’t wear Yankees gear that evening. They ended up being friendly folks who we had fun dining with and discussing the game.)
I learned during the tour from Chase’s First VP of Public Affairs, Steve O’Halloran, that this is only the second time they’ve had this event in Boston. They do other events for cardmembers all around the country but not usually built around baseball or a park or stadium. The response last year was so great that they decided to do it again this year and, again, got an amazing response from their members. Watching everyone interact it was obvious they were there for the unique experience (which included Green Monster seats to the Friday Red Sox/Yankees game) and something as fantastic to most Red Sox fans as getting to meet Carlton Fisk was really just the cherry on their sundaes.
As non-cardmembers there considered as media, we were still treated wonderfully. Along with the tour, we were invited to go into the batting cages (which we both declined) and even though we assumed a meet with Pudge wasn’t going to be part of the deal we were pleasantly surprised when we were asked if we’d like to meet him and get a photo taken. He was amazingly warm to everyone and there was a brief question and answer period before dinner where he told wonderfully animated stories. (The best being about his interaction with Deion Sanders.)
Dinner was a mix of meat and fish so I quickly exited during it to the stands which meant I ended up sitting in the stands at Fenway around 9 o’clock at night with almost no lights on and no one else around me. There are times when I think Fenway Park means a little more to me than the Red Sox do and Thursday night was one of those times. I was happy and at peace and a little bit giddy as well.
Thanks to Ketchum Sports & Entertainment, Chase Card Services and Marriott Hotels for allowing me to enjoy an evening at Fenway along with their cardmembers. It was a lot of fun and I hope they do it again next year.