A Day of Firsts at Futures at Fenway

The Red Sox have less of a press box and more of a "press arena."

I arrived at Fenway Park Sunday morning right on time for media check-in for the minor league double header “Futures at Fenway.” I was promptly directed to the “Absolut Club,” an air-conditioned room I never even knew existed. I was given my Red Sox media pass, which instantly became my favorite, and took the elevator to the fifth floor (Fenway has five floors?) press box.

I’ve been in two minor league press boxes already (Pawtucket, R.I., and Manchester, N.H.), but neither prepared me for the sheer magnitude of the Fenway press area.

A long hallway led me past framed and glossy images of famous Red Sox moments. A massive press dining hall (serving pretty decent mac & cheese, chicken fingers, salad and a DIY sundae bar) appeared to my left. TV and radio broadcast booths looked menacingly closed-off on my right. I briefly thought I was in the wrong place, but an overhead sign reading “working press” (which I’m proud to say I was Saturday) cleared that up.

And then it appeared: the booth itself. Not really a booth: “Booth” conjures up images of confined spaces and journalists transforming into Kryptonians.

This was more like a “press arena:” Three long tiers of surprisingly comfortable business chairs. Giant windows overlooking the field. Dozens of men (and a few women) huddling over their laptops or comparing notes.

I dropped off my bag and went down on to the field (another first) to start interviews. With me was esteemed WEEI Red Sox reporter Alex Speier. I was blown away at the breadth of his knowledge of the Red Sox organization. We met a scout I’d never heard of that works primarily in the Gulf Coast and Dominican Summer Leagues. Not only did Speier know this guy by name, he knew this guy had a bunch of kids, all boys.

Speier then began an on-the-spot interview with this guy on the status of some very low-level prospects in the Red Sox system, and Speier knew enough to not look foolish. He later told me that it’s taken years, but he knows everyone in the Red Sox organization. I believe him.

What I learned in my first two minor league trips helped greatly. There was a line of reporters wanting to interview Double-A outfielder Alex Hassan. Instead of waiting around with nothing to do (as I did in Pawtucket), I took the opportunity to interview Sea Dog pitching coach Bob Kipper, who gave by far the most interesting interview of the day (minus the usher that started talking about the strip club where he also worked).

Once I completed my Double-A interviews (including tag-teaming the Hassan interview with a NESN intern, another new but valuable experience), I went back to the press box. Remembering my laptop this time (unlike in Manchester), I used the time before the start of Triple-A player availability to write the Hassan story. By the time the Players’ Club opened to the press for Pawtucket interviews, the Hassan story was virtually done.

My interviews with the PawSox also went more efficiently this time. When pitcher Alex Wilson wasn’t available, I talked to pitching coach Rich Sauveur. When former major leaguer Junichi Tazawa was late, I interviewed catcher Luis Exposito, who’d worked with Wilson at the Double- and Triple-A level.

As I waited for Tazawa’s interpreter to get free, I watched Hassan and the Double-A game on CC TV. The number of PawSox who cheered when Hassan homered in the eighth to tie the game 2-2 surprised me. I’d never realized the camaraderie minor leaguers must feel for each other because of how much they all move within the farm system. To see them cheer for Hassan despite having moved up in the world was kind of sweet.

Hassan’s homer capped a three-hit game, and I realized now I needed a post-game quote from him (not so daunting since the rest of the story was already written). Thankfully, the game went to extra innings, so I had enough time to complete my interpreter-aided interview with Tazawa (yet another thing I’d never done before) and get down to the field. When the game finally ended (after a colorful conversation with the above-mentioned usher), I was allowed back on to the field. Thousands of people in the seats, but I got to go out on the field and interview players.

I was on my feet for nearly 8 hours, I came home dehydrated and exhausted, but once again I left thinking, “I have a pretty cool job.”