As I was checking in to my hotel, a typical Residence Inn, the desk clerk greeted me with the magic words: “You have a view of Fenway Park from your room.” Oh, that’ll be cool, I thought. But I couldn’t imagine just how cool my visit would turn out to be.
Once in my room, I looked out the window, and there it was, the iconic green stadium that is Fenway Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox. It didn’t look all that special from where I was, but that would change.
I was in town to help host some exciting events at Fenway for New Relic customers, in honor of our new partnership with Major League Baseball. Among other things, I was going to interview Christian Villoslada, a vice president from Major League Baseball Advanced Media, whom I had met the day before in New York, and Olawale “Wale” Oladehin, a solutions architect from Amazon Web Services, whom I had only talked to on the phone earlier that day.
Smells like baseball
Since I had some time before our meetings began, I decided to walk around the area of Fenway Park. Even though it was hours before game time, you could already see the area coming to life. Vendors were warming up their grills and cooking sausages with peppers and onions. The smell was already in the air. I have no other way to describe it … the area smelled like baseball.
As I made my way around the park, I discovered the statue that depicts that moment when Ted Williams handed his ball cap to a young fan who was struggling with cancer. I read the inscription, and it brought tears to my eyes. I looked up and saw the tributes to Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, and, of course, Cy Young. Fenway Park has a very long history. So long, in fact, that its opening in 1912 was overshadowed by another big event of the day … the sinking of the Titanic.
After dinner, I started working on my slides for the next day while listening to the game on TV, and watching the park from my hotel room window. I couldn’t see the field, but I could see the scoreboard. I still hadn’t been inside Fenway yet, but I was already feeling the rush of baseball.
Terrific tech tour
The next morning, I headed over to the park, and up to one of the premier luxury suites that companies use to entertain clients during games. I gazed out the big glass front window for my first view of Fenway field. The grounds crew was already out and making sure it looked its finest. Not that it needed much help really, as the outfield grass was already pristine.
I looked out over the right field wall, thinking maybe I’d see it … and there it was: the famous red seat. Boy, it was farther away than I thought. That was one heck of a shot.
What is the red seat, you ask? It’s the seat in section 42, row 37, seat 21 where Ted Williams record-breaking, 502-foot home run ball landed in 1946. This was the longest home run in Fenway’s history, hit by one of the most famous and inspirational players ever.
It was then, when I looked at that seat, when it really sunk in where I was. This was Fenway Park, one of the most iconic ball parks in America, an essential part of baseball history. And I was there.
Of course, I couldn’t miss the Green Monster, either, taking up all of left field and much of center, too. I knew I’d be watching the game that night from the seats on top.
That day we were given a “technology tour” of Fenway Park. We saw the cameras that capture all the action for later analysis. When you watch a game and see a stat such as how fast the ball was thrown from the short stop to the first baseman to make the out, these are the cameras that are used to capture that data and allow for these stats to be calculated.
However, this data is used for more than just entertainment—the team uses it as well to play better baseball. We went to the clubhouse and saw how the players use the data that is being captured during the game to improve their swings against the current pitcher. (We also got to see their batting cage in the clubhouse, and of course we took pictures!)
After the tour, we went back to the suite for a terrific Q&A discussion with Christian and Wale about New Relic and Major League Baseball. Christian shared great stories from the early days of MLBAM and Wale talked about how AWS fit into the story.
Atop the Green Monster
That evening we were joined by a different set of New Relic customers. The morning session had been for the techies, but the evening was for the executives. We had a host from the Red Sox assigned to us, and he did a fantastic job sharing the history of Fenway Park and baseball in Boston. I chatted with him later during the game, and discovered that he is an intern and because of his job with the Red Sox organization, he is the envy of all his friends.
Perhaps the best part of my visit to Fenway was when we were allowed onto the field during batting practice. We were roped off from the players and told we couldn’t shout out to them—they were working, after all—but if they came up to the rope line, we could get autographs. I waited by the Rockies dugout for one particular person: Walt Weiss, the manager of the Colorado Rockies, and an early star for the team back when they were formed in the 1990s. My then-girlfriend and I attended Walt’s first home game, opening day of 1994. After the game I proposed to her, and we’ve been married for 22 years.
I waited … and waited … and right at the last minute before we had to go, he came by and I met him, shook his hand, and got his autograph.
After that it was time to head up to our private box atop the Green Monster, advertised as “The Best Seats in Baseball.” I was skeptical … until I got there. These are fantastic seats with a unique viewpoint. And forget ballpark dogs (though they were available). The VIP dinner served at our seats consisted of a series of delicious small plates, a new one served every couple of innings, with anything we wanted to drink along the way. When I asked one of our Boston customers whether he was having a good time, he replied, “You’ve ruined baseball for me. Every time I come here I sit over there,” and he pointed to the cheap seats. “Now when I come to watch a game, I’ll wonder ‘where are the oysters on the half shell’? I’m spoiled for life!”
A great game, and a great day
And what a game we saw! Xander Bogaerts hit a shot over the top of the Green Monster near where we were sitting. And, for the first time ever, I wasn’t sad that the Rockies lost (it was 10-3), because they lost to a great baseball team that I had grown to respect after spending the day with them (and their fans).
Baseball truly is America’s favorite pastime, and I felt very fortunate to join our New Relic customers for the best day ever at Fenway Park.