A Day at Fenway – 2012

By Scott Green

Fenway ParkWhen I decided to start Play at the Plate Baseball in 2004, it was for the sole purpose of running one or two small baseball events a year. Add some income maybe, play some ball with good people in a cool park or training complex in Florida. I wasn’t thinking at that time of making baseball my life’s work. That dream disappeared in high school when it was very apparent that I couldn’t hit a curve ball from a left hander. But baseball was and still is one of the driving forces in my life.

In 2007 I decided to have my mid life crisis and ditch the landscaping business and make PATP my sole job. It’s been a tough hoe to pull, but I am surrounded by baseball at various levels every day of my life, and I wouldn’t go back to laying bricks or planting trees as full time work for anything. I would expand from the one or two events a year and branch out and find more interesting places to play. Places like, New Orleans, London Ontario, Canada and San Antonio, Texas.

Fenway ParkThen in 2009 we decided to send out an email to all 30 Major League Clubs asking and telling them what we needed to have an event at their park. To our utter disbelief, the Pittsburgh Pirates reached out to us that day, and 4 days later my assistant Liz Groulx and I were sitting at a conference table at PNC Park hammering out a deal. We put it out for sale the next day and we were shocked at the response. It sold out in 3 days. Since then we have played 2 more times at PNC, 3 times at Cleveland, once at Chase Field and then after nearly 2 years of negotiating and haggling we landed iconic Wrigley Field for a one day event. That sold out in a day. We never imagined anything would top that day. How wrong we were…

_MG_2315_smAfter returning from Wrigley in August of 2010, I was suddenly very surprised to see “BOSTON RED SOX” on my telephone as I answered a call on a hot Saturday afternoon. Apparently my rep from the Cubs worked as an intern for the Sox and relayed the news of our event and how well it ran to his former boss Tim Zue, an executive with the Red Sox. This was too good to be true. Tim knew how much we spent for Wrigley and we talked a while and agreed to meet the following week. He left me 4 tickets to a Red Sox/Rays game and I along with my sister and brother in law, sat in the very uncomfortable seats in the upper grandstand at Fenway the night before our meeting. It was so uncomfortable in fact we left after 4 innings…..people are just bigger today than they were back in the 40’s.

As I entered the Red Sox offices on Yawkey Way the next morning I anticipated a quick meeting, get a date, seal the deal. This will sell out in hours. They did their homework already, they knew the number, who they were dealing with etc. I also had as a resume builder with the event I ran for MLB at the All Star game just that summer. So things were looking good.

_MG_1812_smI was right about one thing….it was a short meeting. After taking the ferry the day before from Long Island, going to the game with Beth and Paul and sleeping in a bed at their house which was too short, the conversation started with “We know what you paid for Wrigley….but that won’t cut it here. We need double just to get some eyes opened upstairs. You have to remember we are famous for never allowing anyone but our guests on the field, so this would be a first. Also we have Warner Brothers paying us 250K next week for an afternoons worth of movie shooting….” I looked at Tim and said “Tim, we ain’t MGM, and thanks for wasting my time”. So I took the ride down to New London and headed home on the ferry with no chance of a deal. They would discuss it on their way to Europe while they were doing some soccer deal in England (Turned out they bought Liverpool Football Club) but I knew Fenway would never happen………….

_MG_2772_smTwo years had passed, and we added 2 more All Star Game’s to our resume, and kept plodding along. The 2012 season was coming to a close and for whatever reason, maybe just stubbornness or wanting the rejection I reached out again to Tim Zue. It was late August, and the Sox were having a tough year. It didn’t look like they would be playing any baseball this October. So I shot an arrow in the air and told Tim that we of course would still love to bring our clients to Fenway and perhaps since it doesn’t look like the playoffs are in the cards for you guys this year (pretty ballsy huh?) why not rent the field to us for a certain amount for 6 hours after the season ends and see if it is something that may interest you. Talk about a shock…..he responded in 3 minutes. Of course the opening offer was too low, I knew it would be…but he was interested. By the end of the afternoon we were talking on the phone and it looked to me like this was something the Sox have thought about doing, and why not start doing it with someone who has a proven track record. When he called back and said I think the people upstairs are interested and we don’t want to turn away this kind of business……….I knew we were in. Negotiations went on for a week or so, but no deal breaker was ever in place.

Scott GreenAs I drove the Jeep onto the Cross Sound Ferry for the trip up to Boston nearly 2 years to the date, I knew I was coming home with a signed contract, a date and a bunch of ready at the computer keys customers dying to register to go to Fenway. I had a walk through with several front office people and had Fenway to myself on a beautiful August morning. As the tour ended upstairs in the EMC Club behind home plate I signed the contract that allowed PATP to be the first company in the 100 year history of Fenway Park to be allowed to bring an outside group there and play ball on those hallowed scared grounds. I’d pulled it off….well at least getting the contract. Now it’s time to put the event together, an event that will happen one week after a large event in New Orleans. But we were up for the challenge, and the ensuing stress that came with it.

Fenway ParkI asked Liz to comprise a list of 30 names of who she thought were our best customers. I was to do the same. Later that day we compared the list and agreed that any name appearing on both lists would be given the chance to pre register for Fenway. We knew it would sell out, and we didn’t want the people who had supported us for so long getting shut out. So we sent the list of about 28 names an invitation telling them that the event was a go and they had 3 days (Labor Day Weekend) to pre register before we contacted the rest of our client base. In an agreement with the Sox, this was not going out for public sale. It had to be kept in house, which is how we wanted it also. We didn’t want a bunch of yahoo strangers running amuck all over the field. We needed our little baseball family there. Especially at Fenway.

Fenway ParkSo that hot steamy Labor Day Weekend we watched the registration list grow as the weekend came to a close. We put out an email announcing the sale to our client base that would begin on the Tuesday after Labor Day at 6PM New York time for the remaining spots. By 7:30 it was sold out. I now had 6 weeks to put together 3 events. We added a hastily called event in Cooperstown to add to the stress factor. We ended up getting 2 full teams and had a good time there. Weather was great and for a suddenly added event to the schedule we had a good time.

Fenway ParkThree weeks later we were in my favorite city in America, New Orleans. We were holding our 2nd Annual Champions League Series. Not too stressful except for the last minute scheduling requests, non payment of some of the players, and a very stressful last day at Zephyr Field when tempers got a little hot between myself and some players. Don’t worry Fenway is this coming Saturday, and for the one millionth time I checked the long range weather forecast…still clear and dry.

As I returned home on a very early flight from New Orleans that Monday morning to JFK, I literally had 3 days to tie up all the loose ends needed by the weekend. Final catering menus, t shirt sizes and design, one last mass email to the players praying for their cooperation and promptness and oh yeah the Cardinals, my favorite team is playing every day against the Nationals in NLDS and they’re stressing me out too. But it all came to another level when I got home…..

_MG_2827_smI now sat bewildered as my computer which had all the info I needed to maintain my business, crashed….and I mean crashed….no survivors kind of crash……I am now putting the events final pieces together with an ipad. I’m screaming at Liz on the phone and she’s getting all pissed off at me, Alison our design and T Shirt person and I are not on the same page, and I am not getting the word documents to the Red Sox for the line ups they need so they can put the players names on the scoreboard. In addition one of our managers of the Fenway teams, a good friend I may add, has not got or has not read any of the previous emails I sent him concerning the event the past 2 weeks. Hey welcome home………..did I mention the Jeep needs the power steering fixed before I drive it to Boston this Friday……ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!

Fenway ParkSomehow with Liz’s help and a couple of large Dewar’s and waters, I comprised a list every day with the things that needed to get done. It took more time certainly, but it got done. All the printing, the rosters, the rules everything had to be out sourced since I couldn’t get the computer on. I told the Sox we were having computer trouble and they were very understanding, but still needed the data tomorrow. And just to pile on some more smelly stuff, I have one of the players in the hospital hoping to be released the day before the event and another one who didn’t show up to New Orleans whose friends are telling me he isn’t likely coming to Boston either…..(and he hadn’t paid his fee yet). Even Fenway is a tough sale to someone with 48 hours before the event, so it looks like I am about to lose 1300 bucks plus a good friend may not make it because he is in the hospital with a cyst on his shoulder. Thank God not the one he pitches with.

Well Alison shows up at the house Friday morning, moments before the appointed departure time with the T Shirts and a sign with the Fenway scoreboard on it that I want the players to sign and use for the team pictures. She’s done her usual last minute great job. She’s actually agreed to drive up with our good friend Big Mike who helps at many events, my son Ian who I of course love more than life, but can’t take anything seriously, especially his father’s manic mood and myself as we now begin the trip to Boston, for what at this point in time I am hoping will be over in a blink of the eye, so I can decompress and feel normal again. As Ian drives onto the ferry for the hour and 20 minute ride, my stomach is doing flips. Even after running close to 40 or so events over the years, you have to make sure you just don’t forget anything. I mean anything…..luckily other than forgetting the baseballs once for an event in New Orleans (Who needs those?) our track record is pretty good.

Team_02_15_smBig Mike isn’t a big fan of the water, so we’re trying to get him sea sick before he even gets on the boat, with talk of tremendous rough seas and mass vomiting by all the passengers. Then I realize this talk ain’t doin my stomach much good either…but we get through the calm seas, have a beer on board and just hope for the best. We get off the ferry in New London and get ready for the 2 hour drive to Boston. Still no word from the sickly player or the possible no show….

We hit some traffic on the way to our hotel just north of Boston in Woburn Mass. We now have just over an hour to turn back to Boston and meet the Red Sox clubbie John Coyne to set up the clubhouse for the players. We have called for an early arrival get together at the Cask and Flagon behind the Green Monster for around 8 PM, plus the Cards are playing the Nats in the deciding game 5 that night.

Fenway ParkAs we drove down to Fenway on this chilly, misty evening, we all hoped that our clubhouse guy would be into what we are doing and not there just be there because he has to be. That happened in Phoenix..real dead weight guy..kind of a dick really. As I walked into Gate D off Yawkey way to the security booth and asked for John it all just struck me then. We were at Fenway, after the 50 millionth trip to weather.com for the forecast which was still good, after all the planning, the work, the stress and the dream of playing here, we were going to pull this off. And in a big way….Johnny came out and asked if I were Greenie and said you guys are the first to ever do this and I’m proud to be part of it and let’s have a great day tomorrow……WOW…..you want to talk about a relief, let’s go Johnny lead the way.

Team_03_20_smDuring my walk through the month before; I, who has never been afraid to ask for anything, told the reps that in all the MLB parks we’ve played in I always get the manager’s office to set up shop and I need the trainers room for the umps and Jeff our photographer. Well that wasn’t happening as far as the upstairs people were concerned. I mentioned it to Johnny and he just looked at me as to say “Why the hell not” here follow me…here’s the mangers office and that door over there is the trainer’s room…whatevahhh ya need let me know.” By the way Scott, all that beer and wine in the managers refrigerator has to be drank by you guys or we’re gonna throw it out”. No problem there buddy….. Johnny left the room and I went into my wallet and quickly got out two Franklins. I went to the clubhouse and shook Johnny’s hand and slipped him the bills. He flat out refused to take the cash, but I insisted on it. I have always made sure the clubbies are taken care of. They have direct contact with my clients, and I need to know we are all on the same plane.

Fenway ParkJohnny helped us set up the house with the name plates and matching t shirts in all the lockers. Chris Taylor a real close friend who worked with us for years in New Orleans but has since left and lives in Boston came down to help us with the event and pitched in. In a matter of about 45 minutes we were done.

I asked John if we could store the equipment in the dugouts now, and he said it would be better if we just waited until the morning, but if you’d like to take a peek at the field here’s the door that leads to the runway to the third base dugout. This was another non happening event during the walk through….and this was where all the ghosts, the memories and the images that you keep in your mind begin to happen.

John opened the door that lead down some steep stairs into a white painted tunnel with rubber matting on the floors, we strode down the long walkway and saw equally steep steps leading into the dugout and a glimmer of night sky beyond the right field roof. We climbed the steps and stood in the 3rd base dugout as night began to fall in Boston and we were alone in a place any baseball fan would have died to be in…we had Fenway Park to our selves. I looked at Ian and I got a little choked up. It was a special moment. Pretty cool was said about a dozen times. Even Johnny got into it.

Team_04_16_smWe headed back down the tunnel towards the clubhouse, and it hit me, Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Jeter and my 1967 Cardinals, baseball’s greatest players walked here on their way back up to the inner sanctum to ponder their wins, their losses, to shower to feel secure in the only room they as players were allowed in. It felt great to be there but also a little embarrassing to know in a way I didn’t belong there. But dammit I was there now and as we congregated in my office for a beer we realized we were in for one hell of a special day tomorrow. We left Johnny and headed over to the Cask to hob knob with some of our clients, grab a bite and watch the Cards hopefully beat the Nats and move on to the next round.

As I greeted and introduced Ian and the others to our clients and good friends, I had indeed felt a huge sense of relief. It was done now, I couldn’t do anymore to make this work. We planned, made the rosters, put in rules and time tables to keep us on the field as much as possible and I knew then that I was done. _MG_2842_smJust organize a little tomorrow, take a chill pill and enjoy the day also. I rarely get to enjoy our events. I never play in Palm Beach and just the week before played in the heat for the first time in years in New Orleans. It drained me a little along with everything else going on. But as I ordered a crappy Reuben sandwich (don’t ever order one outside of New York) and sat with good friend Paul Laubenstein and my group, I felt a sense of satisfaction that I had endured and prepared and barring some unforeseen incident we were ready to treat our clients and friends to a day they would never forget.

As we finished our beers and dinner, the Cards were getting smoked by the Nationals 5 or 6 nothing before we left. So I slinked out of the Cask and Flagon on a cool Boston evening in my bright Red Cardinals jacket and we headed back to Woburn. We planned on meeting in the lobby at 6:20 or so. Johnny said he’d be there early, so show up whenever you wanted.

Fenway ParkI headed to bed, and through one eye was watching the Cards season come to an end. I feel asleep and awoke around the 8th inning with the Cards down 2 runs. I decided for whatever reason to just listen to the game and not watch it. With 2 out in the ninth and Beltran on third they started rallying with a couple walks and key hits….after Freese walked I needed to watch and then a couple clutch hits and then Motte retires them in the ninth and you’ve got one of baseball’s biggest comebacks ever in a deciding game. And Fenway Park tomorrow…..Is life great or what?

I amazingly fell into a deep sleep and woke up to my almost powerless iPhone alarm. I dressed quickly, looked outside for the final weather check to see no rain and headed to the lobby to meet Ian and Big Mike. I was actually pretty calm all things considered as we headed down to Boston on this frosty morning. There was no traffic that early on Rte. 93 and we arrived at the park around 6:50, pahhked the cahh on Yawkey Way and headed in to find a group of security people working the event. They were enthusiastic and thought what we were doing was aewsome and looked forward to dealing with us this cold Saturday morning. They were polite, funny and excited to be part of this. The tables were set up for waiver signing, and last minute payers of the cocktail party and a few event fees.

Fenway ParkI went into the clubhouse to find Johnny, got some notes together and headed back out to street outside gate D to greet the players. Happily both of the possible no shows were there and a little more stress left the body and mind. (I was wearing my Cardinals jacket proudly by the way). I met new customers saw many familiar faces and bid them all a good morning, made some quick announcements and unlike our Wrigley event when we were ready to go at 7:30, but the Cubs were not going to open the gates until exactly 8….the Sox in their brilliance let us in early which really freed up valuable time early which made the whole day fall into place.

I waited outside the clubhouse and directed players inside and was just amazed at the looks on their faces as they walked into this empty cathedral of baseball. A few anxious guys had to be corralled into hanging in the clubhouse and were reprimanded softly. As it turned out this would be the only time I would have to scold anyone…..remarkable really when you are dealing with 60 middle aged kids.

Fenway ParkI can’t stress how much our players obeyed the rules and directions we gave them. Right outside the clubhouse door are steps that lead into the grandstand. At 8:40 AM on this cool cloudless Saturday morning our players began to grasp what they were in for when they all reported next to the third base dugout for final announcements from me and Benjamin who runs the Red Sox Fantasy camp. The iphones and cameras were clicking away at warp speed as they garnered their first real look at baseball’s greatest park. The park they owned for the day.

We got through the rules and directed the first two teams onto the field to warm up and be ready n 15 minutes for the first pitch. All I could here was the murmuring of how cool this was…players had grins ear to ear. And then one of the memories I won’t forget took place…..our logo was now put up on every scoreboard and electronic screen in the park. The ones in center, right and left field had our sliding player logo designed and drawn by my daughter Astrid.Fenway Park I by the grace of God was standing next to Ian…and we gazed out to see all this happen. I broke down and cried as it finally hit me the true reality of it all…Play at the Plate was at Fenway Park and nobody else, no other competitor, colleague, adult league group, nobody had achieved this. I look back now on this career choice of mine and although we’ll never be the biggest game in town, no one and I mean no one in this market strives to give their clients the best baseball experience they can at any level and venue. And the reason is simple…I am a baseball player. I have always tried to give our clients what I would want at an event. That’s how this all started….and now my logo was on the scoreboard at Fenway…..if doesn’t want to make you cry nothing will.

The games got underway and the players were shocked to see their names on the center field scoreboard along with their hometowns. I had given each team a name based on some Red Sox lore….The Splendid Splinters, The Bloody Sox, The Impossible Dreamers and of course my team The Green Monsters.

Fenway ParkGood friend Mike Boyle took over the microphone and introduced the players. It took a load off me as I could watch and monitor everything that was happening on the field. But in all honesty, once the games begin at any event, you’re pretty much done and the baseball will take care of itself. The caliber of play was good. Okay it wasn’t the week before in New Orleans good with full teams playing competitive baseball, but for the most part it was solid. A couple of pitchers through the day just had to do their Roger Clemens impersonation and strike ever body out. I had to tell the managers we didn’t want that…we needed strikes that could be hit so we all can play kind of pitching…..fielders need to field the balls.

As the first game was being played the remaining players and wives took their tour of Fenway. I headed into the manager’s office and put on my new Red Sox BP jersey with number 26 on it… a Wade Boggs model. I had the real stirrups too and for a fat old fart looked pretty good as I reappeared on the field.

The guests were a little chilly as the sun does not hit the area behind home plate where they were all requested to sit. Down right cold I think you call it, but still smiling and clicking away on cameras and pointing the cam corders as their loved ones hit, fielded and ran the bases….

Ian and I were sharing one spot on the Green Monsters roster and as our game drew closer, I could sense the excitement. We warmed up together in right field and took in another view of this splendid sun drenched stadium. After warming up we decided to walk the warning track all the way to the third base dugout. The view from every part of the field was fabulous. Then we found ourselves next to the scoreboard on the Green Monster and it was just chilling. I know this sounds stupid, but it was. We got back to the dugout and our game began.

Fenway ParkI was the manager of the team and had everything set up as far as line ups, defensive replacements etc. as did the other managers, who by the way were handpicked for the sometimes thankless job. Paul Laubenstein, Dave Montgomery and Tony Hatch did their usual great jobs in making sure our clients played enough and enjoyed themselves. We have not had one complaint about the amount playing time any one player received. They all get what the deal is, and understand why we are at these type venues.

I let Ian have the first at bat in his 1982 Cardinals uniform with the blue pants and he singled up the middle. He was wearing a helmet cam…can’t wait to see the real life version of his misjudged fly ball in center field. Just to be able to share this with my son was immeasurable. (Ian by the way that was born in the same hospital as Carl Yastrzemski) As I strode to the plate for my first at bat, I had only one thing in mind, Ted Williams…I kept thinking he’d stood here thousands of times, and here I was popping out to third….it didn’t matter, I stood where Teddy Ballgame stood…..enough said.

Fenway ParkAs I took my place in left field for my first inning in the field I had a long warm up catch with Ian who was still in center field. As we tossed the ball 140 feet in this long catch that was not unlike the ones we had in the road in front of the house, we both almost simultaneously looked at each other with raised arms as to say “Is this wild or what” here we were having a catch in front of the Green Monster. I won’t forget that moment for the rest of my life.

The rest of day took shape, lunch was a hot dog in a club suite, and some players between their games congregated in the clubhouse throughout the day sitting on one of the couches and watching college football. Johnny was in there taking care of them. Everyone was happy. I basically took the afternoon off from playing and managed the team to make sure the customers were happy. Everyone signed the scoreboard sign Alison made, and tipped Johnny a couple bucks for the service and for letting them into his clubhouse. All that was left was a day ending cocktail party upstairs behind home plate.

Fenway ParkAs the last game ended, and the equipment was gathered up, I showered in the manager’s office, cracked open another beer, entertained some clients, some of who were not staying for the party and I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride for what everyone had just produced. Not just me, but the Red Sox too. They wanted us there and that never wavered from the beginning of the process, and it showed in how they treated us. You’d figure a team of such prominence and with the history they have, they would be a little snooty. They never were once.

Before I headed upstairs for the cocktail party, Johnny let me know that picking up the equipment on our way out of town tomorrow was no problem, just meet him around 11 AM. As I arrived in the EMC Club the last of the vivid images would take fold. It was the field being illuminated by the light of our logos on all the scoreboards and side bars. It was awesome…..The party was great, everyone was having a super time. I had a tough time dealing with all the congratulations and well wishes. Every player made a point in speaking to me personally. It meant a lot to me.

The party was coming to a close and Paul Laubenstein was the last person to say good night. He simply said “way to go big fellah, you pulled it off”…..We headed back to Woburn and had a night cap at the hotel bar. I was asleep pretty early and slept soundly for 11 hours. We headed into Fenway the next morning and Johnny met us and insisted we drive Ian’s truck to the clubhouse door. So now we’re driving in the park…he then tells us that if we wanted to go shopping at the team store across the street, he gets a discount. How much John?, 10%. Nope 50%…..let’s go shopping. He leaves us at the store and wishes us all a safe trip home. I had made another good friend in baseball, and told John when the NHL get’s it’s act together to come on down to NY for a Rangers/Bruins game. He of course said I should come up to Boston for one also. I look forward to it. The truck is still under the stands across the street as we drop some cash on every 100 year Fenway item possible and head back to get the truck amidst a steady rain. It’s over…..we did it and they loved it.

Fenway ParkWhen I got into the back seat there was a 2 x 2 box sealed with Greenie written on it. Johnny left it for me. It was filled with authentic player gear, hats, sweatshirts and a real travel bag. What a class act. We didn’t talk much on the way home or the ferry ride. Both Mike and Ian knew how important this was to me and my business. We were just soaking it in. 2 days later I received an email from Kate Page the Red Sox special events director who had spent the entire day on the field with us, thanking us for being so easy to work with and what a pleasure our group was. As if anything could top what I’ve just written – the Red Sox would like to have us back next year.

I shot an arrow in the air…..and I hit a bulls eye………….Greenie