Boston Red Sox tug at fans’ heartstrings



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Jae Holland on Coliseum US Image: Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are an American professional baseball team based in Boston, US. The Red Sox compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League East division. Founded in 1901 as one of the American League’s eight charter franchises, the Red Sox home ballpark has been Fenway Park since 1912.

The 37,731-capacity Fenway Park is a baseball park located in Boston, Massachusetts, near Kenmore Square. Since 1912, it has been the home for the Boston Red Sox, the City’s American League baseball team, and since 1953, its only Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization and the oldest major professional sports league in the world. As of 2022, a total of 30 teams play in Major League Baseball – 15 teams in the National League and 15 in the American League – with 29 in the United States and 1 in Canada.

For Boston Red Sox, the ‘fan is the king’ and fan experience is what matters most for them for they well know the fact that if a fan has a negative experience with the stadium, you have potentially lost them forever. In an exclusive chat with ‘Coliseum’, Jae Holland, Senior Manager, Fan Services and Entertainment, Boston Red Sox, says how they almost try to roll out the red carpet for their fans and provide them an exquisite experience while inside Fenway Park.
 

‘The fan experience’

Stated Jae Holland, “The fan experience means everything for us. We want to retain fans. We want to track new fans. But we indulge in this exercise without alienating our pre-existing fans.”
 

Fenway Sports Group

The Boston Red Sox falls under Fenway Sports Group. This ownership group purchased Red Sox back in 2001.
 

Fundamental commitments:

Boston Red Sox is an organization committed to:

  • Playing October baseball every season;
  • Preserving, protecting and enhancing the historic Fenway Park while offering unique forms of entertainment;
  • Impacting the lives of New Englanders through its community initiatives;
  • Developing and nurturing the next generation of Red Sox fans; and
  • Taking the Fenway Park experience to the highest heights of service and lasting memories for all who visit.

 
As Holland pointed out, “We have tried a lot of what we do around here on our fundamental organizational commitments. We are just committed to fielding a team that is competitive and wins. And this is a commitment that we have made to our fans under the able guidance of Boston Red Sox President Sam Kennedy.”
 

Fenway Park

The Fenway Park is 109 years old. It opened back in April 20th, 1912 – “We want to enhance Fenway Park doing different events and we want to highlight the ballpark itself. It is a crown jewel not just for the City, not just for the region, but people travel from all over the globe to see Fenway Park and we want to make sure that we highlight it in the best way possible and in the most abundance of ways possible.”

The Boston Red Sox wants to impact the lives of every New Englanders (Boston falling in the New England region of United States) irrespective of the fact that whether they are Red Sox supporters or not. Holland stated that the MLB team believed in giving back to its communities and receive feedback on how they are doing – “We literally listen to our fans and our supporters and we take their phone calls, respond to letters and emails and we always try to keep enhancing the ballpark experience.”
 

The Fenway Park experience

Baseball is always evolving – new players, new faces. Holland further pointed out, “Look at the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), they are always capitalizing and generating on how to be able to resonate with the younger audience. That’s what we want to do. In one of our Student’s Night programs, we engage college students and allow them for certain games to come in and purchase tickets for nine dollars. We believe in making tickets affordable for our fan base so that they can come in and experience Fenway Park. The Fenway Park should grow on fans instantly.”

Boston Red Sox wants everyone to feel involved in Fenway Park whether they are here cheering, whether they are vending peanuts, or whether they are doing customer service – “We all are part of the Fenway experience and more importantly, those who are working we have created very pivotal Fenway experience although we can’t control the outcome on the field but we do control everything else that happens within the ballpark in a way to provide great A-plus experience. Fans may be down that we did not win, however, they are going to remember the great experience that they had inside the ballpark. This is something that we pride ourselves on – we ensure that we are providing great service as well as providing an inviting environment for all fans.”
 

The Fan experience: ‘The FEN-WAY’

The Boston Red Sox trains its staff and what is so amazing about ‘The FEN-WAY’ is it also applies for its fans. Whatever they ask of their fellow employees, they make sure that it is something that they can ask for their fans.

  • Engaging fans – He elaborated, “We want our fans to be engaging, we want our fans to cheer, we allow them to be loud, to boo and heckle in a respectable way, heckle any opposing players but again being respectful. We want this to happen across the board. We are very higher on the respect levels amongst our fans, amongst our co-workers.”;
  • Being informed – “Our fans inform us on things they want implemented, things that are trending, we take a look at it and see how we can implement the same. Looking at that from the employee’s side, we want our employees to be informed, be in the loop about everything that is going on within the ballpark, being resourceful, using handbooks that can answer questions so that we do not have to keep passing the fan off to someone else and say that ‘it’s not my problem’.”;
  • Bending over backwards – “We are in the guests business and if we don’t have an answer we don’t just leave it at ‘Let me see how I can help’. We just walk that extra mile to help solve the problem of our fans.”; and
  • ‘B proud’– “That is what we want all at Red Sox Nation to feel. We had arguably the greatest comeback in all sports and that is something to be proud of. We want people to be proud of the fact that ‘We are part of Sox Nation’ and the same thing counts for our employees -‘Yes, I work for the Boston Red Sox and I enjoy being in there’ and it may sound clichéd but we are one family and we do it as such. We want to make sure that everyone feels like they are part of something and that they are able to contribute to something and so being proud of that.”

 
On October 21st, 2004, the Boston Red Sox defeated its peer team the New York Yankees 10-3, winning the American League Championship Series with a stirring comeback and advancing to their first World Series since 1986. The Sox are the first team ever to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. The team has won nine World Series championships, tied for the third-most of any MLB team, and they have played in 13. Their most recent World Series appearance and win was in 2018.

The Red Sox Nation is a term used for fans of the Boston Red Sox.
 

Direct communication

  • While fans can still engage with the Red Sox staff in person, the MLB team encourages all fans to also utilize what is known as ‘Live Chat’. ‘Live Chat’ is a function within the MLB Ballpark app and is used as a source for fans to resolve many of the elements that they typically would go to a Fan Services Booth for;
  • ‘Live Chat’ utilizes a bot for questions about concessions, in park amenities and general FAQs, however, it also provides the option to chat with a Fan Service Representative if one types in ‘Live Chat’ – “This is something which has helped us tremendously whether its expediting seating relocation for those that have purchased tickets, have great seats but now that they are injured, cannot sit there and need to move to another seated area which is more capable or the wheelchair space is better. So, this has helped a lot to streamline a lot of issues and cut down on wait time in assisting our fans which has more pleasantries among our fan base and just helping our customer service go above and beyond. And this is something we take again great pride in. We have a standard here. We hold ourselves in high records and that is something that we do not take lightly when it comes to our fan experience and the fan engagement side of it. We want to make sure that we are going above and beyond and we are not leaving any staff behind and we are throwing the kitchen sink at it.”; and
  • The Boston Red Sox still encourage fans to visit Fenway Park booths as they believe in face-to-face interaction with their fans – “As you all know, over the past year COVID-19 has changed lot of things for us (and for the entire world). And having to adapt to certain things we were able to enhance the fan experience. We still very much love face-to-face engagement with our fans and there is something about the human element that can never be replaced. However, we want to make sure that we are able to service the needs of all fans and whether the fans are comfortable with face-to-face interaction or not.”

 

Go above and beyond

Holland stated that the Boston Red Sox believed in doing their best possible to fulfill fans’ wishes and narrated an interesting incident of a fan couple that lives in Alabama and they were sending out various letters inviting the Boston Red Sox to their wedding and never did they expect in their wildest dreams that the team will respond. However, the Red Sox did respond – “So, initially what we were able to do is send them letters and making them aware that it was so grateful that they wanted us to be a part of their special day though that we couldn’t be there in person, we wanted to let them know that we were in spirit with them. So, we issued a handwritten letter and sent out some goodies to them and the fan couple broke down crying and it was an amazing sight to see – just to see someone so overwhelmed with joy from something that probably it took us less than 15 minutes to do. Even though you are in Alabama which by flight is probably close to three hours, you are still part of us and we still care about you.”

  • We respond to every piece of fan mail;
  • Our Fan Services & Entertainment Department crafts a personalized letter for every fan; and
  • Every fan is provided a ‘Goodie Bag’.

 
Holland added, “Fans have a great experience when they are inside the ballpark. We pride ourselves on that however, we do not limit the fan experience to just being within the ballpark. If you are a supporter, if you are a fan, if you are part of this Red Sox Nation, you are a part of the fan experience. So, every piece of mail that comes in, we make sure we respond to it. We respond with a personalized letter, multitude of times with a handwritten letter and we send additional goodies with them whether it is actual ‘Dirt’ from the field – ‘Fenway Dirt’ – so that no matter wherever they are in the world, they are a part of us in that – the Fenway Park and Red Sox are there with them.”
 

‘First-Timers’ certificates

  • First-time visitors to Fenway Park receive a special first-timer pin, some small giveaway items as well as a personalized ‘First-Timer’ certificate to commemorate their first visit.

 
Holland explained that within the ballpark, they do something as ‘First-Timers’ certificate and a lot of other venues may do this as well. What they were able to do with the ‘First-Timers’ certificates is that they were able to add a QR code and it made it a lot easier in streamlining the process.

He added, “For many of the first-timers that are coming to Fenway Park, we ensure that we are giving them ample amount of time to be respected, and talked to, let them know that we are proud of them for joining us here at the ballpark and at the same time we want to make sure that we are able to service them and service other fans that are also in the ballpark.”
 

The fan experience: The show!

 

Pregame ceremonies

The Boston Red Sox have something called the ‘Pregame ceremonies’ which is an amazing experience – “At the beginning of 2021, we started at nine percent capacity and then we moved a little bit forward towards 15 percent by mid-May and then we were at full capacity around May 29th. However, with fans still excited to go outside and being in the overall setting, it took us a while to even see our full crowd here at Fenway Park and we were able to actually experience full crowd.”

Holland informed that they do these pregame ceremonies for their fans and also for the players and everyone involved – We aim to touch every emotion, we want to bring you on your highs of highs, we want to bring you on your lows of lows, we want to tug on those heartstrings, we want to make you remember moments that you have forgotten about.”
 

Toasting Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Luis Pedroia is an American former professional baseball second baseman who played his entire Major League Baseball (MLB) career for the Boston Red Sox, from 2006 to 2019.

Pedroia is just very beloved worldwide and especially within Boston Red Sox. A World Series Champion, he treated the game with so much respect, he played the game with every ounce of energy that he had as he says, he loves baseball more than anything and added, “I relied on the people that loved me my whole life – my wife, my parents, my three boys and I just want to thank most importantly, the fans all over the world because Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Nation is everywhere.”

Because of his unquestionable talent, devotion and contributions to the success of Boston Red Sox, he was inducted to the Red Sox Hall of Fame Class of 2022 and a pregame ceremony was held at the Fenway Park to toast the baseball great.

On February 1st, 2021, Pedroia announced his retirement from Major League Baseball (MLB) after 14 seasons. On June 25th, 2021, the Red Sox honored Pedroia in a pregame ceremony at Fenway Park, and announced his induction to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2022.
 

Fans raison d’être

Fans are indeed the raison d’être for Boston Red Sox as Holland concluded, “Everything that we ask for ourselves is something that we ask for our fans and vice-versa and that’s what we would like to do here at Boston Red Sox.”

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