Her job: touching base with the fans
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Charles Steinberg, who is the team's public relations guru, , said Barons is more than simply a person who does a good job going after foul balls. She is another link in an ever-increasing network of person-to-person public relations that the team has put in place since it was bought three years ago.
Standing on the field near the first-base line a few minutes before a game last week against the Angels, Steinberg explained that one of the team's public relations strategies is to touch as many people during a trip to the park as possible.
Traditionally, the only Red Sox employees a fan comes in contact with during the course of a game are the ticket taker, the usher, and the vendors, Steinberg said. But pointing toward a row of children and teenagers leaning into the field begging for an autograph or -- even a glance from a player -- Steinberg stated the obvious: The fans are eager to make contact with someone from the team.
Indeed, the impact of personal interaction can propel a child into the legions of lifelong Major League baseball fans, Steinberg says. "At the end of the season it adds up," he said.
So at Fenway these days, a fan is given the chance to sing the National Anthem on the field before every home game. Other fans throw out the first pitch, children are picked from the stands to come down to the field and yell "Play ball!" For each one of them, it's an indelible experience. And when they tell their friends and family, it provides the best word-of-mouth marketing money can't buy.
Steinberg calls the goal he is shooting for the triple crown. The first jewel in the crown is to create a day at the park the child enjoys. The second jewel is if the parent has a good time. And the third is if the parent and the child have good time together. If that happens, Steinberg says, you've probably just created an association so powerful that both child and parents will be fans for life.
Barons is a part of that strategy. She talks to fans throughout the game, picks the honorary bat boy and bat girl, and gives away the foul balls she fields. To get the job, she and the seven other ball attendants had to beat out 4,000 other applicants. She and the others who were hired were offered the jobs because each of them exudes energy and excitement.
"Her job is to go out to the fans and sprinkle the fans with moondust," Steinberg says. "These are the smallest cheapest things, but they can make a huge difference."
But is any of it really necessary? Selling the Red Sox during a pennant race in New England is a little bit like trying to give away water in the desert. The team has sold out every seat in the park for the better part of three seasons. The allure of the team is so strong fans routinely refer to the park as holy ground.
Steinberg says this is the most important time to sell the team, when they're on top.
"You never take the fans for granted," he says. "In this business you're always punished for being arrogant."
As for Barons, she is playing her part magnificently. A nursing student at Regis and lifelong Red Sox fan, she takes the honorary bat boy and bat girl into the dugout and lets them hold Manny Ramirez's bat. A smiling Orlando Cabrera walks over and gives the kids a high five. As the team streams into the clubhouse for a pregame meeting, the kids stand slack-jawed.
A few minutes later Barons takes them back to the stands -- and their parents -- and takes her customary seat on a stool in the grass in foul territory.
"I'll stay here till they kick me out," she said, glove in hand. "This is the best job in the world."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.