Larry Lucchino is calling it "the friendliest Fenway ever."
And for kids, it's true.
"Calling All Kids," a year-long theme the Red Sox are introducing this season, gets underway Monday when the Sox take on the Washington Nationals in the home opener at Fenway Park.
It's no secret that baseball is having a hard time getting young fans into the game. Many say football has surpassed baseball as "America's Pastime." And lacrosse, soccer and hockey are pulling in all the top athletes in schools across the country.
The Red Sox are actively trying to get kids on the baseball bandwagon this season. The team announced a number of new initiatives for 2015 in an effort to attract more kids to the games. The club has eliminated the $30 membership fee for Kid Nation — the team’s official fan club for kids aged 14 and under. The Sox will also be giving away 25,000 tickets to children who sign up, and will be opening a new kids gate and concourse at Fenway this season.
“The point is simple: we want to do all we can to attract children to Fenway Park,” Lucchino, the Red Sox president and CEO, said. “We hope to do so at least three ways: First, by providing greater access to Red Sox games to children and students; second, by enhancing their experience at the ballpark; and third, by strengthening the game of baseball among the young in our community. We are blessed with an extraordinary fan base that comprises many boys and girls. We want to help ensure that they fall in love with baseball, just as their parents and grandparents did before them.”
Not all kids have moved on to other sports and forgotten about baseball.
“Just me personally, I love baseball," Tommy Gillan from Scituate said. "I love everything about it especially things that people usually don’t like: pitcher’s duels. The most beautiful thing in baseball is a hit and run. Kids, they just can’t sit through a whole four hour game, they don’t have the attention span. Even for me it’s a hard thing, so. I think the change of pace rules are definitely going to bring more fans to the game.”
For many other kids in the area, the slowness of the game has contributed to the loss of interest.
“Some say they don’t like it because it’s kind of boring,” Michael Murphy of Monson said. “I think it’s because it’s just more of a relaxing, team chemistry kind of thing instead of soccer, football where you’re always running around, it’s a whole team playing.”
During Monday's pregame ceremony, the two teams will be introduced along the base lines, with participation from children. Then with Hanscom Air Force Base presenting the colors, a children’s choir will perform the national anthem, punctuated by a fly-over of two F-16 fighter jets from the 158th Fighter Squadron from Burlington, Vermont’s Air National Guard, a.k.a. “The Green Mountain Boys.”
Children 14 and under are invited to enter via the new Gate K (for Kids), near Gate B, a gateway to the new Kids Concourse. From the third through the seventh innings, the new Wally’s Clubhouse will offer an in-game play area for children.
Inside the turnstiles, fans of all ages will have new menu options. On Yawkey Way, Aramark has invested in a fresh look for their concession stands and new menu items, including the new “Taste of Boston” stand which will feature neighborhood cuisine from 12 different local restaurants that will rotate throughout the season.
Meatball Obsession, the official meatball of the Boston Red Sox, will debut a new stand in the Kids Concourse near Wally’s Clubhouse with their popular turkey or beef meatballs served in a cup. And a new kids meal for $5 – available in the Kids Concourse – will feature a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Goldfish, and a small juice.
The Red Sox urge fans to use public transportation to Fenway Park. In addition to taking the T to Kenmore Square, the commuter rail trains arrive at Yawkey Station, just 511 feet from the doorstep of Fenway Park.
Fenway Park gates will open two hours before the game on Monday. For the rest of the season, gates open 1 ½ hours before game time. Season ticket holders and Red Sox Nation members may enter at Gate C 2 ½ hours before each game.
To comply with Major League Baseball Stadium Operations Practices for the 2015 season, and to enhance security and expedite screenings at the gates, fans will walk through new metal detectors at every gate. Fans will remove cell phones, cameras, and other large metal objects before walking through the metal detectors. Fans do not need to remove smaller objects, such as wallets, coins, keys, jewelry, eyeglasses, shoes, and belts.