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Fenway Park / Boston Red Sox

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Fenway Park / Boston Red Sox
Page 2: Changes in the Fens
Page 3: Concessions and More
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It's not every day when an icon manages to meet your expectations, never mind exceed them. But Fenway Park, the Mecca for everyone interested in balkparks on any level, not only meets expectations but shatters them. It is true that at Fenway the grass is greener, the hot dogs are tastier, and the fans more passionate than any other park in major-league baseball.

FAST FACTS

Year Opened: 1912
Capacity: 38,805
Dimensions: 304L, 379LC, 420C, 380RC, 302R
Playing Surface: Grass
Website: redsox.com
Telephone: 617/267-1700
League: American League
Ticket Prices: Field Box, $125; Loge Box, $90; Infield Grandstand, $50; Right Field Box, $50; Right Field Roof Box, $50; Outfield Grandstand, $30; Right Field Roof Box Standing Room, $30; Bleachers, $26; Pavilion Standing Room, $25; Standing Room, $20 Parking: There's a surprising amount of parking available in the area, although most of it is expensive ($25-$50).
Address/Directions: 4 Yawkey Way, Boston. The stadium is in the Fens area of Boston, west of the Back Bay. If you're taking the T, jump on the Green Line and get off at the Kenmore Square stop; the ballpark is a short walk away. (We'd highly recommend taking the T.) If you're driving, get onto Storrow Drive (this seems to apply no matter where you're coming from) and take the Fenway Park.

The only other park in baseball that compares to Fenway is Wrigley Field: they are both born of the same era, even though they have their own distinctive looks. But one important thing they share: they look like they have belonged in their current locations. But while Wrigley springs organically from the corner of Clark and Addison, Fenway Park is hunkered in The Fens, not really dominating its neighborhood (from the outside, it looks much smaller than it really is) like Wrigley does. Of course, it doesn't have to: while there is a small neighborhood that's sprung up around Fenway Park, it resides in a bustling commercial area. It's a good fit: when the workers leave for the day, Red Sox fans can then swarm into the area.

In many ways Fenway Park is the antithesis of the new retro ballparks that try to emulate the feel of Fenway. Whereas a Safeco Field will have a cohesive look that ties together the various sections of the ballpark, Fenway Park looks and feels like it evolved gradually over the years -- which was the case. Just look at the picture to the left: any architect who would set out to design that weird set of bleacher jutting out from the Green Monster in center field would be hooted by his peers for the offense of studied mannerism. That same trait in Fenway Park is just endearing. And the fans at Fenway Park yell louder than the fans at most retro parks. Seattle fans tend to be polite to a fault, and the regulars at AT&T Park spend as much time on their cell phones as they do watching the game. But the fans at Boston are eagle-eyed and truly involved in the game. There's a palpable buzz when a fan favorite like Dustin Pedroia comes to the plate: play hard in Boston and the Fenway regulars will love you. That's part of the Fenway tradition.

And that Fenway tradition is important, because watching a game at Fenway can be a most physically uncomfortable experience. Yes, the narrow seats are crammed together and the aisles are narrow, so you had better be ready to cozy up to the folks sitting next to you. Sitting down the right-field line? Be prepared to fight the sun for the first few innings. (Here's your first insiders' tip: don't buy a seat down the right-field line. The bleacher seats are cheaper and are positioned directly toward the plate.)

Speaking of choosing where to sit: sometimes you won't have any choice and you'll need to be happy just being in the ballpark. Good seats are really hard to come by unless you know a season-ticket holder, are willing to sit in the bleachers (which are vastly underrated), know you'll pay through the nose through a scalper, or buy your tickets when they first go on sale. I was lucky: attending a game alone, I managed to score a pretty decent seat in a loge box, looking directly down the third-base line. This gave me a great perspective when David Ortiz slammed a home run into the new seats atop the Green Monster -- this ballpark is so intimate that it felt like I could reach out and grab that homer myself. (By the way, those primo seats on the Green Monster are sold only at the ticket office and are not offered online.)

Once you have a ticket, you owe it to yourself to get the ballpark early. Spend some time walking around the outside of the stadium, as it has remained relatively unchanged since its construction. The original entrance to the stadium has the original "FENWAY PARK" sign above it, and there are a host of windows and doors that look as though they've not been opened in 70 or so years. If you walk over to Gate C, you can see where a deck was added to the top of the Green Monster. Walking around the stadium takes a little longer than you'll anticipate: for such a small stadium, Fenway Park sure does seem to eat up a good amount of space, as there are a lot of things -- like a parking garage past the center-field bleachers -- that the average fan never sees. Drop by the Boston Beer Works (61 Brooklyn Av.) across from the Red Sox ticket office for a Fenway Ale to rest your feet after navigating the park.

After you're done inspecting the exterior of Fenway Park, go ahead and spend some time on Yawkey Way. The Red Sox fought local businesses for the right to close down Yawkey Way before the start of home games, but the fight was worth it: the street closing gives folks a fun place to wander around before games and adds a festive atmosphere to the evening. For the most part the concession offerings match those found in the ballpark, but they also add some unique foodstuffs (which we'll discuss under Concessions). Once inside the turnstiles you can check out the original ticket booths to the stadium, a plaque honoring the renovation of Fenway Park in 1934 and a display on how bats and gloves are made (including a lathe where bats are actually turned). Players enter the stadium on the far end of Yawkey Way: if you are there really early you can snare an autograph or two as they walk in.