From time to time, I’ll present a series of insider views designed to give you a look apart from my limited perspective – a look behind the scenes from the people who make our organizations what they are. This week, Sam Kennedy, executive vice president of the Boston Red Sox and president of Fenway Sports Group, gives you his unique perspective on last week. Sam and I are heading up to New Hampshire this morning as Roush Fenway Racing begins it chase for the NASCAR cup via Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. Sam is a key figure in so many areas as you’ll see in his report.
A Week in the Nation, by Sam Kennedy
Friday, Sept. 11, 2009, brought back feelings of fear and anxiety from eight years ago, as our world changed forever. My father-in-law was safe in his office in World Trade Center Tower 2. He called his daughter in San Diego. Who would be next? The San Diego Padres were an outlet for our community. While we had no shot at October baseball that year, our fans came together with passion and pride in the weeks to follow.
This year’s Sept. 11 kicked off a week that reminded me how lucky I have been to work in the baseball business now for over 15 seasons. I felt this largely because baseball teams can play a role in healing various aspects of their communities. Front office lives blend together personally and professionally during homestands in ways that can make you very proud.
While the eighth anniversary of 9/11 put some things perspective, as a Red Sox employee and fan, I had the feeling Boston was barely alive even though it was two games up in the wild-card race.
Jonathan Gilula popped his head into my office and said, “It’s going to be a long weekend. We’ve got weather.”
It was the Rays’ last trip to Boston for the year, so the game was in the umpire’s hands. Our “Rain Trust,” led by Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein, Jonathan, and yours truly, could only provide information to Randy Marsh and his crew. The game started. And then it stopped. But the rain wouldn’t.
This Sept. 11 front was particularly stubborn. With Saturday’s forecast even worse, a doubleheader on Sunday was our only option. ESPN’s exclusive broadcast window prohibited a night game. The Trust made the difficult decision to move the 1:35 game to 5 p.m., and the 9/11 ticketholders would see their game at noon.
Weather usually creates lose-lose situations. This time, it was win-win-win. Despite understandable fan frustration due to the inconvenience, after a three-game sweep in less than 24 hours, the Red Sox found themselves four games up in the wild-card race.
We toasted the victories, as well as John Henry, who turned 60 late Sunday night. And Boston’s incredible fans met the challenge of an unscheduled doubleheader on Sunday by filling all of the seats of Fenway for both games.
Monday morning came too fast as Troup Parkinson and I drove to Maine to attend the funeral of Eric Gaffney, the 24-year-old son of a Red Sox sponsor who tragically died in a car accident days earlier. None of the rain issues or the expanded lead in the AL wild-card race seemed to matter. The Red Sox front office is a family. Our sponsors, season-ticket holders, broadcast partners and neighbors are our extended family.
Back at Fenway, Theo popped his head into my office and told me Boston would be without Victor Martinez’s hot bat for a few days. The day ended with a Sun Life Financial call, finalizing our negotiations for their sponsorship of the outdoor college hockey doubleheader set for Jan. 8, 2010.
Tuesday brought the Los Angeles Angels to Boston. Larry led our daily operations meeting. Today/tomorrow baseball, ballpark, foundation, community, PR, finance and marketing issues were discussed.
When Larry asked our new general counsel for his observations on the meeting, he said, “I can’t believe how close this group is. It is absolutely incredible how you finish each others sentences.”
He was right. Larry has assembled a team whose members know each other inside and out.
That afternoon, we put the finishing touches on our postseason ticketing plans. We hosted our JetBlue client for dinner in an effort to get her to expand her marketing spend to include Boston College, a client we represent at Fenway Sports Group. Red Sox 4, Angels 1. Daisuke was back!
Wednesday morning, we met with NHL executives to prepare for our New Year’s Day Winter Classic. We learned it can’t be too warm (the ice melts) or too cold (the ice cracks). We debated what we can and cannot do for Pepsi (they compete with Coke, the official soft drink of the Red Sox).
That afternoon, FSG’s senior leadership team prepared for an upcoming FSG board meeting. They are excited to tell ownership about a deal they have struck to sell the jersey sponsorship for Fulham FC of the English Premiere League.
Later, Mike Scioscia couldn’t believe what he was watching as Nick Green limped to first base and Alex Gonzalez’s bloop sealed another magical night at Fenway. I asked myself, “Which clients should we take to Anaheim for the ALDS?”
Thursday, we met with architects to review the design of our new spring training ballpark.
Later, we were on high alert. Red Sox chairman Tom Werner had poured his heart and soul into the creation of the Red Sox Foundation Home Base Program for local veterans. Alliances were formed by rival hospital hospitals Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital to ensure this program could become a reality.
Everyone in Fenway Park had chills as John, Tom, Larry, David Ginsberg and Meg Vaillancourt saluted U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Zimmerman, who threw the ceremonial first pitch. The Angels salvaged the game, but no one seemed to care. Ownership used the stage of Fenway Park to shine bright lights on the critical issues of post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury affecting so many of our returning soldiers. A lasting community-wide partnership had been created.
Friday, Ben Affleck arrived with his crew to begin filming scenes at Fenway for his new movie. The business of baseball causes the days and nights to flow together for the front office. A sense of relief arrived as the team would be on the road for what will undoubtedly seem like a short week for the business side on Yawkey Way. The week was capped off with a 3-1 victory over the Orioles as the Red Sox took a commanding seven-game lead over Texas for the wild card.
What a difference a week makes.
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