In preparation for opening day, yesterday the Red Sox organization hosted a walkthrough of Fenway Park. Mayor Michelle Wu and guests previewed the enhancements made to the park for this upcoming baseball season. So, what’s new at Fenway Park for 2023?
Let’s start with the players. As the final roster makes its way up from Fort Myers to take on the Baltimore Orioles this week, the team will be thrilled with their new home away from home. Our first stop on the tour took us down the tunnel to one of the more mysterious and intriguing corners of a MLB park.
Revamped Red Sox Clubhouse
The locker room has been completely remodeled based on feedback from the players and coaches. This includes the latest and greatest technology features. As detailed in the Red Sox official press release, the refurbished locker room space features new, custom maple lockers with closeable doors and generously sized to accommodate more storage space for personal belongings. The lockers feature built-in, multi-color LED lighting with power and USB charging stations and a lockable safe for valuables.
It was evident the player’s comfort was top of mind when creating this space. There are 16 flat screen TV’s displayed around the room – including being mounted overhead to give a 360 degree view. The lockers are arranged in a round, oval-like shape. In the middle was baseball mitt brown leather seating section. This is perfect for playing cards pre-game or sipping something cold with your teammates after a night game.
Light It Up
What jumped out at me most was the lighting throughout the locker room. I was advised that’s because the entire clubhouse has been outfitted with a new LED lighting system. It’s paired with a new premium sound system as well. The lights outline each locker and accent logos hanging on the wall. “Throughout the renovated space, new energy efficient LED lighting with automated controls were added and custom storage units for game bats and player apparel have been outfitted in the space,” the team stated.
There did not seem to be any format as to whose locker is where in the layout. With players like Rafael Devers and Trevor Story in prime corner spots, I’m assuming there was a selection based on seniority.
Other notable additions in this museum-like haven include an expanded coaches locker room, decorated with new maple lockers and work stations. There is a food and beverage center. Additionally, there is a private restroom and showering area for each group. Furthermore, there is a newly constructed Women’s Locker Room that has also been added with a private restroom and shower area. This also includes custom lockers, workstations, and televisions.
I noticed a common theme in the locker room and within the tunnels leading to the clubhouse corners leading to the dugout – there is no shortage of championship branding. Various decorations from paintings to wall fixtures (accented by LED lights) showcase the Red Sox World Series titles. Mostly the 2004, 2007, 20013 and 2018 seasons.
Speaking of illuminating, as we made our way down the corridor to the dugout, it was explained why night games this season will make for a better player-fan experience.
You guessed it. It’s all LED. A new, energy-efficient field lighting system has been installed this offseason in the park towers. It purpose is to provide better visibility for players and fans during night games. This is the first time the lighting has been upgraded in 40 years. This enhancement is part of a wider sustainability initiative at Fenway Park.
As I marched up the tunnel steps that lead into the infamous dugout, I thought about how the history that these stairs have seen. The juxtaposition of a spiked stomp by a pitcher that just got taken out of the game, heading back down the stairs. Or the players ascending out of the underground and being greeted by the pristine sight of this landmark before them. Its a field of greens, protected by a monster, and a red-ish dirt field that looks like its smiling at you. Sitting upon what appeared to be the refurbished leather bench seats.
MLB Rule Changes
Major League Baseball implemented new rules to take hold across the league for the 2023 season. This mandate required a few tweaks to each park. The primary adjustment is based around the pitch clock rule. Pitchers have 15 seconds to throw when the bases are empty and 20 seconds when there are runners on base. Five clocks were put in place at Fenway to accommodate the new pitch clock rule. There are two on the field wall behind home plate. One on the main videoboard. One high above home plate, and one on the light tower in center field.
Bigger bases are also a significant change to the game. Aesthetically, you will notice the bases are now 18 inches. Red Sox manager, Alex Cora infamously called them pizza boxes. Installing them in the three corners of the infield means the distance between bases decreases by 4.5 inches.
It’s all about the kids! Little ones can test their pitch speed in the cage on the kids concourse. There’s a virtual reality booth where you can get the feel of what’s like to hit both a just-made-it-over-the-monster home run, and a 534 foot bomb on to Lansdowne Street. Kids can also see how they measure up to the life-size heights of their favorite players. Conveniently, much of this is located in the right field concession area that is filled with an array of food options.
Technology continues to step to the plate with an AI “grab and go” kiosk option on the Truly Terrace. The Listen EVERYWHERE app will be available at Fenway Park this season. This allows fans to stream the audio of the game via their mobile devices.
The MassMutual partnership is now displayed in centerfield with an 80-foot sign above the scoreboard. In addition, there will also be a MassMutual patch on players’ jerseys.
Crossing Home Plate
Fenway Park is a historic venue that continues to mesh vintage history with modern advancements. The 2023 season will offer over 37,000 people per game the opportunity to experience the action. Clearly, the details of what’s new at Fenway for 2023 had both the players and fans in mind.