Today is Opening Day at Fenway Park. Attending that game is a ritual Iâ€™ve enjoyed for many years.
But this year, attending the game will be quite a bit different from past years as a host of new pandemic-related touchless safety protocols will be in place.
First, there will be no colorful Opening Day souvenir ticket for the fan to have in hand. The Red Sox are â€śimplementing contactless technology in many aspects of the ballpark experience.â€ť One of those is with tickets. All tickets this year will be delivered digitally to a special smart phone app. Ah the move to touchless.
But entering the park will not be so simple as just scanning your smart phone to a reader. Every fan will have to fill out the Major League Baseball healthcare survey on the baseball app before coming through the gate. This will allow for contact tracing if needed. Facemasks required, of course. And all bags are prohibited with limited exceptions.
On the other hand, as the emphasis is on â€śtouchless,â€ť new sophisticated metal detectors have been evaluated, which might allow fans to hold on to their cell phones and keys instead of throwing them into that little container being passed back and forth. More benefits of touchless.
Once inside the concourse, fans will notice more differences from past years. For example, the process for getting food and drink from the concession booths will have changed because of safety and social distancing requirements. Plexiglass partitions have been installed; new mobile ordering and contactless payment procedures are being evaluated. All food and beverages must be consumed at ticketed seat locations. Moreover the park will have the benefit of a new cadre of rolling robots shooting disinfecting ultraviolet rays at high traffic surfaces throughout the park. The ultimate in touchless!
Within the park itself, Iâ€™m not sure whether we will find any traveling food vendors hustling up and down the aisles hawking their products. I doubt that management will allow that overpriced hot dog to be passed across a row of seats from fan to fan, to be mauled and breathed on by each intervening holder, until it reaches the ultimate purchaser some 10 seats away. That certainly wouldnâ€™t be touchless. And what about the peanut vendor so skilled at accurately tossing the bag of nuts over the head of 15 or 20 people right into the ordering fanâ€™s outstretched hands and awaiting receipt of thecash, again handed down from fan to fan. (Those peanut vendors have such good throwing arms that they could probably take the place of half the Red Sox bullpen.)
Management has given a lot of thought to protecting the fans. And while all of these protocols are prudent, well thought out and implemented for everyoneâ€™s safety, a day at Americaâ€™s most beloved ballpark wonâ€™t be quite the same this year.
On a non-covid point, watching the actual game will seem strange this year because of so many adjustments to the lineup: a lot of trades and departures during the offseason! No longer will the cherished outfield of the â€śThree Bâ€™sâ€ť (Benintendi, Betts and Bradley) be there as all were traded by the Red Sox brain trust. The new acquisitions will have a lot to prove.
On the bright side, the Opening Day ritual will surely be somewhat quieter this year. Required facemasks should muffle the piercing heckling of the beer lubricated louts who imagine they are so much smarter than manager Alex Cora. Another positive comes from the limited capacity and social distancing: fans will be sensibly seated in physically-separated pods of two or four seats to provide maximum space and safety. (Remember there will be only 4,500 fans in a 38,000 capacity park.) That will greatly reduce the chances of overindulging fans behind you sloshing beer down your neck each time they stagger to their feet to ask what happened when the crowd roars. So too will the seat distancing protocols protect fans from being jabbed by the hyper-extended elbow of the guy in the next tiny Fenway seat. Fan interaction will certainly be minimized: no high-fives with neighboring fans after a great play. Gotta keep it touchless.
Yes, Opening Day at Fenway and across the country will be much changed this year. But touchless or not, Iâ€™m looking forward to a great season of Red Sox baseball.
Attorney Harry Mazadoorian lives in Kensington. He is a lifelong Red Sox fan.