– All right, good evening, everyone. My name’s Anthony Brooks. I do political reporting with WBUR.
[APPLAUSE] Thank you. Thank you for that. Thank you for coming out tonight.
I know this is going to be a great discussion. My job is to introduce the panel, but first I want to acknowledge Radcliffe for hosting this event and say a couple of things about that. So we’re meeting in a really fitting location. This is, as many of you probably know, the former Radcliffe College gymnasium, where generations of female athletes played basketball, hung from ropes from those rafters, ran around that track. And today, the building is the Knafel Center, which is the central meeting place of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. And the Radcliffe Institute is Harvard’s Institute for Advanced Study dedicated to sharing transformative ideas across all disciplines.
Tonight’s event is part of a two year initiative that the Institute is pursuing about citizenship in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. That’s the one that gave women the right to vote, so it’s an important one. [APPLAUSE] One little housekeeping note. This program is being broadcast live on Facebook tonight by WBUR, and it will be available in a few weeks at Radcliffe.Harvard.edu. Good.
So, before I introduce the panel, I want to just say a couple of words sort of how I ended up here, because it’s sort of related to what you guys are going to be talking about. So your moderator this evening, who I’ll introduce in a moment, is my colleague Shira Springer, WBUR sports and society reporter. She asked me if I would introduce this program, and I said, well, OK. And she said, no, no. You’d be perfect.
You’re a reporter. You’re a journalist, and you’re a fan. And I thought, does she mean I’m a Red Sox fan? Because I’m kind of a Red Sox fan, but I think I’m more of a Red Sox hostage.
That’s sort of the way I think about that, and I want to explain that. And my story is certainly not unique, but I had a grandfather who was born sort of late 1800s. He was passionate about the Red Sox. He saw them win the 1918 World Series. That’s the last one he saw.
And one of my earliest memories is my grandfather, who was sort of a repressed Yankee who didn’t say a lot, would come to the table, and just shake his head, and say they break your heart every day. This is one of my earliest memories– that my dad, who was born in 1918, the last time at that point that they had won a World Series, spent his entire 82 years waiting for a World Series victory. Never saw one. Again, a lot of us in this region have these stories to tell. We suffered.
It was painful. And then came Pedro Martinez and his fellow– [APPLAUSE] –and his fellow idiots in 2004 when our entire world and really our entire regional sports identity just changed. It was just overnight it changed. I was telling Pedro just before we came up here I have a 21 year old daughter, and she’s blase about the Red Sox. It’s like, dad, they always win.
What’s the big deal? It’s like, how did this happen? Anyway, but here’s the point about tonight. So being a fan, or a hostage, whatever you want to call it for all those years is significant because it’s not just about rooting for your home team, because sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I got really angry, and I just wanted them to lose quickly so I could stop the pain, but this sort of unrequested involvement with the Red Sox brought with it an opportunity to think about a whole bunch of other things that had nothing to do with baseball.
I mean, something to do with baseball, but not only baseball. Winning and losing, obviously, but other more complicated things. The way our country has changed– in the Red Sox case, our difficult relationship with race. I mean just think about this week and this whole debate about getting rid of the name of Yawkey Way. So I’m grateful to have this team in our midst for a lot of reasons, including the richness and complexity of issues that sports can bring to the fore. And I’m just going to tell very quickly one more story about the 2004 American League Championship Series game four at Fenway Park, which I had the total honor of covering for NPR.
Now, you all know what happened, but just in case you don’t, here’s the quick, quick synopsis. So the Red Sox were down three games to nothing against the Yankees. Mariano Rivera is on the mound, so it’s over.
The Red Sox are losing the game, facing elimination, another disappointing season. Kevin Millar gets the base hit. Dave Roberts steals the base. Bill Miller gets the base hit.
They tie it up. Extra innings. Bottom of the 12th, David Ortiz, winning home.
They win game four. And you know what happens after that. They win seven more games and finally take the monkey off of our backs.
My job was to cover that game, and as a good NPR reporter, I wanted to get the sound of the end of the game just in case it was a Boston victory. I wanted the sound of Fenway erupting. So bottom of the ninth inning I go out in the stands with my microphone, stand there, and wait. Nothing happens.
Bottom of the 10th, stand there, nothing happens. Bottom of the 11th, nothing happens. Bottom of the 12th, I’m there with my microphone and up comes David Ortiz.
Boom– hits the home, walk off home run. Fenway comes to its feet. Huge cheer. My microphone is going.
Yes, I’ve got the sound. It’s fantastic. So I go back to WBUR to write my story, and I start listening to the tape, and I get to that great moment where I’m going to hear 37,000 people cheering for the Red Sox.
The only thing on that tape is me screaming yeah! It’s all that I could hear. So– [APPLAUSE] So that’s the end of the story.
So Shira’s right. I’m a fan. I was trying to be a professional journalist that night, but I was a fan. So now it’s my pleasure to introduce this terrific panel. So ladies, gentlemen, will you come up, and I’ll introduce you all.
[APPLAUSE] To my immediate left, Shira Springer, your moderator tonight, who invited me here. So she’s WBUR’s sports and society reporter covering stories at the intersection of sports and society, and before that, she wrote for the Boston Globe as the Celtics beat writer, then as an investigative reporter and Olympic columnist. She grew up in Connecticut cheering for the Hartford Whalers and the New York Mets? Come on, Shira. But– hold on now– in high school, she saw the error of her ways. She took down the pictures of Keith Hernandez, and Darryl Strawberry, and Dwight Gooden, and she became a Red Sox fan.
[APPLAUSE] To my far left at the end, Sam Kennedy has been with the Red Sox for 17 years. This is his second year as president and CEO of the Red Sox. He’s a native of Brookline. He grew up within walking distance of Fenway Park. And get this, he was captain of the Brookline High School baseball team with his friend and classmate Theo Epstein.
Is this true? – He was our third base coach. – That’s amazing. To Sam’s right, Rebekah Splaine Salwasser is executive director of the Red Sox foundation, which is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children, families, veterans, and communities. She joined the Red Sox this past January.
Thank you for being here. [APPLAUSE] And finally, last, but certainly not least, he’s a special assistant to the president of baseball operations with the Red Sox, but most of us know him simply as one of baseball’s greatest pitchers. He’s a veteran of 18 major league seasons, seven of them with the Red Sox, including that 2004 season.
Thank you for that. He’s a three time Cy Young award winner, eight time all-star hall of famer inducted into the Hall of Fame, by the way, in his first year of eligibility. [APPLAUSE] – Thank you, Anthony, for that very kind introduction, and thank you WBUR and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard for hosting this event. And of course, I want to thank the panelists, Pedro, Bekah, and Sam.
Before we begin, just a few words about the game plan for the panel. This panel will run for about 50 minutes– this discussion– then we’re going to open it up to audience questions. We will take audience questions for about 25 minutes. There will be a microphone placed in the center aisle, and I’ll let you know when it’s time to line up for that.
I’m sure there will be lots of people with questions for everyone up here. And now we’re just going to– I have some framing remarks for this panel, sort of what went through my mind as I thought about what we wanted to discuss tonight. And I think what’s interesting is baseball looks at itself not only as America’s pastime, but as a social institution. And in Boston, probably more than anywhere else, it’s easy to see baseball as a social institution, because, as everyone knows, the Red Sox are more than a team. The organization is woven into the cultural and social fabric of the city, of New England in a way that creates, I think, a sense of belonging and a sense of community both inside and outside of Fenway Park. And yes, as Anthony said, sometimes you can feel like a hostage of Red Sox nation, but I also think that the Red Sox ability to create a sense of belonging with the team with the most prominent– or one of the most prominent social institutions in the city– it begs the question.
You want to know, how do the Red Sox– the executives, their players, current and past players– see their roles and responsibilities to the community? And so that’s the guiding question for this discussion, one that I hope we’ll answer as we talk about Yawkey Way, inner baseball initiatives, building homes in the Dominican Republic, and ticket prices, among many other topics. So I think we have to start with the most recent news.
Yesterday, as many of you may be aware, the Boston Public Improvement Commission– a commission I’d never heard of– unanimously voted to rename Yawkey Way. That, as you know, is the front street– the street in front of Fenway Park. The Red Sox requested that the road be changed back to its original name, Jersey Street, because of what many see as former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey’s legacy of racism.
So I guess I want to first to you, Sam, because I know you’ve been outspoken about this in the past. Why was it important for the organization to push for the name change, and perhaps more importantly now that the name change is here, what message do you hope that sends to fans, to players, to staff members, to people who partner with the Red Sox? – Well, thanks for the question. I knew we’d dive right into the topic du jour, but let me just first say it’s an honor to be here on behalf of the men and women of the Red Sox organization joined by a few colleagues. Guys, thanks for being here, and it’s an honor to share the stage with Bekah and Pedro. We have a great time at Fenway Park, and we’re lucky to be a part of the organization.
This is my 17th year, and I’m as energized as ever about the present Red Sox team and our future. And I mention future, because that’s what this whole process and initiative has been about. It’s less about sort of dwelling on the past than some of the negative, unfortunate, regretful, reprehensible history of the Red Sox. When we arrived in 2002, we were very quick to point out the shameful past with respect to race relations. Simply put, we were the last team to integrate. We had a poor record of hiring not just on the field, but off the field.
Diversity was a huge issue for us. There were lots of things that went on that the organization wasn’t and shouldn’t be proud of. That said, the move to change or restore Jersey Street and remove the name Yawkey Way is really about people and people’s feelings. When we went around and talked to our constituents, whether it was community leaders, employees frankly, players, a consistent refrain that we heard in the community was, look, we never knew Tom Yawkey and never met him in person, but that symbol had been a reminder for many people that Fenway was not always the most inclusive welcoming environment. And unfortunately, in 2017, last year, we were told that we’re still not where we need to be. And it’s just one step.
It is a symbol. It’s a street name. We don’t fool ourselves and think it’s going to change things overnight.
We still need to walk the walk and do the right thing with respect to making Fenway welcoming to everyone, but for those of us who grew up in Boston and New England, like I did, and like Bekah did, Fenway Park should be for everyone. It should be everyone’s team– the Red Sox– not just a certain group of people. So this was a step towards that goal, and it’s a journey that that never ends. You need to keep doing the right things each and every day, and we have an ownership group led by John Henry and Tom Werner that are really committed to making Fenway welcoming for everybody. So that’s what this has been about.
– I’m curious, Pedro, as a former player and somebody who’s now still associated with the organization– sort of ambassador for the organization– what did the name change mean to you? I mean, how do you view it? – Well, thank you for the opportunity. Thank you, everybody, for coming over, like always, being loyal and supportive. I think that’s what he is trying to say when it comes to the people. But in my own perspective, it’s totally different.
I came from a country where diversity is– it’s all over. Simple– I just never realized what being a minority. We were all minorities.
We were all the same. We were all the same color. It didn’t matter. But for me, coming to Boston, when I heard earlier– and you were referring about my partner– is he’s a true Bostonian. Isn’t he?
He’s a legit Bostonian. And we were talking about Theo and those things, and I’m thinking this kid is a Bostonian. That’s what he is. He has an ID. He’s a Bostonian.
Ever since I got to Boston, I feel the same way, because for me, it was totally different. I did not realize it, maybe because of lack of knowledge and stuff like that, or maybe I didn’t know that the history of Boston, but for me, it’s just like the little girl that you were talking that said, oh, they always win. The Red Sox always win.
Well, it depends on the generation that you came in. For me, it has always been like a parade. [LAUGHTER] Ever since I got to Boston, it’s been all hugs.
Me and David have a little competition between the two of us, because I said to David, as much as you love to hug, I’m going to lead you every year. So here in Boston for me has been a great experience. Being from the Dominican Republic born and raised, I know that a lot of that has to see with the kind of success I had here in Boston.
I think this is the place where it’s almost impossible to think about a defeat for me. For me, it was impossible. I did have some success, and I know that leads to a lot of happy moments for the people in Boston, but it’s not just in the field that I have felt the love that Boston has for me, and the respect, and the good feeling, the mutual feeling between me and the city of Boston. So for me, it’s really difficult to go deep into those details, because I’ve always been treated right. I’ve always been treated with class.
So I don’t know if my story is really relevant when it comes to that, because I’m a different breed. I’m just– – I’ll say. [LAUGHTER] – My ID is hanging in the right field wall– number 45. And my name is Pedro the Bostonian. II never felt anything. I’ve never been a victim of anything in Boston, so I’m not the proper person to probably go into details.
For me, it’s a loving hug and respect. That’s my own opinion. – I think it’s worth pointing out that we waited.
For those of us who were born a little bit after 1918, but before 2004, we waited a long time. And it’s worth pointing out that it wasn’t until the Red Sox were a fully integrated organization on the field and off the field that this team and this region were able to come together and climb the mountain top. And you had Pedro Martinez, and David Ortiz, and Kevin Millar, and Dave Roberts, and Bill Miller, and this group of guys who came together from all over the world, all walks of life to win a World Series championship. And that had never happened in our lifetime.
And I think what Pedro is saying is exactly right. He and his teammates changed the course of history, and he changed the course of the trajectory of the mindset in New England for kids that we can win. We can do this, because I grew up here with Theo Epstein at Brookline High thinking, how are we going to lose this game? How are the Red Sox going to lose to the Mets in 1986, or whether it was ’75, or ’78?
The mindset in New England is now about winning, which is really special to watch. – You mentioned the kids, which I think is an interesting area to go into. It’s one thing to believe the Red Sox can win, but it’s another thing for the kids in the area to feel that they are part of Red Sox nation, and I know that the Red Sox foundation, Bekah, which you head– you’re executive director of the Red Sox Foundation– is working hard to have some initiatives and some programs that promote diversity and inclusion. One of those is RBI.
That’s Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities, which, if you’re not familiar with the program, part of it is to get young kids in the inner city to play baseball and softball, but it’s also about instilling leadership and life skills. You also have the Red Sox Scholars, which is where you select kids in seventh grade, and you take them through the college process. You work on their academics, and you really mentor them through their college years from seventh grade through their college years. So I guess when you have programs like RBI and like the Red Sox Scholars that are designed for kids in that inclusive, diverse vision, what do you hope are the goals short term and long term? – So I’m going to back up and start with why I think this job has been the most amazing opportunity for me, and I will get to your answer, but I think there is relevance there.
So I’m born and raised in Cambridge. I grew up in– yes, I know. – Another Bostonian.
– Real [INAUDIBLE]. – Shes’ the only one who didn’t get lost here tonight. – Right here. – Anyway. – Right, so I was born and raised in Cambridge to a biracial family, and I started playing soccer for Cambridge U soccer when I was four years old. And I say that to say that sport has always been an instrument that I’ve used in my life to be successful.
I went to BB & N, and I graduated there. I played soccer at Brown. I went on to play professional soccer here in Boston for the Boston Breakers, and I worked for the Boston Celtics for five years. And now here at the Red Sox it’s just been a dream, and in between there, I ran a couple other small non-profits. But I say that to say I know the power of sport. I believe in the power of sport, and so heading a foundation like the Red Sox Foundation that has quite arguably the best resources, the best brand in the entire world, in my opinion, when it comes to leveraging a pro sports team against its charitable endeavors, has just been a dream come true.
And to run programs like Red Sox Scholars and RBI– to really and directly direct some of those resources from the Red Sox into the community has just been amazing. I was a Jackie Robinson scholar. My parents worked for Boston public schools for 34 years, and being one of five, it was not in our reality to go to college– or have my parents pay for it, rather.
So I know the power of being able to provide funds to young people to pursue higher education. And so for us, we have now 275 young people that have been through the program, and making sure that we can always, always be there for them, whether it’s connecting them to local resources, connecting them to national resources– we actually just employed one of our graduates. And so really just seeing it come full circle for me has just been amazing. – I’m going to turn– Pedro is another person who has sort of devoted your life to doing things for kids and giving kids opportunity both here in Boston and here in your native Dominican Republic.
I hope I can do the Spanish well enough. Lindos Suenos? Am I– – Lindos Suenos, yes. – So this means beautiful dreams in Spanish.
It’s a program that you are part of– that you take part of in the Dominican. You are building homes. You are making sure people have in the Dominican what they need. I’ve heard you also have taken up a hammer and nails on occasion to– – Oh, believe me. And that wasn’t the first time. [LAUGHTER] – I’ve heard that you do that.
You were also here last August playing in the old time baseball game to help raise money for ALS. – In your city– Cambridge. – That’s right.
– Cambridge. – Right down the road, as a matter of fact. You have been, as I said, building schools, homes, everything, here, the Dominican, all over the place. It’s so hard to keep track almost of everything you do, and I’m wondering how do you choose.
How do you figure out what it is– where you want to put your energies, what you want to do, and what do you hope is your personal legacy with all of this philanthropy? – Well, I grew up extremely poor. So as you grow up, you become an expert at identifying opportunities, identifying the weak points, identifying what it takes for you to come out. You identify so many things. You become a veteran at a very, very early age. And for me, it was no exception.
I became a survivor. I became someone that needed to find sources to continue to go to school. My mom and dad could barely supply for us clothing to go to school, meals on the table, and I can’t go really deep on the things that my mom and dad were able to supply. So right away, I was introduced sometimes, or at an early age, very young to what a nail and a hammer was to different things that you have to do to help out in a big family– six kids and mom and dad. And both of them not the best educated people when it comes to school, but at home the best teachers that you could ever have. And that’s all we needed.
And the reason I have that drive is because thanks to baseball and the support of many people like you that support baseball and support different ideas I was able to become a baseball player. I was granted an opportunity. As an immigrant, I was fortunate enough to make it through baseball and become a US citizen, something that I’m really proud of– to be able to enjoy the rights that you guys that are born and raised here enjoy. I think for me it was pretty cool that if I was able to do anything for the future was help out education, help out the less fortunate, because I’ve been there. I’ve been on the other side, and I know what it’s like to need something and not have it.
So if I’m in a position to grant anybody an opportunity to be better, to get educated, to become a better man for society in the future, I think it’s– even though it’s not a written rule like we do in baseball– we have unwritten rules. Like if you hit one of my teammates, nobody– [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] Nobody needs to tell me that– nobody needs to give me a piece of paper. Pedro, you know that guy over there that’s coming up.
It’s the same position as your player that just got hit. It’s not written on the paper, but I know that my first instinct will be drill him. [LAUGHTER] It’s the same thing. I would like my legacy to be remembered not really as the guy that posted all those numbers that you just mentioned, and the awards, or my curly hair face in Cooperstown.
I want to be remembered as a sign of hope, as a sign of opportunity, as a sign for others to follow and try to emulate, because just the fact that I was traveling to the states my first year as a 17-year-old was a huge, humongous step towards the future. Just getting the opportunity to come out of the Dominican with a visa to look for new opportunities was a huge step, and I was so grateful. And I will always be. So I want to do the same thing. I want people to look at me, see the opportunity, take advantage of it, take advantage of the things that are granted for them, and see hope everywhere I go, because if I did it, even though I got into many fights in baseball, well, they can also do it. I also fight with life, and adversities, and stuff like that, but like I told you earlier, coming from where I come from, adversity is an everyday deal.
So I wasn’t intimidated, and today I can serve as a testimony of faith, hard work, dedication, integrity, and I represent my family really well. I told George Steinbrenner one time, you know, you might call the league and have them suspend me or do whatever they want, but you just don’t have enough money to buy fear and put it in my heart. [APPLAUSE] It is the same thing with life– adversity. And for people that want to look up to the future, don’t let adversity intimidate you.
Just go forward. Same thing. George is big, but if you have to drill him, you drill him. [LAUGHTER] Right? So that’s my perspective, and that’s why I do it.
That’s why I want to help some more people do the same thing. – Isn’t it interesting how the game has changed? Joe Kelly– it just got away from him. [INAUDIBLE],, and with Pedro, no, I drilled him. I drilled him.
You drilled him. – Different times. – Different times.
– We have been talking about different times ever since we started. – Yes. – His dad never saw a World Series. He got to see one. Now he’s daughter is like, yeah, dad, I know the Red Sox are going to win.
She’s accustomed to winning, right? Well, those are different times. – Exactly. – When I pitched, drilling a guy was a thing of nature. [LAUGHTER] – I think it’s interesting.
We’re talking about different times. I think another thing that’s happened sort of off the field that you might not have seen 15, 20 years ago is the Take the Lead initiative that the Red Sox started. And if you’re not familiar, this came in the wake of the racist incidents that took place last summer at Fenway. And it’s sort of a combined effort of the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, Bruins, and Revolution. They got together and basically said, we’re going to stand up to racism, stand up to hate speech, and you talk about players being a sign of hope and role models.
And we’re going to put our players out there in public service announcements. And so I guess the question is– and not only that. I think you, Sam, have said we want our players to speak out. We want our players to speak out.
– Well, I’m representing the players. I’m old, but I’m representing the players. Hey, I still throw a little bit.
[LAUGHTER] – Well, if you go back, it’s just about a year ago when I was home after– it was May 1, I think– May 2, maybe. I got home after a night game, and maybe like many of you in this room– I know my colleagues probably share the same addiction, this device right here in my pocket. And got home, and I’m just checking text and email before going to bed. And on Twitter pops up Bob Nightingale. Adam Jones was called the n-word at Fenway Park tonight.
And it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m this 45-year-old Caucasian white guy from Brookline, and you just don’t think about those things. You just don’t when you’re in my shoes, but you read it, and it hits you like a ton of bricks. God, how could this be in 2017? You realize how sort of ignorant you are, and it really just was so– it just angered me so much, and we knew that it was going to be really important to handle this the right way not from a PR perspective, but from a human perspective. And so the next morning John Henry called me and said, what do you think?
And I said, well come over. Let’s sit with our players first. And so we went to talk to Mookie, and Jackie, and Xander, and John Farrell, and Dustin Pedroia, and Rick Porcello. And we said, we’re going to go talk to Adam Jones and apologize for what happened, and the players thought that was a good idea.
And it was Jackie who said, you know, this isn’t new. This isn’t something that doesn’t happen all over the place. And I said, yeah, but it’s Boston and Fenway Park. We have this reputation as this racist city. It’s just so frustrating. He said, Sam, you know, it’s not Fenway Park.
It’s not Boston. This is everywhere. It’s malls.
It’s airports, public gathering places. This stuff happens. So we left the clubhouse, and we went over, and we talked to Adam Jones, and he basically had the same attitude. Like, hey, what are you apologizing for? You guys didn’t do anything. It was some idiot out in the stands, and so anyway that happened, and incredibly we put out this clarion call to our fans.
We said, look, we don’t want hate speech in our venues. If you hear something, please say something. Please let us know. And later that night, we had a woman from Nigeria singing the national anthem, and a white male in the stands used the n-word to describe her to another person in the stands. And thankfully, someone heard it, pointed them out, identified them, and our security, and BPD– we were able to identify the person and eject them from the ballpark. The individual admitted to it.
And it was just within 24 hours these two incidents happened at Fenway Park in Boston in 2017, and for us as an organization I think it was a big wake up call. And so a lot of us got together, including Pam Kenn, my great colleague who’s been with us 20 years, a few others. And we said, look, what are we going to do? And we got resources and people around the table– elected officials. We had started to build a relationship with the NAACP, and a brilliant woman, Tanisha Sullivan, said, you know, you guys have a choice.
You can lean into this and take it on as an issue, or you can just do what most companies do and sweep it under the rug and hope that it goes away. And so we sort of looked at each other, and said let’s take this on, and let’s talk to the other teams. And I can’t tell you how incredible the Patriots, the Celtics, the Bruins, the Revolution have been.
It started with a campaign around our venues. We don’t want hate speech in our venues. In the case of the Red Sox, if you engage in hate speech in our venue, we will kick you out.
We will ban you from coming back. In some cases, we may ban you for life from coming back, and that’s what we’ve done. [APPLAUSE] The next step is a continuation of that. We need to try and provide economic opportunity. We started the Take the Lead job fair, which we just held at the Boston Garden about two or three weeks ago, to really give tangible ideas and teach young people to how to get into the sports business, because it’s a great business.
For someone like me, sitting on stage with two professional athletes, that’s pretty cool. And the only reason I’m doing it is because I work in the sports business. So it’s a great career. It’s a great business whether you work in a front office, for a league, a broadcast outlet, an agency, but people need to know how to do it, and how do you actually get in?
So we wanted to give tangible direction to young people about how to get into the sports business. So we’re going to continue to work with this umbrella program called Take the Lead, and Bekah, I don’t know if you want to add to it because you’ve been a big part of it since coming in. – Yeah, so as much as it may seem reactive to the incidents, I also think it’s worth noting that programs like RBI and Scholars have been in existence for a long time. And I think that was one of the things that was really attractive to me, and my personal mission of always giving back attracted me to the foundation to know that they’d been committed to charitable work in the community for so long. RBI is 25 years old. Scholars has been in existence since 2003.
There have been millions of dollars donated in the community throughout New England, particularly inner city communities, whether that’s a monetary gift or auction items, really making sure there’s an intentional allocation of resources to ensure that we’re connecting to our communities of color, because as a person of color, I know firsthand how difficult it is to break barriers. And to break into this industry is very, very, very difficult. And so I do want to say, though, that I believe the Red Sox have always been committed.
It’s never ending work. I think that’s one of the things I love about being in philanthropy and being in nonprofit– is that there’s always more to do. And being behind an organization that is truly committed to this cause and has basically said to me like any resource you need, Bekah, we’re behind you. Go and do it.
And so one of the things that we’re exploring is larger, again, more intentional allocation of resources into bigger communities outside of Boston. And one of those communities that we’re looking at is Lawrence, making sure that we can step into gateway communities, and be present, and make sure to recognize some of the great work– academic, economic– that are happening in communities outside of Boston to ensure that we can keep that connection and keep the pipeline open for young people, adults to come into Fenway Park, and so they know it’s an accessible, open, welcoming venue and space for them to partake in. So I think it’s just relevant to note that.
– Yes, and I was going to say one of the other things that– other components of Take the Lead, as I mentioned earlier, is the encouragement, empowerment, for players, whether past or present, to speak up and speak out. Pedro, I know you are someone who enjoys speaking out and doesn’t shy away from that. And I’m just curious– advice?
Because you have such a big platform in the city, and at the same time there’s so much scrutiny to what players do in this city. Advice to players who might want to speak out, whether it’s against hate speech or whether they have some other issue that’s near and dear to their heart? – Well, I think everybody deep inside has a feel for the things that are right or wrong. I know we have a lot of young players that are playing right now, but a lot of them, when you look at them– and I was talking to you earlier about those things– some of those guys are now barely old enough to go buy a drink. And they are already dealing with the responsibility to be one Red Sox, to be one very known person, social media, the phones, everything being documented makes it so hard on those kids that are bound to make mistakes because of lack of experience– all those things that people normally don’t stop to think about when they’re playing the game and when they get off the field.
So my advice for them would be understand really what you’re doing, who you are, what you mean to the people, and understand also that it’s not just baseball. There’s a lot of responsibilities that come attached with it, and I think they have to understand that baseball doesn’t stop between the white lines. And when they walk in society, when they walk in the neighborhoods, when they walk in the residential areas and they drive their nice cars, they have to realize that everything they do has a little bit of responsibility with it. And it’s not written on the papers that you’re supposed to go to communities, but they look at you.
Kids look at you as a role model. They want to be like you. I couldn’t believe during the winter caravan that we have here at Foxwoods I saw so many young little kids growing their hair.
They wanted to be like Benintendi. [LAUGHTER] And so many jerseys that said Mookie on the back, and they wanted to look like Mookie. They dressed up. They had their own little uniform.
They had the rubber bands. They have everything, just like the players do. And that is part of their responsibility that they have. And they’re probably not thinking about it, but my advice would be to really pay attention to those little details and understand that everything they do means something to someone. And even if it is in a good way, you’ve got to be responsible and accountable for the things that you do.
And part of the society, part of community work comes with the package. So I will advise them to really look into the things that are behind their back, not just in the baseball field. – I think it’s interesting you mentioned the things that you see and that are so visible, especially in this city with the spotlight on the players, but there are two examples I wanted to bring up that happened recently that you may have missed. And I want to get the panel’s reaction– the panelists reaction to it.
First of all, I think you have in newly hired– or recently hired Red Sox manager Alex Cora somebody who leads in the way that Pedro was talking about. You have to really think about what your responsibility is. You all know he is the first minority manager of the Red Sox in team history.
I think you may also be aware of the fact that, in the off season, he took a trip down to Puerto Rico, where he grew up, where his family lives to provide aid to the victims of Hurricane Maria. What you may not know is that that was part of his contract negotiation, and in the final stages of that negotiation, it wasn’t about more money. It wasn’t about more years. It was about getting a plane that could go down to Puerto Rico with that aid.
That’s one example. Another example is Christian Vazquez with his recent contract extension, a three year, I believe, $13.3 million contract extension, but that’s not what’s interesting about that. In, I think, a move that’s pretty unprecedented as far as I know, he asked that there be a provision in his contract that was a donation to the Red Sox Foundation. So kind of mind blowing when you think about a player having the presence of mind– and a manager– during the contract negotiations to think of the community. Rebecca, because you’re the beneficiary of that contract donation, when you heard that that was coming your way, what was your reaction? What did you make of it?
And did you think there was something of a change taking place? – No, I think my reaction was, no way. It was like that when I got the phone call. Yeah, I mean, again having worked for the Celtics and worked with those players for five years, I’d never seen anything like that.
And this was the first time that I’d heard it at the Red Sox, as well. So hearing it, to me, was– I mean, my immediate thought was, wow, money. Less money I had to raise to meet my bottom line, but beyond that I just felt that it was a real indication that players I feel like are starting to finally recognize the inherent value of being invested in the community, and how giving back can be good for your own personal brand, and how working in the community and being present in the community is really, really helpful for themselves both as individuals, but also as members of a professional sports team. And so to have that carve out was just remarkable– that there is kind of an element of philanthropy going on in our players’ brains is incredible.
And I think there’s only more opportunity for more. I think the other element of that contract was that I get to work with the player now to think about where we can allocate those funds. So making sure that it can be kind of part of the either portfolio of the player or against one of his philanthropic priorities is really interesting, because what I’ve seen with players is the moment that you can really have them bought into where that investment is going is the more they’re going to want to make the appearances, the more they’re going to want to say, Bekah, I’m available to do this.
And so making sure that it can really go to something that he’s himself supportive of, whether it’s a cause or a nonprofit, is really exciting for me. And so I hope– I hope– that we can continue to do this, and that it catches on, and that we can really have an element in contract with players to make it a philanthropic mandate that they’re part of the community. – Sam, you look like you have something you want to say about it, either Cora or– – No, I’m remembering back. It’s hard to believe that is hasn’t even been a full year. Going back to the end of last year, we had a really good season. We won 93 games.
We had early exit from the playoffs, and only in Boston would you win a World Series, win two division championships, and then lose your job. So I have to give a big shout out to our friend, Pedro’s friend, John Farrell, who did an amazing job for us, as did Tito. But there clearly is a shelf life in that position, especially in Boston.
So when we made the decision to move on from John, it was unanimous before the process started that we thought Alex Cora would be the right guy, but we went through a process sort of like the process to hire Bekah. We were proven right, that after interviewing the other candidates, Alex stood out just the way Bekah did as the right person to join the Red Sox. The problem was he was under contract in the postseason with the Astros on their way to a World Series championship. So we had to navigate the Major League Baseball waters of no tampering and getting permission to interview him.
And he was literally flying in to interview on off days in the American League Championship Series, and then we needed to get him in front of John Henry and Tom Werner in New York at a hotel at midnight after a game, so it was a little bit tricky. But when we ultimately got the green light to make a deal with him, Dave Dombrowski negotiated directly with him. It took, I think, about five minutes to reach agreement on a first year managerial contract for Alex Cora to join the Red Sox. And everything– it just seemed to be too good to be true. He was the hottest managerial candidate on the planet. We’ve had an agreement with him, and we’re ready to send him a term sheet.
Then Dave calls back and says there’s one little problem, one little issue. And I’m thinking, oh god, here we go. As you said, more years, more money, bigger suite on the road, first class travel in the off– something.
No, no, no, no, no. He wants a plane. I said, what do you mean, he wants a plane? Planes are expensive. He said, no, no, no, no.
He wants a plane to go from Boston to Puerto Rico this off season to shine a light on what’s going on in Puerto Rico. He’s got supplies all over the country that can come to Boston that we can take down there. So anyway, we called up our friends at JetBlue. We got a plane, and we went down to Caguas, Puerto Rico to Alex’s hometown. And I think it really just says a lot about who this guy is as a person. Look, he’s a rookie manager in the American League East.
It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be hard, but from his time with us from 2005 through 2008, as Pedro knows a lot better than me, he was a fantastic teammate, a go to guy. When we needed him to do things in the community, I think he was someone– Pam would probably agree– pick up the phone, and call him, and he was there for you.
So he’s been a great addition, and he’s a very special person. – And just, Pedro, as you hear these stories both about Cora and Vazquez, what goes– I mean, I can also see you smiling. There seems to be a certain amount of pride that this has become the Red Sox legacy and that this is where it’s at with both the manager and young players. – Well, that’s a clear sign of what you were saying about the future, about the legacy that some other players are living out there. I’m part of it.
I feel proud of those guys doing that. I’ve been part of so many things that the Puerto Rican players do in Puerto Rico, just like they have been part of the things that I do in the Dominican Republic, and we support each other. And it’s no surprise to me that Christian wants to do that as soon as he gets a little bit of money.
He’s seen that before, and that’s what it’s all about. They have seen the examples of the Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and those guys– the Alomar brothers, Roberto Clemente living his life in the middle of the sea to go help people in Nicaragua. That’s the legacy. That’s what you want. That’s what you want to see. Pretty soon we’re going to have to sign another player, and it doesn’t have to be precisely from Puerto Rico or the Dominican, but that player is going to try to be another Christian Vazquez, or an Alex Cora, or a Pedro Martinez.
It doesn’t matter who they choose to be, but they are probably going to be doing the same thing because they saw it on someone else, and that’s what makes these kind of things that we do in the community important– is that the future that’s coming over has something to emulate when they go forward. – I think also it seems like the community expects it now perhaps more than they have in the past. And I don’t know if, Bekah, you see that in your work that they expect this philanthropy. They expect this connection among the players.
– Yeah, I mean what I’ve been thinking about as I’m listening to Pedro is that representation matters, and I think it’s critically important that, as much as we can– and I know this is in Pam’s team, the Community Relations Department– we’re getting our players into the community so that our young kids of color can see individuals that are successful and know that they can make it. And making that connection, I think, is the most important thing. I know baseball plays 700 games a season– very different than basketball. So the players are far less available than they are in basketball, but they do make an effort, and they do make time. One example is that we have Jackie Bradley Jr. Every home game on a Friday he’s agreed to come out and meet with some of our Red Sox Scholars, and so we’re making a connection, a personal connection. He spends about 30 minutes with them away from cameras, away from people, just talking.
Taking pictures, of course, signing autographs– that’s fine. But more than that, it’s really just talking to them about what they’re doing and helping to create some sort of inspiration of a pathway for them, and vision for them that they can be successful. And so really trying to make those little connections as often as we can, either at the park or in the community is, I think, what it’s all about.
– I think we’d be sort of remiss in this conversation if we didn’t mention some of the criticism that players get for speaking out, for being activists. I’m referencing here, of course, the take a knee movement in the NFL that has players kneeling during the national anthem. Trump has spoken out about it.
The NFL owners, and players, and coaches have had a difficult time figuring out how they’re going to handle it, how they’re going to deal with it. And out of that, I think what’s interesting is that sort of this– has come the players should not be involved. The phrase is the shut up and dribble part of this– that there’s that fallout.
And I’m curious, Pedro, when you hear somebody say, essentially, you shouldn’t care about your community, you should just stick to sports, what’s your reaction? – That’s a no-no for me. I think I care about my– [LAUGHTER] I will always care about my community. My community is my strength.
My community is my support. I can’t ignore my community, but at the same time, it’s so complicated to try to explain why we see mistakes that probably a Dominican that’s not as well educated wouldn’t commit– why are we seeing some mistakes so high up on the top where the leaders of the world are thinking like little kids sometimes? [APPLAUSE] And just like good things could be copied by serving as an example, I think the same message needs to go to the people– the leaders of the world.
When it comes to the sports, to the respect for the fan base, for the community, for the people that pay our salaries, I think we should continue to just respect the sport, respect the people that come to see you. You should respect your flag. You should respect the integrity of our job. We should always take that in consideration. Never forget that people help people. I remember I was landing in Tampa in 2001 as those planes were hitting the twin towers.
It was early in the morning. We had been stranded in New York for such a long time. We were tired, beat up, getting our luggages to our rooms and stuff like that when that happened. And I remember how the entire country just came together and gave each other a hug. I don’t know how you felt, but I felt it.
I felt that, at that moment, when so many innocent lives were going away, that’s when we really got strong. We started holding hands. It should be the same way all around the world.
If a bunch of aliens came down to erase us, we will all be fighting together. So why not here? Why not in these kind of situations?
Let’s stick together. People help people, and people respect people. Let’s treat everybody like a human being, not really as an individual.
Humans are humans, and we all look out for each other, and we respect each other. That’s my point of view when it comes to that. – This panel is about citizenship.
We’re talking about citizenship. It’s so great to listen to Pedro talk, because you’re just– if you’ve ever needed a reminder about what leadership is all about, at the end of the day, it’s about bringing people together, not dividing them and tearing them apart. So I think as a Red Sox– [APPLAUSE] –yeah, I agree.
I grew up a mile from Fenway Park, and we couldn’t– we just couldn’t win. We couldn’t quite get there in the ’70s, and ’80s, and ’90s. And it took leaders to come in and bring people together, and David Ortiz talks a lot about Pedro as his mentor.
So these guys, they did it together, and they showed us how to win in 2004. And then as special as ’04 was and how much it meant to all of us, and our fathers, our mothers– in my case, my grandmother– it was amazing. But Pedro, you talk about 9/11, and it got me thinking about April, 2013. And when those bombs went off at the finish line, I guarantee you every single person in this room has got their own story, and they were affected in some certain way. And the Red Sox– we felt it was critically important to just do everything we could that year to be sort of a part of the healing process. Pam’s team was unbelievable at bringing in survivors and their families, but it was David Ortiz who said what needed to be said on April 20.
I mean, it’s just unbelievable. – Didn’t put any makeup on it either. – No. [LAUGHTER] And when we went to the White House, Obama said, you got a hall pass. You can say whatever you want.
And David takes a selfie with him, and that’s whole other story. But it really is important, I think, for organizations to support their players and lift up their status as role models, as leaders. Now, not every player wants that. We certainly understand that, but as an industry, as a sports industry, Commissioner Manfred and his group– I think they’re really working hard to try and celebrate the great personalities and players. And with the Red Sox, ever since I walked through that door my first day in 2002, we’ve had that.
And we have the next generation coming behind Pedro and David with Mookie, and Jackie, and Xander, and Benintendi, and Devers. And we’re so fortunate to be a part of this era in Red Sox baseball, because it wasn’t always like this. – Yes, and with success comes higher ticket prices. – This was going so well. [LAUGHTER] – You may be aware, if you’ve gone to a Red Sox game, they have one of the most expensive– they call it game experiences.
That’s the combination of tickets, parking, and concessions. I think they’re actually now ranked third behind the Yankees and Seattle Mariners– latest check. And let’s be honest, that makes the actual game inaccessible to a significant portion of the fan base. So you talk about the importance of representation.
You’ve got to have the representation, I would think, not only in the community, but also in the ballpark. What are you doing to address that? – Well, I’m glad you asked.
[LAUGHTER] Do you have any other questions before we come back to that? [LAUGHTER] – No, I’m just kidding. We have very expensive ticket prices.
No, we don’t hide behind that. We have corporate revenue that we pursue aggressively, broadcast revenue that we pursue aggressively. We try to stage non-baseball events to drive revenues. We make no bones about that. At the end of the day, we are a business.
We’ve got a payroll north of $200 million this year, so we do need to run a business. That said, I would challenge your premise and your assertion that it’s not accessible, because we have to make Fenway Park accessible. Look, we talked a lot about teachers.
My mom was a teacher. My dad was a teacher in his own right– an Episcopal clergyman. I got to go to Fenway Park on his clergy pass for $2.
So I know what it’s like to have parents who can’t afford season tickets or even tickets, but to get into Fenway for $2. – And you re-instituted the clergy pass, right? – And not everyone has a father who is a clergyman, especially if you’re a Kennedy from Boston.
That’s a whole other story I’ll tell you about later. But we decided two years ago that we didn’t want to have to answer that question ever again moving forward. So we started our Student 9 program. So now, for every single game, every year at Fenway Park we have $9 tickets for students– high school, middle school, college, graduate students– $9 tickets, less than the cost of a movie ticket, for every single game. We have tickets available.
If we’re going to be approaching a sell out, we affirmatively hold back tickets to make $9 tickets available specifically for young people. Now, you may get a standing room ticket. You may get a seat behind a pole. On a night like tonight, you may get a field box ticket, because we’re only at 32,000 paid tonight.
So one of the benefits– we sold out Fenway Park for nine years straight, which was great. We had a wonderful sellout streak. Everyone wanted to see Pedro and David, but one of the benefits of having more inventory is that it is accessible. So we have this student ticket program. We have $15 tickets, $20 tickets, $25 tickets. We have tier five games, where tickets are priced more affordably.
Yes, we have luxury boxes, dugout seats, very, very expensive tickets in the Dell EMC Club, the State Street Pavilion, but we sort of look at it as the Robin Hood theory of pricing. Let’s charge corporations and people that can afford higher end ticket prices, and keep the low end low so it’s accessible. The other thing that we’re trying to do is open up Fenway Park year round with new and different exciting events, whether it’s soccer, outdoor ice hockey, college football, ski jumping and snowboarding. We’re trying to bring in a new young demographic to Fenway Park, because if you don’t care for your sport, things can happen. If you look at the state of boxing or horse racing in the United States right now, those sports used to dominate the landscape. And we don’t ever take that for granted, so we want to get people into Fenway, and we are making it affordable and accessible.
– And the foundation has events like Picnic in the Park. – Yeah, so this is my favorite question because I get to give away free tickets as part of my job. So actually just in April we donated out 1,100 tickets to the foundation, which is incredible. So I do get– I have the fortunate job of getting access to a lot of donated tickets back from season ticket holders either the day of a game, or pre-game, several days out. And so what I do with my team is allocate them to nonprofits in the community that we know are making an impact.
And so again, 1,100 in one month is a good number. We continually get tickets from the team, as well. So we have chunks of 75 throughout the season that we’re able to give out to large groups. We have tickets from the team that we have every single game that we’re able to donate out to nonprofits and to organizations that are trying to raise money through raffles, or silent auctions, and whatnot.
So we do have an intentional effort against making sure that we can donate out to the community to make sure we’re getting people in that might not have the means to be there. So the other thing that we’re making sure to do is have other access points for Red Sox nation and/or their fans to get into the ballpark. And so my foundation team runs about 12 events a year varying from Picnic in the Park, which is we basically put on a concert in the outfield. And so paid fans come in, and you get to meet every single player. We line them up at a table.
You get an auction, and you get a picnic blanket, and some food, and some drinks, and you get to sit down and hang out, and hear a band play music for the afternoon. So it’s events like that that we want to make sure we’re getting people into the stadium– or Fenway Park. I’m still learning terms for baseball. Sorry.
– Larry Lucchino would never let you call it a stadium, right, [INAUDIBLE]? It’s a ballpark. – Yeah, no, I call Alex Cora the head coach all the time. – Head coach.
[LAUGHTER] – All the time, all the time. And spring break, preseason. It’s just soccer games are never going to go away from me. – And wait until you have to learn all of those in Spanish. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] – So it’s really fun that we’re able to put on different events– like we have concerts in the right field roof deck at much, much, much lower prices– sometimes free.
We can get individuals from the community into the ballpark. – I’m going to turn shortly to audience questions. I know the microphone is going to be coming down the center aisle, and you can line up to ask questions, but while we wait for that to happen and wait for everyone to line up, I wanted to ask the panelists– you mentioned Red Sox nation. It’s a unique term for this unique fandom, and I am sure– and it speaks to the devotion of the fan base and the far reach of the fan base.
So I would like to hear from each of you if there’s an experience you’ve had that sort of really typifies what it is to be one of the most visible members now of Red Sox nation, if there’s been a moment, an interaction, something that you’ve experienced where you’re like, wow, this is what Red Sox nation is all about. – I have one. It’s not going to be as good as Pedro’s. Let me go first so I don’t have to follow him. – I’ll be last.
I’ll be the last. – So one of my children– I have three kids– goes to a Boston public school in Dorchester called the Henderson, and I was there the other day picking him up. And I hear from across the room– I’m walking through a hallway, and this teacher goes, can I have your autograph? I was like, who? Is she talking to me? And she runs up to me, and she’s like, oh my god, I saw you on NESN, and I’m the biggest Red Sox fan in the world.
And so that has never happened to me ever, ever, ever. Not even when I was a professional athlete has that ever happened, unless they are five years old and a soccer player. So to have people that actually watch pre-game on NESN is amazing, and that they now know my face because I’m on TV every home Friday on NESN is amazing. So I gave her the autograph. No, I’m just kidding.
I didn’t sign an autograph. So that for me just, I think, is telling that she, again, watched all of– I was going to say pre-season– all of spring training and watches every pre-game on NESN, and every single game, course. So it’s just one small testament to Red Sox nation.
– Sam, you’re next. – I’ll never forget getting off the plane after coming back from St. Louis and Pedro was grabbing laptops. Remember we were teasing Theo? And we rolled right into the parade, and obviously I’m back office– front office, but you’re in the background, where you should be behind the scenes. But thanks to Mayor Menino at the time, we were all allowed as front office members to go on the floats in the parade.
So that was sort of our 90 minutes of feeling like a rock star. You would just look at these people in office buildings, and wave to them, and they would just go crazy, and you’d say wow, this is pretty cool. And my wife, who was on the float with me, kept saying, stop doing that. They’re not here for you.
Shut up. [LAUGHTER] But I don’t know how many people were actually there, but I think it was close to five million people. I mean, it had been 86 years, and the estimates– I heard all sorts of different estimates, but now I sound like Donald Trump promoting how many people were at the inauguration. Sorry. [LAUGHTER] It was a lot of people, and it was really loud, and it was an unbelievable feeling that I’ll never forget. – Well, you were talking about giving away tickets and stuff, and talking about Fenway Park, I might be the most unique person for the most unique place for the most unique fan base and the most loyal fan base I’ve ever seen in Boston.
And let me tell you why. I was here for seven years, and I took the mound– every single time I took the mound, it wasn’t a baseball game. It was an event at Fenway. And I never threw a pitch in Boston since I got here that the stadium wasn’t sold out. And why am I saying this?
I’ve never seen a game from sitting in the stadium that Fenway is the most unique place– and I’m saying this with pride– Fenway is the most unique place that a big leaguer can probably think of to pitch a game or to play a game. And at the same time, I’m saying this because I believe, expensive or not expensive, this is the most loyal fan base in all of baseball. And I’m sorry.
We’re not disrespecting any other organization. – That’s OK. You can disrespect. [LAUGHTER] – This is the fan base.
This is Red Sox nation. [APPLAUSE] That was the biggest impression for me. It was the fact that I never got to pitch a game without Fenway being sold out, and that showed me a lot about loyalty, because you had your heart broken many times way before I got here and after I got here.
But thanks to god, we made it up. [APPLAUSE] – We’ll turn to audience questions now. If you could just identify yourself before you ask your question. – Sure. My name is Matthew, and I’m a freshman at Harvard. I spent the past two summers teaching in Samana in the Dominican Republic.
– Really? Beautiful place, huh? – Yeah, I agree. So my question is for Pedro.
So first of all, [SPANISH]. – [SPANISH]. – [SPANISH]. – [SPANISH].
– [SPANISH]. So my question is, what do you think needs to happen in the Dominican Republic to reduce poverty within the country? And do you think that baseball has a role in that? – Baseball not only has a role, I think it’s a great ambassador for the young athletes that we have, but always remember not everybody is going to get the opportunity to be a Pedro Martinez, a David Ortiz, or– as many players as you hear from Dominican, there are far more that fail on the way over to the big leagues. Put it this way.
1 out of 450 will be probably an accurate average– will probably make it to the 40 man roster, have an opportunity to play in the big leagues. That’s not counting establishing himself in the big leagues. What makes you a big leaguer is the consistency, and not all the time you get a player that’s going to be consistent in the big leagues. And that’s what gets you money, too, is being consistent.
And for the Dominican Republic, I think the first step that needs to be taken is to get rid of corruption in the system from top to bottom. The Dominican Republic is corrupt. I’m not saying it’s everybody, but the politicians have a bad rap around them. And I’m not saying it’s all of them, but the system is messed up. And that’s where new leaders have to be born, and education needs to be the center of the Dominican Republic right along with Haiti.
For people that don’t know, Dominican and Haiti share the island divided by a river. It has no walls. You see as many Haitians right now and you see Dominicans, as you see Venezuelans. There’s no borders there. There’s not really.
There’s no order. So that’s why we struggle more, and more, and more. And the education system is one of the worst in the world, and that needs to be addressed.
The corruption needs to go away so that people don’t start thinking about filling their pockets in order for the Dominican to become a little bit better. And it’s not any time soon. It takes a lot of work, but I think getting rid of corrupt people that are there to fill up their pockets– right along with Haiti, too. It’s the same problem. It’s the same problem that we have.
If we don’t get rid of that and we center ourself towards education, and putting it in the hands of people that want to be clean and want to have a better future, we’re standing in front of a lot of struggles. – Thank you. – Hi, my name is Brian. One thing that disappoints me– and maybe you could explain why this is– so many diehard sports fans in Boston– maybe across the country– are really misinformed in American politics. So many of them are right wingers, and they’re diehard Republicans.
They’re so loyal to Republicans it’s like their sports team. Why don’t more players step up, use their platform, use their position of loyalty that they have, and educate their own fan base, and endorse specific candidates for political office? It just seems to be so rare.
And I’m not talking about the people in this room, but I’m saying from my experience, and observation, and listening to talk radio, and sports talk radio, it just seems– – I have some advice for you on that topic– don’t listen. [LAUGHTER] Turn it off– country-western. Let me take a shot of that, Pedro. I think the premise is flawed that, just because someone like Pedro Martinez or David Ortiz has the ability and the willingness– or let me throw our another name, Curt Schilling– have the ability and willingness to speak out, and they have a platform, doesn’t mean that all athletes, or even the majority of athletes, are comfortable doing that. And I can give you a firm example. Last year, in the wake of the Adam Jones incident, we had many one on one conversations, group conversations with guys in our clubhouse– and they’ll remain nameless– who are young in their career and just simply said, you know, I’m not comfortable talking about issues of race or issues of politics.
And so it’s not for every player. They’re asked to do a lot of things, and I’d also say that, while players– it’s great to celebrate players’ social views or have them speak up on different things from time to time– there are a lot of sports fans that I hear from that say, enough. I turn on MSNBC and Fox News, and I hear Trump this or Obama that, or Charlie Baker this, and Marty Walsh that. I want to watch sports to get away from it.
I want to enjoy sports. I don’t want these issues of the day brought into sports. So it’s a tricky issue, I think, for players, and you put a lot of pressure on players who might not be comfortable dealing or speaking out on these issues, because every word you said gets dissected over, and over, and over.
And unless you’re the great Pedro Martinez, who can say whatever he wants– – Not really. [LAUGHTER] – It’s a lot of pressure on these players. – There’s social media right there looking at us. Everything is documented. You have to really be cautious now.
Plus, let me bring something from a baseball player’s probably standpoint. The season is so long. We’re always 24/7, like you hear in WEEI– 24/7 talking sports.
We’re under the scrutiny every single moment. And I was saying that earlier, too. It’s hard to believe that a 20-year-old is going to be held responsible for probably something so small like cursing at someone over having a bad day. And it’s documented. You throw it out there in social media, and it’s right away blown out of proportion that this guy is a bad guy, or he has a bad attitude just because he was young, snapped one time, and he was caught on a cell phone. That’s how simple it is for a player to get in trouble.
And sometimes they just want to really concentrate on the long season they have. They’re busy thinking, how am I going to figure out the little slump that I’m going at 20 years old? And all I want to do is really play baseball and let the older guys, or the guys that are ready to explain those things go do it instead of me having to take that load on my shoulder when I don’t really understand what I’m going to say, maybe because of lack of experience, too. So they try to simplify things, and baseball is really complicated.
And for a long season, where you want to be established as a baseball player, you don’t want any distractions, so you try to stay away from those things. – Thank you. [APPLAUSE] – Hi, I’m Maggie, and I’m a sophomore at Harvard. So that means that I would have been in first grade in 2004, and one of my favorite memories is my parents running upstairs to wake me up after my brother and I had already gone to bed to come back down and watch the ninth inning. So I was hoping that you could share one of your favorite baseball memories.
– My favorite memory– and it still rings my head– is just coming that morning. It was like the last out. Took forever. For a guy that had been in the baseball field for so long that surely should understand what finishing a game is like, the anxiety that I had to see that last out be recorded for Boston seems to me like it was in slow motion.
And ever since we got that last out, it was like a dream come true for me. And when I finally got here in the morning, and Sam is talking about so many things that I probably did. [LAUGHTER] – It was a fun, fun flight. When I was about to step out of the bus, I had the trophy in my hands, and the oldest players– the oldest player that we had in the team was Ellis Burks. He told me, Pedro, wait a minute. I know you’re the one handing it out to Boston, but I want to be the one receiving it, because he went through the struggles.
I don’t know if you remember, but Ellis was part of those teams that got their heart broken. He goes, I want to be part of what you helped create. And I went. I took the step on the last step of the bus, and I handed the trophy to the land in Boston. That was, to me, the biggest memory.
The last out was great, but the trophy meant, Boston, here you have it. Now I’m totally settled with Boston. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] – That’s so good. So good. – Hi, I’m Jay. Last time I went to a Red Sox game it cost $1 to sit in the bleachers.
That was in ’75. So I think we have to give Mr. Yawkey a little bit of credit of keeping the game accessible to the working class, not just to students. And it seems to me that lately over the years the game has become more of a marketing vehicle for advertising than it has for sports or community development. You go to the stadium.
It’s saturated with ads. The broadcasts are all saturated with ads. This is really a means not of developing community spirit, but of integrating out groups into a consumerist society, isn’t it, more than anything?
– Is that a Boston Globe reporter, or? [LAUGHTER] I appreciate you question. And it’s interesting, if you look at photos from the 1920s, and ’30s, and ’40s, you’ll see ads on the Green Monster. I mean, you’re not wrong in that we have to generate revenues as a company, as a club, because we have players to pay.
We have front office folks to pay. So it is a business, and we recognize that, but we also recognize the Red Sox here in this market are so much more. It’s a public trust. And I can tell you, having worked there, since day one– February 27, 2002– when John Henry, and Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino arrived as the new owners, 17 years in they’re still the new owners of the Red Sox. It’s what we do in Boston. It takes 30 years to get native status.
These guys, they care. We’ve had some high highs, like ’04, and ’07, and ’13. We’ve had some low lows, but they care.
And we are doing everything we can to be active participants in the community, to give back through the foundation, through our community outreach. I mentioned how we’re trying to keep ticket prices affordable for tier five games, tier four games, having lower prices to complement the higher prices. But we do recognize it is expensive, and we appreciate the fan support that we get.
And at the end of the day, it is a business, so we have to balance that challenge. – Hi, my name is Duncan. This is my 40th year as a season ticket holder for the Sox. – Thank you.
– And through those years, I’ve coached my son in Little League and travel teams, watched a lot of high school, college baseball. I’m a baseball junkie. And I just get very concerned in the youth of America that interest in baseball is fading. And a lot of it to me I think is because baseball– I think hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports, and so a lot of people give up in instant mediocrity, and lacrosse, and off you go.
[LAUGHTER] But it’s inner city kids, suburban kids, whatever. And what major league baseball has done in Latin America with the camps, and the academies, raising kids up and everything, why can’t we do that in America, too, and maybe get the interest back in? – Well, I’ll kick it to Bekah and Pedro for a minute, but we do have a bit of an image or a PR problem. I don’t think so much in New England, but we have 75 million fans attending our games, which is more than all of the other major sports combined. We have more consumers consuming baseball as a product on television, and radio, on the internet than the other sports given the amount of games, the amount of inventory we have. And there was a very, very bright spot at the last major league baseball owners meetings, where we learned for the second time in two years over the last two years participation rates in baseball have increased by 2.5 million people from ’16 to ’17, which is big.
So we’re just under 25 million boys and girls playing baseball and softball, and that’s something to be celebrated. It’s seven or eight times the amount of young people playing lacrosse, for example, the sport that you [INAUDIBLE]. So I really do think it’s something that– we need to focus on that product to make sure that kids have the excess, and they fall in love with it, but I think baseball, especially in New England, is healthy. I think one major issue we have– you mentioned it– is the infection of AAU and club sports coming into baseball. And Bekah, maybe you want to talk about that, given your experience as a youth athlete.
You really need to have kids playing and not turning to these pay for play programs and playing year round. I think you’re better off playing Little League and then playing another sport. – Yeah, and that’s why we invest so heavily in the RBI program, making sure that we can have close to over 700 inner city Boston young people participating in baseball and softball every single summer, and we actually have seen retention there growing. One of the things we’re trying to do is build in some social and emotional development, gender specific social and emotional development, particularly for young girls, to ensure that we can have them coming back and having a fun experience.
I was actually just in Springfield this morning with MLB running a clinic for 150 fourth through sixth graders out there, and had an interesting conversation with the gentleman that runs their community relations department. And hearing them talk about their investment that they’re going to be making across the country– he was just telling me about a 24 hour game that they’re playing out in– I was going to say Springfield. Not Springfield.
Alaska– not even close to Springfield. So they’re going out there to do a whole 24 hour midnight game. And he was talking about going to Hawaii.
I’ll definitely try to get into that one. [LAUGHTER] But they are really being intentional about going into communities and doing what– one of the programs they have is called Play Ball, which is literally just fun. It’s bringing out Wiffle balls, softballs, and soft bats, and teaching kids how to ground.
There’s no mitts. So everything is really, really basic, but there’s music playing. It’s making sure young people have a fun initial experience with the sport to hopefully build a retention and love for the game so that they keep coming back, because you’re right. I think we are losing out to elite athletes that want to only be specific in one sport, and that they don’t want to be diversified in their portfolio, to be fairly formal. But I really believe in having young people participate in as many sports as possible as young as possible to really be exposed to the game, because it’s a beautiful thing, A, and, B, obviously we know that there is a proven– I know there is a proven link between academics and athletics. And so when you can introduce sports to young people, they’re going to be academically successful.
So all that to say I think there is an intentional effort with MLB and us to make sure we’re investing deeply. We fund over 200 Mass Little League programs right now. So enabling 3,000 young people to play sports across Massachusetts is incredible. So we’re making the investment, and we know the importance there.
– My name is Sal Bolanos. I live and work in Boston. Part time student here at Harvard. Combat veteran.
I met you at the Army-Navy game last week, Sam. [SPANISH], Pedro? – Gracias [SPANISH]. – Anyway, two part question. You have a way with words, Pedro.
– [INAUDIBLE]. – People help people. – Way with words. – Humans are humans. Who, in baseball, has helped you not only adjust to the baseball life, but in life in the United States? And also, who have you mentored as far as adjusting to life in baseball and being an immigrant in this country?
– Thank you. That’s great, and some great questions. First of all, I must say faith in god– basic in our house. Mom and dad, the influence. Most of the things that you probably don’t relate to baseball, but they are. When they teach you to be strong, to work, to do all those things, they’re holding you responsible.
And they want you to be the best that you can be in everything you do. If I start mentioning names of people that really influenced my way of being, my way of thinking, and my experience, I probably wouldn’t finish tonight, but I would have to say that the base– and I will say it again. It’s all about the base, because we do have here a base program that we visit.
And that was, I guess, the national anthem that they have at the base. The base– it’s all about the base to me. It was all about the base. How my mom and dad were able to raise us right and make us strong to actually face adversity, and face whatever we had to face, and also be respectful of what we were doing and respect human beings as human beings.
Like you said, a human helps a human, and I said it earlier. It’s all because of my mom and dad and the strong faith and belief that they introduced to us. – Gracias. – Hi, my name’s David. My last Little League season was in 1999, which was Pedro prime time. So I’d love to ask him about Don Zimmer or his amazing change up, which, by the way, 25% of batters swung and missed at the change up in 2002, and that wasn’t even Pedro’s best season.
– Statistics. [LAUGHTER] – So, but I have to ask Sam a question, which is you talked about the pain that you felt when you heard what had happened with Adam Jones. And I think all of us who grew up as fans and feel the way you do can also read the history about Jackie Robinson’s sham tryout at Fenway and feel that same type of pain, and shock, and really embarrassment, because this is a team that we feel ownership of. So with that in mind, why isn’t the Yawkey Morse code coming off the Green Monster? – A very timely question and something that we’ve been talking about internally.
For right now, we have decided that we’re going to keep recognition of Mr. And Mrs. Yawkey that exist inside the ballpark. Tom Yawkey’s in the Red Sox hall of fame. He’s in the Cooperstown hall of fame, and the Morse code initials have been on that board since the ’70s. And really our thinking around that could change, but right now we’ve been focused on the message of inclusion at the ballpark.
And the name on the front door where 85%, 90% of our fans come through gate A and gate D has been what we’ve been focused on. And you have a tricky time going back and looking at the history of every single player, for example, that’s been recognized in the Hall of Fame either in Cooperstown or with the Red Sox, but that’s where we are right now, and we’ve really been focused on that symbol on our front door, but that position or that decision could change in the future. But that’s where we are right now. – I know we’re all very engrossed in this conversation, but in order to keep things moving, I think we’re going to take two questions at a time and try to make sure everybody gets where they need to go.
– Thanks. My name is Ronald Herman, and thank you, folks, for being here and spending some time with us. I’ll try to sneak in two questions. Dominican born, my dad would be really upset if I didn’t get a question in. So to make him proud, I’m going to ask two. The first is for you, Pedro.
I think one of the things that made you great was your competitiveness. And so now that you’re retired, how do you continue to feed that competitiveness in you? And the second question is for you, Sam. In baseball today– or more so in the Red Sox organization, what kind of programs are there for foreign born players that struggle to fit in culturally into baseball or into Boston? How do you help those? And I ask that because I moved to this country when I was eight years old, and I struggled with that in Boston.
And so I wonder what the Red Sox is doing for players. – Well, how do I deal with the competitiveness that I have? I pitch to my kids. [LAUGHTER] I’m still eager to go and compete.
When I see those series that come over special with the Yankees and stuff, and the rivalry and stuff, my god, I wish I was there sometimes, but my time is done. But the reason why I was so competitive was really I was hungry. I wanted it.
I wanted it against the best. I wanted it against the biggest. And I wanted it well done. And so I really dragged myself to compete in the best way possible against the best.
And I did not want to fall short, because I would be dishonoring what my mom and dad told me. And I told you. It was all about the base. They told me to be strong, and compete, and kick and scratch for whatever I wanted to get.
And that’s why I was fearless out there. Regardless of what happened, I was going to try to go forward. So that’s my pure answer.
Now you. – Well, in terms of our international signings and bringing players into the Red Sox organization, it’s a hugely important part of what we do each and every day. We’ve had players from the Dominican, from Puerto Rico, from Venezuela, from– – Panama. – From Panama.
From China. – Nicaragua. – Nicaragua. – It’s expanding. – And we go on, and on, and on.
And we have many people that focus on the development of our young players on the field. We also have a very important support network off the field, and there is a 20 year incredible employee of the Red Sox, a woman named Raquel Ferreira, who was our Vice President of Baseball Operations. She was actually just on a panel with Bekah the other day. She is also a rock star, and she deals with the players and all of the issues related to getting anything they need in terms of financial services, or transportation, or residential, medical, and dealing with families living in another country.
So she has a department of folks that work on those issues. And the second thing we do is something we started about a decade and a half, maybe 12 years ago, as the Red Sox rookie development program. So when players come in, when they’re in that sort of triple-A year, we think they’re going to get ready to make that jump to the big leagues, we have them come to Boston for a week in January to try and make sure they know how to get everything they might need in the city of Boston– where to live, where to stay, how to make the transition from Rhode Island, Pawtucket, up to Boston. So we have about 330 men and women that work at the Red Sox and about 150 in baseball operations set up as that apparatus for support.
– And I wouldn’t be a true feminist without saying that we also have support for the wives of the players that come. – Yes, good point. – So it is a huge transition for, I think, a wife or partner of a lot of these players to come into a new city with nothing– with no friends, with no knowledge of where to go for what. And so we have staff that are dedicated to making sure that the wives feel comfortable and assimilated, and have their needs met for their children, for themselves.
And we make sure that there are connections there between the wives and the players, and their agents, and front office staff. So just making sure that we can also– the whole family is taken care of, not just the players, as well. – And we’re going to try this again. Just two questions– – Two people. – Two people at a time. – Thank you so much for involving us in asking questions.
I’m Ray. I’m a public library volunteer, and I just wanted to shine a light on the excellent program, Read Your Way to Fenway, that’s been a part of my children’s lives and the communities’ lives for as long as I’ve lived in Boston. And I just wanted to ask quickly, what are your plans to support the program in the coming years?
– So I’m going to– sorry, you want the second question now? – Wait, wait. Second– just if you could come forward. Just going to try to speed things along a little bit. – My name is Francisco, and I’m first generation, born Dominican, born here in Boston. So played in the RBI league and did all that.
– Yay. – And growing up, when Pedro pitched, I felt like in the Dominican community it was like a holiday. And I want to know if– – It’s called a curfew. It was called a curfew that day in the Dominican.
– Yeah, seriously. – Even the president would take it off. [LAUGHTER] – When you were taking that mound, was that something that was in the back of your mind, knowing that here in Boston there is such a strong Dominican community that was rooting for you? – Yes, it was. It was always a sense of responsibility for it. Like I said, there are things that you don’t know that come with the package.
Being Dominican, representing the Dominican Republic was something that I was always aware. I was aware that I was carrying the Dominican flag, as well so I was competing. So for me, it was really important that I did it right and that I carried the honor of representing my country. It was always important. – Then I can take your first question.
I’m going to pull my I’ve been on this job for three months card right now and say that I have not yet learned or know in depth about that program, but I’m happy to give you my card after, and we can follow up and make sure to support. – Thanks. – And the Read Your Way to Fenway program is still going on and will continue.
– [INAUDIBLE]. – And we’d be in big trouble if we didn’t, because my mother-in-law is a librarian, and big time in the library. So we can talk offline. – Hi, I’m a teacher. [SPEAKING SPANISH] I want to kind of just present that Pedro has been a person who has inspired everyone in this room, but especially my students.
– Thank you. – Back when I first started, I had Tony Pena, who came to my school, and the town lit up. I was a teacher in Boston and also in Salem.
But there are other people who were predecessors– Mike Fornieles, Earl Wilson. If you study what happened to Earl Wilson, the legacy is there that is so sad, but we have in front of us someone who is celebrated instead of denigrated. And that, to me, is extremely important going through the years. If we looked at Reggie Smith, if we looked at Elston Howard, I was there for the first game for Pumpsie Green.
My father had season tickets. Can you imagine, in the ’50s, season tickets? But we did.
Jim Rice has stories– Reggie Smith. 1967 in my life was the most integrated team. That was the first time that we– gee, we were in the World Series. I also have to mention, while I was in Boston was in the early ’70s. My student was the first black bat boy for the Red Sox. – And do you have a question?
– My question is I wanted to get all to the good stuff. Now I’m going to something else. Two things. When Pedro was pitching, no one talked in our house. We only watched the game.
But we have a problem here in the United States right now with immigration, and I see families being torn apart in my community, and I want to know, as I look up here exploring sports and citizenship, how the Red Sox can help with our families being torn apart and deported? – We’ll take another question, and we’ll kind of address– – [INAUDIBLE]. – You sure you don’t want to handle that one? I don’t want anyone to forget.
– Sam, you said you can handle– – Well, why don’t we– in the interest of keeping this– pace of the game is an initiative for baseball these days. Just to quickly thank you for sharing your memories and your question. We said it before, but Fenway is a community gathering place, and it’s a place that hopefully people can come together. We’ve actually had immigration ceremonies at Fenway Park. – Latino night.
– We have Latino night, Latino festival. We have Latino youth recognition days each and every month. In fact, tonight was one of those at Fenway.
We missed it because we were here, but I just think Fenway is a place where we can all come together and be one cheering for a common cause. When Pedro pitched, boy, it was– you’re right. It was not a game. It was an event. So hopefully we can keep that spirit going at Fenway Park. – And I’ll just quickly add that we also– our Red Sox Scholars program can be given to undocumented students.
And so in my past life, being an ED for a nonprofit called Scholar Athletes, we actually sought out undocumented students because they’re not eligible for federal aid. And so our dollars are critical to help them pursue education. So that’s yet another way I think that we’re really helping. – Can I add something? I’m just going to say something on behalf of immigrants. The reason I’m here, and celebrated, and not denigrated, like you said, it was because I was granted an opportunity.
So if in any way, this panel is going to be useful for this kind of matter, it’s saying I don’t have a problem. We don’t have a problem with investigating who’s the right fit or maybe the right person to give an opportunity, but please do it. You never know where you’re going to find another guy like me. [LAUGHTER] And you never know what kind of human is going to be helping another human. This gentleman over here asked me who I probably influenced. I don’t like to talk about myself when it comes to that.
This moment that I have here that I can probably express myself and express my feelings– those are the kind of things that I would like to do. If anybody wants to be influenced by what I’m saying, grant an immigrant that you feel is right an opportunity. And the results might be surprising. Give some opportunity. [APPLAUSE] – Hi, I’m Jim Solomon.
I’m not a plant from Shira, I promise, but I’m one of the owners of the Harford Yard Goats, Colorado Rockies double-A team. And I want to first applaud everything that the Boston Red Sox do for their community. It’s noticed, and it’s truly appreciated. I’m wondering if you see opportunities with regard to– well, you define this evening as Red Sox nation, not just Boston Red Sox. And so I imagine that includes Pawtucket, Portland, and the organization as a whole, and that you have an interest in protecting the brand vertically throughout the organization and reaching out into the community at all levels. And so what I want to know is there are great cities like New Hampshire– Manchester for New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland for the Sea Dogs, and Hartford for the Yard Goats, but there are also a number of minor league clubs that play in areas that really need help even more than those cities.
So what I want to know is if you see opportunity for the big team, the major league team to reach down to the minor leagues, one, to encourage the ballplayers to have more contact. Like the way you said Jackie Bradley Jr. Talks to the kids doesn’t really cost money, but it’s something that’s really doable, or the possibility of people in your minor league organization, say, working with you on community to get some more ideas of what they can do. So anyway, I want to know– and I don’t know the experience for a minor league player and how nervous they are about just making the team, how that affects their desire to get out and do anything with the community. So I throw it out there for anybody. – We’re going to try to do the two person thing. We have one more, I think, question behind, so we’ll get to some of that.
Yes? – Hi, I’m Josh Coen, and I’m in the eighth grade, and I’m a huge Red Sox fan, so this is really cool. So, thank you.
[APPLAUSE] So I just have a pretty basic question. What is the biggest change that pro athletes need to make in order to be better role models for youth? – I’m guessing you’re asking this pro athlete, not this one. [LAUGHTER] – I think if you’re raised the proper way in every aspect I think the change is not drastic. Just like I said before, because of the way my upbringing was made me strong in everything I did. And baseball is no exception, and when you get to the big leagues or you get anywhere, what you have to do is stress what you learn before you got there, execute, remain loyal.
Like I said before, you have to be consistent about what you did to get you to where you are. You don’t have to really go through a dramatic change in things in order for you to be from Pawtucket to the Red Sox. You just continue to do the things that you were doing right and do it with consistency. Same thing with your goals, whatever they are in life, in baseball, sports, whatever. Just be consistent of the things that you were taught before you got there.
– That addressed those questions in some way, and I think we’re going to have to wrap it up here. I want to say thank you again to the panelists– Pedro, Bekah, Sam– and also thank you to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and to BUR, Boston’s NPR news station, for hosting the event. A special thank you to Radcliffe’s Becky Wasserman, who’s been my partner in crime, and to Amy MacDonald– lots of late night e-mails.
And I look forward to seeing what the Red Sox are going to do in the future both on the field and off of it. Thank you all for coming. [APPLAUSE]