The story behind how the Red Sox are getting noise into Fenway Park

Rob Bradford
July 13, 2020 - 11:04 pm

The delivery person should be dropping off the crowd noise at Fenway Park sometime Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest.

Welcome to the world of getting ready for the 2020 Major League Baseball season.

When Fenway was filled with simulated crowd noise Friday afternoon it was a big deal. It was the talk of the town considering this was the first foray into exactly how bizarrely different real games would be starting July 24. Something happened on the diamond, we got some sound blared out over the ballpark’s speakers.

But as is the case with almost everything in this upside-down world of ours, it isn’t as simple as it seems.

“We have three different levels of disappointment,” said Red Sox’ Senior Vice President for Fan Services and Entertainment Sarah McKenna, offering a sampling of the Red Sox’ new sound system. “But we also have a lot more for excitement.” All readily available with a tap of a screen.

There are oohs, aahs, boos and cheers. And all of them reside on one iPad-looking contraption, one which is scheduled to be delivered to 4 Jersey St. any time now.

And once that thing is hooked up to the Fenway sound system a whole new world will be unleashed. This is the story of how the Red Sox are bringing sound to baseball games for the new season.

When Friday’s initial sound trial was put on display most assumed it was going to be the norm for each and every one of the Red Sox’ workouts going forward. But Saturday, Sunday and Monday came and went with the same silence Spring Training 2.0 had started with.

There was a reason for the hiatus. Constructing a fake crowd is more than simply releasing a few canned sounds. That’s why a representative from Sony Interactive Entertainment had made the trip up from Connecticut to give the program a test drive. This was going to be the same system put in place for most major league games and the proximity of Fenway made for a convenient testing ground.

“It’s someone at every ballpark and is living and dying with every pitch, deciding the emotion of the land,” McKenna explained, adding, “You’re literally watching every pitch with your finger over an iPad.”

Friday’s exercise opened the Red Sox’ eyes as to all that goes into supplying auditory-induced emotion into these fan-less baseball games.

The sounds might seem familiar — with the base coming from Sony’s “MLB The Show” video game — but the process is anything but recognizable. One person (whose identity will remain secret) in charge of so much.

“There were a lot of other companies out there that pitched us on this and how they can do it and a million different things. But it’s like everything else right now, everything is coming at us fast and furious,” McKenna said. “We’re getting the ballpark ready. The roster … Everything is that much more challenging and that much more work to do. And we have to become experts on crowd noise. It’s a lot but it’s kind of exciting.

“From my perspective having someone with live eyes on the game, having that real-time reaction is valuable. I think this is what is going to work best for our players.”

Red Sox hit a double. Sound.

Red Sox drop a ball. Sound.

Red Sox get into a run-down. Sound. And you better be hitting the right button.

Get the picture. It’s not going to be easy.

The noise will be constant, with a wave of crowd noise murmuring embedded as a permanent sound bed. That’s the easy part of the program. What happens when, say, a Red Sox pitcher strikes someone out and another element is added via the iPad, accompanied by Fenway DJ T.J. Connelly swooping in with his trademark “Wooo!” ... That’s the kind of audio zigging and zagging that everyone in that Level 5 control room will be getting used to.

“When it first happens you’re like, ‘Wow, I really noticed that.’ Then about 20 minutes into it you don’t really notice it. But then when it goes off you’re like ‘Whoa! It’s quiet.’ You notice it almost more when it goes off than when it goes on,” said McKenna, who also confirmed that public address announcer Henry Mahegan will be part of the presentation.

“Everything is just new. Every time you turn around you’re like, ‘Because we did X,Y, and Z now we have to do 1,2 and 3.’ You just didn’t think of them before. … Everybody is doing things they just might not typically do.”

Including replacing 35,000-plus fans with something that is about to arrive in a small box.