Throughout his 48 years at Fenway Park, Alphonso “Al” Green greeted everyone who came through Gate D as if he had known them for as long as he’d been there.
To Peter Nesbit, the Red Sox’ vice president of ballpark operations, that was Green’s gift.
“He has a really amazing ability to connect with everybody from the ownership-level down through all the staff members, 30-year season ticket holders, a 5-year old coming into their first game. He can really connect personally with everybody, which is cool. It’s a special ability,” Nesbit said of Green, who died Saturday at the age of 94.
“He never forgets a face. Everybody that comes to the door gets that huge smile, the handshake, ‘Where’ve you been? How’re you doing?’ He’s a true legend at Fenway Park.”
If you attended a game at Fenway & stopped by the Gate D Fan Services booth, you likely met, and never forgot, Al Green.— Red Sox (@RedSox) September 5, 2021
A member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame, Al was a part of the organization for 48 years, touching the lives of so many.
You will be missed, Al. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/JYuKwSgch4
For all the attractions that make Fenway Park unique — the Green Monster and Wally, the franks, the bleacher seats — Green was one of the people that made the ballpark warm. He had a smile, a high-five and a stash of gifts — shirts, pins, stickers, bobble heads, food -- for everyone who stopped by.
“I think it’s comforting for people that come here,” Nesbit said. “They know where he’s going to be. He’s seen generations of fans come in as kids and have seen him and then they grow up and have their own kids and say, ‘You’ve got to meet Mr. Al! Come to Gate D!’ And the people come from all over the ballpark.”
Green’s presence had been missed at the ballpark after he fell ill before the COVID-19 pandemic. He was in his native home of Barbados, where he traveled every winter. Some staffers would visit him there. He was hoping to return last year, but never did.
The Sox organization honored Green with a moment of silence before Sunday’s 11-5 loss to Cleveland.
“Al was one of those rare souls that brought joy to so many, both friends and strangers alike,” Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said in a statement. “He set the standard for kindness and care for generations of employees and was admired and loved by all of us here at the Red Sox. Our deepest condolences go out to the Green family who have lost a true treasure. He will be dearly missed.”
Green was hired by the Sox in 1973, when few people of color worked at the park. For much of his time with the Sox, Green was the only customer service representative. All questions were answered with, “Go to Gate D, and see Al.”
In 2018, he became a non-uniform inductee into the organization’s Hall of Fame with a groundswell of support from Sox employees, notably ambassador supervisor Nicholas DeSouza, who led the charge.
“He was certainly a trailblazer,” Nesbit said. “He started back in the early ‘70s when we certainly didn’t have a lot of minorities that worked here in the ballpark at all. So, he was definitely a trailblazer in that respect.”
But the lasting impact Green made, Nesbit said, was the way he treated people.
“You get a lot of people that say no one could say a bad word about them — and nobody can about Al, of course,” Nesbit said. “But they there aren’t that many people that you can say he never said a bad word about anybody else. That’s a little bit different He never had a bad word about anybody. He always saw the good in people.”
More COVID shuffling
While Nick Pivetta and Danny Santana were placed on the COVID-related injury list before Sunday’s game, Red Sox manager Alex Cora was hopeful that Kiké Hernández would be coming off of it soon.
Since Aug. 27, the Sox have had 11 players land on the COVID list. The wave of cases started with Hernández, who tested positive while the team was in Cleveland.
He quarantined there and finally returned to Boston on Sunday. Cora said Hernández has to go through a series of tests and could return Tuesday or Wednesday.
Hernandez was on the field playing long-toss after Sunday’s game.
With a 1:10 p.m. start Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Cora said Hernández might not have enough time to get through all the tests and be available.
“I don’t think he’ll be able to do that, but you never know,” Cora said.
As players continue to improve, Cora said some will rejoin the team in Boston while others will meet them once the Sox travel to Chicago later in the week.
“Obviously, we’ll talk today about how are we going to do this because obviously they haven’t done much, basically, for 10 days,” Cora said. “So that’s where we’re at.”
Darwinzon Hernandez threw a live batting practice before the game, but Cora said he’s unsure if the reliever will go on a rehab assignment for COVID reasons.
“Just sending somebody of our groups to another “bubble” — although we’re bringing people from outside — we’ll think about that one very hard and see what we decide,” Cora said. “He’s feeling good. He bounced back from the last one. We expect the same thing after this one and we’ll make a decision probably tomorrow to see what’s the next step.”
Santana tested negative for COVID, but was put on the injured list because he was feeling symptoms. Cora was hopeful that Pivetta would only miss a few days.
Ortiz invites guest to throw first pitch
After meeting Emmanuel “Tiki” Andres during a recent trip to Boston Children’s Hospital, David Ortiz invited the 5-year-old to Fenway to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Sunday, with Ortiz behind the plate. Dr. Lindsey Baden, an infectious disease specialist for Brigham & Women’s Hospital who collaborated with the National Institutes of Health on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, also threw out a ceremonial first pitch as part of Moderna Day at the park . . . Chris Sale will start Monday against the Rays. It will be his first outing of the season on regular rest. Sale is 3-0 with a 2.53 ERA in four starts this season . . . Double A Portland’s game against New Hampshire was postponed Sunday to allow for additional testing and contract tracing of members of the Fisher Cats organization.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.