The volume dial at Fenway Park is twisted all the way up this postseason.
Fans are yelling, fans are chanting, fans are up on their feet for nearly every pitch and they’re staying on them to dance between innings to the boom-boom-boom beats from the DJ.
We’re talking — no, screaming — circa-2004 Fenway Park energy.
It’s a wall of noise the Astros will try to run through over the next three AL Championship Series games, starting Monday night.
It’s a wall of noise the Red Sox will revel in, soaking up every single decibel.
”When everybody’s yelling, it feels like they have a microphone and they’re . . . right in your ears — it’s electrifying,” Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo said. “And for the opposing team, you’ve got to find a way to get that momentum to come back, and be loud and take the energy out of the stands. Here, it seems like it lasts all nine innings.”
Verdugo’s a novice at Fenway. The only comparable noise he’s heard in a ballpark is at Dodger Stadium, which holds nearly 20,000 more fans than Fenway.
If it takes 56,000 LA fans to match the volume of 37,000 Boston fans, that sounds about right. It also sounds like Fenway is out-shouting the Red Sox’ 2018 title drive, a campaign that felt almost preordained given the team’s 108 regular-season wins.
That’s not the narrative of the 2021 team. And that’s one reason why it’s louder now than three years ago.
”It’s been unbelievable, a shout-out to all the fans — you guys have been on your feet for two days straight, I don’t know how you’re’ doing it,” said J.D. Martinez soon after the Red Sox eliminated the Rays. “It’s awesome. In ‘18 everyone was hyped, pumped. But not like this. I feel like this year is different.”
Freed from pandemic restrictions, which kept Fenway Park empty last year except for the players and staff, the fans are no doubt letting off some of the steam that accumulated from being cooped up at home.
The exuberance has lifted not just the players and coaches on the diamond, but up in the control booth, where John Carter produces the in-game entertainment show. If anyone knows how loud it is this year, it’s Carter, who no longer holds “the worst job in Boston” as the individual charged with hitting the tabs on the fake crowd noise iPad teams had to use last season.
”No one is more excited that there have been fans at the ballpark this year than me because it was miserable,” said Carter, who made a point to acknowledge he was still fortunate to be able to watch 2020 games live. “Regardless of what happens on the field, it was fake, the reactions were slow, it was not natural. It was not baseball.”
Carter senses the swell in fan fervor picked up a tick in the Astros series in June, and then really picked up in September. By the time the Red Sox locked up home field for the AL Wild Card Game, it reached a peak that hasn’t subsided.
”We were privileged we got the Yankees on the first night and fans didn’t sit down all game — at the root of it all, it’s on-field success and a diehard fan base,” Carter said.
When it comes to fan behavior in this ALCS, it’s worth pointing to the differences in fan experience between Houston’s Minute Maid Park and Fenway.
The Astros fans did respond quite loudly, especially in their Game 1 victory, and there were some unchoreographed chants, but on the whole, Minute Maid relies on the cue-card approach to whipping up the fans. Whether it’s cheerleaders skipping back and forth atop each dugout holding “Get Loud” placards, or Astros mascot Orbit twerking and beseeching fans to “Yell” and “Make Some Noise” from “Loud” to “Louder” to “Loudest,” the coaxing never ends. That’s just not how it’s done at Fenway Park.
”None of it is prompting, not traditional ‘Everybody clap your hands’ that some ballparks have, it’s not the ‘Charge,’ there’s nothing visual on our boards that say ‘Make noise’ or ‘Get up now,’ we don’t do any of that,” Carter said. “We’re Fenway Park — our fans are smarter than that, they don’t need to be told when to cheer, they don’t need to be told when to stand, they don’t need to be told what the situation is, they see it unfolding.”
There are more musical clips being used for Red Sox defensive plays, even routine ones, and the “Whoo!” is still used when visiting hitters strike out.
The bigger job is keeping fans on their feet between innings, a span that is almost three minutes long in the postseason compared with two minutes in the regular season. Fan shots on the video board never fail to inspire near-hysteria, then there’s a younger and perhaps more diverse fan base responding positively to a more diverse musical playlist that reflects player input, from hip-hop, Latin-influenced, K-pop, and still classic rock and country.
If Nick Pivetta is pumped and jacked walking off the field after an inning-ending strikeout, the Red Sox want to keep that energy alive until the next Red Sox hitter steps into the batter’s box.
”If we can add a little bit more to keep that energy level at its peak, why not?” Carter said.
And they have had to add a little bit more volume to accomplish that.
”We don’t measure crowd noise but we go louder because the crowd goes louder — we’re not cranking it just to crank it, it sort of goes hand in hand,” Carter said. “There have been times I’ve called for it to go louder just because the fans have been so loud over the last three games.
”I think we have tried to turn Fenway into an inclusive, fun, hip place to be like it was 17 years ago in ‘04, when the greatest bar in Boston was Fenway Park. We’re trying to return Fenway Park to be the place to be every night.”
That the 2021 Red Sox have managed to play well enough to make Fenway Park such a boisterous gathering place this October is somewhat of a mutual gift between the fans and the team.
”I think the circumstances around not only us, but where we’re at outside of our world, has made this place special,” manager Alex Cora said. “You’re like, ‘I want to go to a ball game. I want to be outdoors, I want to scream.’ There’s been some people who have been locked down for a long, long time. There’s a lot of restrictions in our lives. The fact that they’ve got the Red Sox playing meaningful games, it makes it more interesting.”
Fans have at least three more chances to express themselves, loudly, at Fenway Park this season. There will be noise.
(Globe columnist Tara Sullivan contributed to this report.)