Brookline native Sam Kennedy is chief operating officer of the Boston Red Sox and president of Fenway Sports Management, the marketing arm of the Sox’s parent company. John Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox, owns The Boston Globe.
With Opening Day approaching, Globe reporter Callum Borchers sat down with Kennedy at the team’s 102-year-old ballpark. Here’s what he found out.
1 Kennedy, 40, grew up barely a mile from Fenway Park, and some of his earliest memories are of watching Red Sox games on the shoulders of his father, an Episcopal priest who was eligible for $2 standing-room tickets under a special discount program the team ran for clergy members.
“We probably came to 20 or 30 games a year, standing in Section 25,” Kennedy said. “Just to stand out there with my dad and being on his shoulders as a kid was awesome. We actually brought back the clergy pass program in 2002.”
2 Despite his love of the Red Sox, Kennedy began his career in baseball with the Yankees.
“I interned there during summers in college and went to work there in the spring of 1995, after I graduated. I needed a full-time job. It was actually great because I learned what it was like to work in a big market with incredible fan intensity. But I maintain — and I don’t just say this because I’m from here — that the Red Sox are more important to Bostonians than the Yankees are to New Yorkers.”
3 Between stints in New York and Boston, Kennedy sold sponsorships for the San Diego Padres, where he impressed Larry Lucchino, then the Padres’ president. When Lucchino joined Henry and Tom Werner in buying the Red Sox, he brought along Kennedy and hired another young executive who had caught his eye, Theo Epstein. Kennedy and Epstein — classmates at Brookline High School — were suddenly reunited in leadership positions for their hometown team.
“I can’t even imagine what the odds would be. The only thing we should take credit for is that we both were smart enough to pursue something we were passionate about. Honestly, the rest has been good fortune, being in the right place at the right time, and mentorship.”
4 Kennedy knows what his job is: to generate revenue. But he’s a baseball fan at heart and one who appreciates tradition. So he occasionally loses sleep over tough decisions, like placing advertisements over the Green Monster, Fenway’s fabled left-field wall.
“I was very nervous about putting signs over the Monster. I was worried about perception: Are you over-capitalizing? I remember [team executive] Charles Steinberg brought a book into a staff meeting and said, ‘Sam, I appreciate that you’re worried about desecrating the Green Monster, but look at this.’ It was a cigarette ad and a shaving cream ad on the Green Monster — in color — from the ’40s and ’50s. I slept much better that night.”
5 Kennedy’s latest Green Monster changeup is a dynamic ticket pricing model making its debut this season. The cost of a seat in the Monster section will fluctuate according to demand, which is influenced by factors such as time of year and opponent.
“The goal is to experiment and see what the true market price is for a Tuesday in April for a cold game, versus a sunny, warm July afternoon against a desirable opponent. All of this is with an eye on increasing revenues — we don’t try and hide that.”
6 At this time last year, following a poor season, ticket demand was unusually low. Now, coming off a World Series victory, preseason sales are up 14.5 percent but still are not at the frenzied level that followed the Sox’s curse-breaking championship in 2004.
“I don’t think we’ll return to the crazed marketplace of ’05 to ’08. There’s an expectation now around winning.”
7 At some point, Red Sox officials will be forced to concede that Fenway Park is no longer viable. Kennedy hopes that day doesn’t arrive during his tenure. He’s not sure he could make that call.
“I just don’t think the Red Sox would be the same without Fenway. But I’m probably way too biased.”