Fenway Park: Family friendly, but occasionally foul

Boston-05/02/2017- Fans in the bleachers at Fenway Park hold signs at the start of the Orioles vs Red Sox game. Fenway. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff (sports)
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Young fans held signs during Tuesday’s game. Many parents who attended recent games said they hoped Monday’s incident was an outlier.

Much of Fenway Park’s allure is found in the timeworn tunnels and stained halls beyond the pristine playing field — places that have survived the century from Ruth to Williams to Ortiz.

But there are some stains the Red Sox would rather be rid of.

Fair or not, the reputation of Red Sox fans surely sank when Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said people in the bleachers shouted racist taunts at him during Monday night’s game. And for a team that goes out of its way to welcome kids to the park, such boorish behavior hardly projects a family-friendly image.


“There’s kids around,” Jones said Tuesday during a news conference. “I’ve got two little boys. I don’t want my kids hearing that.”

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Kids get the red carpet treatment at Fenway, from fan clubs and special seating to parties with Wally the Green Monster. And families often pay hundreds for the experience, taking into account tickets, parking, food, and souvenirs. But even when the epithets don’t descent into racism, one or two loudmouths can quickly turn a fun night into a fiasco.

Several fans who have attended recent games, many with kids, said they experienced no problems with other fans, and hoped the Monday night incident was an outlier.

John Gordon, president of Dorchester/Roxbury Little League, said several families from the organization went to Monday night’s game with tickets from the Red Sox Foundation. The league is largely black, Gordon said. They had been seated far from the commotion and only found out what happened the next day.

“They hate that we’re still at the point where something like that happened,” Gordon said, but the actions of a few wouldn’t dissuade them from going to games in the future.


But Red Sox fans regularly place near the top of lists like “worst” and “most obnoxious” — along with “best” and “most loyal” — and keeping their outbursts inside the foul lines has not always proved easy.

“We want everyone who walks through our gates to feel welcome and respected,” said Zineb Curran, a Red Sox spokeswoman, “and we partner with our fans to ensure they help us maintain that type of environment.” Team owner John Henry also owns the Globe.

Jonathan Matlock, who brought his son and daughter to their first game at Fenway on Friday, said he had no problems with other fans.

“Everyone was very nice and respectable,” Matlock said in an e-mail. “If I ever get the chance to return with my children, I will.” His 2-year-old daughter loved Wally.

Matlock, a Red Sox fan, recently moved to New Hampshire from North Carolina. Raised in the South, he said racism was more prevalent there. Monday’s incident, he said, sounded like “a product of certain people, and how they were raised.” But it didn’t resemble his experience a few nights earlier, and he said he’d put Fenway at the top of the list of stadiums he’s visited.


“Overall, I feel like it is a family-friendly place,” said Jen Kuzmick, who was at Monday’s game but seated far from the chaos.

‘Everyone was very nice and respectable. If I ever get the chance to return with my children, I will.’

“By and large it’s a positive experience,” said Kuzmick, who attends about 20 games a year. “But that’s not a guarantee.”

Whether Fenway is more or less rowdy than other parks is difficult to measure.

Joe Posnanski, an author and columnist who travels to ballparks regularly both professionally and with friends, said he’d never experienced anything like that at Fenway. But fans in the Northeast are different, he said, rattling off Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and even Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Fans here are grittier, maybe, and more adversarial — willing to engage with the folks around them, but in a good-natured way.

“I love going back and forth with fans in a fun way,” Posnanski said. “But you can see how something like that could go over the edge.”

When it does, it can be unpleasant for anyone within earshot.

At Sunday’s game, Janice Zazinski and her husband were seated near someone, clearly intoxicated, who was screaming abuse and obscenities at opposing players.

“I realize a ballgame is not a movie theater or other ‘silent’ performance but it was offensive to listen to and really takes away from the game,” she said in an e-mail. “I’d say that if I had kids I would hesitate to take them to an evening game.”

She finally asked them to quiet down, which seemed to work for a few minutes — but then she was hit in the hand by a foul ball and left.

Fans facing obnoxious behavior have other options at Fenway, including calling a hotline printed on each ticket (617-226-6411) or using the Ballpark app to send a message. The team has a zero tolerance policy for racial slurs or inappropriate language, Curran said.

Posnanski, who wrote on Tuesday about the pact that spectators of all stripes enter when they attend events together, said loutish fans also put those nearby in a tough spot.

“You could certainly go report them, but you’re really there to enjoy a ballgame, you’re not there to be a police officer,” Posnanski said. “None of us want to be the ones who get into a shouting match that leads to violence in front of your kids.”

But for parents, bringing the kids to Fenway can be tough to top.

When Tonya Jankowski drove in from Connecticut for Sunday’s game, the family parked in a lot near the gate. They hadn’t told Jankowski’s daughter where they were going to Fenway — the first visit for the 7-year-old.

“When she rounded the corner, and saw the back of the John Hancock sign, she almost burst into tears,” Jankowski said.

It’s her park, after all: Her name is Fenway.

Nestor Ramos can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @NestorARamos.