- Steve Berthiaume, ESPNEWS anchor
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There are 274 seats available atop Fenway Park's left-field wall. Should you come to find yourself sitting in one of them to watch the Boston Red Sox, as my wife and I did this past Sunday, you have to remember you are literally sitting in a tourist attraction. The two different Red Sox-led tour groups that stopped in our section in the 90 minutes prior to the game were told by their friendly guides that Fenway's Green Monster seats "are the most highly sought-after seats in all of baseball." Considering their availability is so scarce, that may be hard to argue against. But are they the best seats in baseball?
The 10 Green Monster seat sections awere added prior to the 2003 season. Getting the seats is still neither cheap nor easy. You can enter an online lottery on the team website for the right to purchase the tickets, which have a face value of $165. You can also use an online broker. Boston's next home game is Friday, June 17, against Milwaukee and when I checked one online service there were only a handful of seats available for that game, the cheapest being $398. The Red Sox site currently sells a pair of old Fenway Park box seats removed from the infield bowl during the ballpark's most recent renovation for $795.
Yes, two Green Monster seats for one game cost more than a pair of actual Fenway Park box seats you can keep in your home forever.
We settled into our Green Monster seats on Sunday against Oakland: Section M1, Row 2, Seats 1 and 2, right next to Fenway's famous left-field foul pole. It feels very much as if Carlton Fisk's and Bucky Dent's home runs may have landed right in your lap. Perched up on a swivel stool with a countertop in front of you and peering out over the green field you are sitting on baseball history; inning after inning fans stopped by to touch the pole or take a picture standing next to it. Some folks feel the need to sign their names and while only Fisk was actually asked to autograph the pole named in his honor, even Fisk's signature was accidentally painted over as part of the regularly scheduled graffiti clean-up.
Monster seats are extremely convenient with plenty of room to stand and stretch for a full inning or two without blocking the view of those behind you and easily accessible concessions and restroom facilities nearby. The limited seating creates shorter lines and a brief wait at the hot dog stand behind you is just like having a standing-room ticket; the game proceeds in front of you as you're in line as opposed to infield box seats from which a trip for snacks means disappearing under the concourse and missing the action. The countertop and stool is like watching from your neighborhood bar, only with a live game with a perfect panorama uninterrupted by passing vendors or other fans in front of you.
WARNING: FOR YOUR SAFETY PLEASE DO NOT REACH OVER WALL.
That sign is everywhere up there and for good reason. Watching fans 37 feet high repeatedly lean over the wall with cell phone cameras is like watching someone back up a bit too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon; one slip and you're laid out on the warning track. Being up there also puts you in the elements. It's New England so the weather is a crapshoot. It can be windy and cold in the spring while a summer day game can have the sun beating down on you like Paul Newman in "Cool Hand Luke."
You also have no real viewing angle to two of Fenway's three massive HD screens, so you're not privy to video replays and for scoring information you depend primarily on two narrow digital scoreboards located across the field on the first base/right field facade. Experiencing the game from this angle does turn you into something of a minimalist viewer; there are few distractions away from the field but during game action the left fielder disappears beneath you as soon as he gets within 15 feet of the warning track dirt and any ball hit into to left or the left-center gap also vanishes from view. The left-field wall is 231 feet across and anything other than sections M1 and M2 -- those closest to the foul line -- can feel far away and leave you thinking, "Wow, I just paid $400 for a bleacher seat." Those M1 and M2 seats are worth it, however.
Kevin Youkilis, with his awkward batting stance, elbow jutting out, points his bat head directly at you and you feel as if the baseball he hits may be about to come right at you as well. When Carl Crawford homered into the bullpen, we watched the ball fly point-to-point from impact to landing on a horizontal arc in front of us; a truly unique view as opposed to watching a home run ball travel directly away from you as it might from an infield seat. There are also the cheers and groans of the fans' collective emotions. Watching from the infield bowl immerses you in that energy but in the Green Monster seats it rises up to you in ambient waves and gives you the unique perspective of watching the game while at the same time watching the ballpark experience at the game.
Ballparks these days are designed to be tourist destinations but Fenway Park, in its 99th year, has always been that for baseball and ballpark connoisseurs. If you're among them and you can get hold of a ticket, then make your way up the steps to get your hand stamped for the Monster Seat section, cross the connecting bridge into history and make a bit of your own for a day.
Follow Steve Berthiaume on Twitter: @SBerthiaumeESPN.