By Dan Shulman
On Friday June 23, 2017, the Boston Red Sox retired David Ortiz’s iconic number-34 in an efficient ceremony on the field. What many saw on television and in person was a seamless celebration featuring a myriad of moving parts.
But behind the scenes, Fenway Park assistant security director Mark Cacciatore was hard at work ensuring the ceremony ran smoothly.
“Any time something happens in the ballpark – whether a regular tour or a game – we’re involved,” Cacciatore said. Everything that happens in the ballpark, we’re required to have a hand in it.”
It is not just Cacciatore’s responsibility to facilitate special events like this ceremony, but to help oversee everything happening at Fenway.
“You definitely look forward to nights like this,” Cacciatore said of Friday’s festivities. “You’re at the park, you might as well enjoy it, keep busy, and see some cool stuff too.”
Mark Cacciatore grew up in Waltham, a short 15-minutes from the stadium. From birth, he was a Red Sox fan and remembers going to games throughout his childhood and as a young adult.
At age 34, going to Red Sox games became more than a recreational activity. As an employee for Fidelity Investments, Cacciatore grew tired of working a typical day-job.
Looking for a new, more adventurous job, Cacciatore decided to apply for a day-of-game staff position.
“It’s something I sort of fell into,” Cacciatore said. “A friend from my town was working there and asked if I’d be interested.”
Sure enough, he got the job. His first duties were as ticket taker and usher before being promoted to supervisor and later assistant director of security. Rising through the ranks, Cacciatore has always loved where he works.
“It’s been great,” he said. “It’s a non-traditional job. You’re not sitting at a desk for a 9:00-5:00 type thing; it’s a lot more hours. You see a lot of different things you’re not exposed to.”
Working in a 105-year-old building named a historical landmark
Following the events of September 11, 2001, security at Fenway and all venues across the country changed forever. Any fan with a bag would be subject to more stringent checks at the gate to ensure prevention of a terrorist attack.
12 years later, security became even tighter when terrorism struck far too close to home during the Boston Marathon bombings.
“Of course, after the marathon bombings, we went to all metal detectors [at gates],” Cacciatore said. “More equipment is being used: walk-through metal detectors and handheld metal detectors. We were doing some form of that prior to 2013. But when [the marathon bombings] happened, every person coming in goes through metal detection.”
The heightened security presence is noticed by many fans, including Alex Crane. The Minnesotan was in town for the week while his team visited Boston and was impressed with the extra measures taken at the gates.
“It definitely makes you feel safe knowing the extra precaution has been taken,” Crane said. “It’s thorough and organized and the risk of something awful happening is no longer there.”
Crane, who said Target Field in Minneapolis took similar measures during the 2014, noted that the Red Sox go above and beyond in making Fenway safe.
“The stadium scoreboard showing the code of conduct, security guards helping you find your seat, it’s really special how this stadium makes you feel welcome.”
Typical weeknight Red Sox games begin at 7:10 p.m. For Cacciatore, his day begins ten hours earlier. At 9 a.m., Cacciatore arrives at Fenway Park and heads to office, checking emails and looking over incident reports from the previous game to research trends are problem areas in the ballpark.
This early preparation allows Cacciatore to staff different areas of the park and address problems to ensure they do not happen again. Various meetings and researching accompany this preparation.
As afternoon approaches, players begin to arrive at the park for workouts and batting practice. On the security front, activity begins to pick up.
“Around 3 p.m., it starts to get busier,” Cacciatore said. “There’s a lot more people around the park and a lot more radio calls and questions being answered.
“We find our time researching what’s going on inside the park that night and responding to game day staff questions about the day’s events.”
With the game approaching fast, gates are opened 90 minutes before first pitch and fans begin to swarm inside. However, Season Ticket Holders and Red Sox Nation members have been in the park for an hour at this point.
“Anywhere in the seating bowl is open during BP,” Cacciatore said. “You can only go where you have a seat from 5:30 p.m. onward but there are no restricted areas.”
One of the busiest times over the course of the whole day for Cacciatore and the security staff at the park is the on-field pre-game ceremonies. After years of facilitating what is now a well-oiled machine, the ceremonies, according to Cacciatore, pretty much run themselves.
“It’s pretty well-organized,” Cacciatore said. “We know ahead of time where people are going and they’re escorted by our staff.
“It’s all about communication. Guys that we have up in the office are consistently updating the staff about when people are coming in.”
With the ceremony underway on the field and the game anxiously approaching, Cacciatore and his crew are manning the gates to supervise the staff as fans flood Fenway concourses. But when the game begins, things drastically slow down for Cacciatore.
“We get a chance to look at the operation and a few of us sit up in the command center behind home plate to get a full view of the field. This way if a call comes in, we’ll be able to see it from there and on CCTV.”
When the game ends, Cacciatore makes sure the staff stays in place and the park is vacated. Security guards inspect all corners of the stadium to prevent trespassing. With the crowd usually dispersing within an hour after the final out is made, Cacciatore briefly reviews reports and discusses incidents with his staff before he heads home.
If you attend any event at Fenway, you’ll see several employees walking around the park with navy blue polo shirts and walkie-talkies. Posted up in every section and at every vomitorium throughout the stadium, these staff members are in charge of keeping Fenway an enjoyable place.
Even when the park is dormant, the security department ensures Fenway Park and the area around it are safe.
“In addition to the 81 games and other auxiliary events that go on inside the park, we’re responsible for 24/7 security here at the park,” he said. “Making sure nobody gets in the park at night. A lot of camera work but also research after-the-fact. Trying to find out what happened if someone did sneak in or someone’s car was broken into on the street.”
Various different incidents take place over the course of a game which involve security to intervene. During the past weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels, section 36 experienced a medical incident involving a sick fan.
A woman, presumably intoxicated, was removed from the stadium by ballpark security and paramedics after vomiting. She was led away by security personnel, one of them being usher Tom Grogan.
“Occasionally, we’ll see rowdy fans,” said Grogan, who has worked in section 36 for a decade now. “Sometimes ticketed fans in this section tend to enjoy themselves a bit too much sometimes and it leads to things like this.
“We’re told to diffuse every situation in a calm manner without causing drama. What happened here was a perfect example of that.”
SOUND OF DA’ POLICE!
For bigger incidents of misbehavior, the Boston Police are often called upon to help not only with crowd control, but with apprehending and punishing offenders.
During high profile games like David Ortiz’s number retirement or even bigger stages like the World Series, heavy police presence is noticeable.
Walking to the ballpark during the 2013 World Series, the street was lined with cops on horseback and empty patrol cars parked along the sidewalks. Although the streets smelled like manure, there was order.
Inside the park, police only intervene for select incidents such as fights in the stands or when a person runs on the field.
“We don’t handle runners,” Cacciatore said. “BPD handles that and charges the person with disturbing an assembly. As for fights in the stands, our guys step in first and then BPD arrests any involved party with a charge of disorderly conduct.”
Even outside the park, it’s important for Fenway Security and Boston Police to remain vigilant in making sure fans are safe and, of course, no one is breaking the law. Every day presents a unique challenge – like August 18, 2015.
The Red Sox were playing the Indians late in the season and Eduardo Rodriguez was having a career night on the mound. High above the diamond, a drone was overhead taking footage of the game in progress. Police were alerted to the “aircraft incident” and forced the owner of the drone to land it.
The offender was in violation of FAA regulations as the drone was flying above 500 feet. The operator also faced federal charges from the FBI as Red Sox games are copyrighted by Major League Baseball.
It just goes to show, you never know what mightmay happen at the ballpark.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
Almost every day of the year, Cacciatore is inside the park attending meetings to discuss the day’s events. Rain or shine, summer or winter, Cacciatore is always working to keep Fenway secure.
As a lifelong Red Sox fans, Cacciatore relishes the opportunities to watch his hometown heroes each night at work. During the 2013 World Series, Cacciatore and his staff maintained order at Fenway Park on baseball’s biggest stage and during a year where vast changes to security protocol were abound.
Lo and behold, the Red Sox won the World Series at home for the first time in 95 years, and Cacciatore was on hand to witness a historic event.
“Obviously my favorite day on the job,” Cacciatore said. “Seeing the World Series when they won that, being involved with that, and traveling with the team all over.
Perhaps even more rewarding for Cacciatore is seeing the many great shows and concerts at Fenway Park each year.
“Even more rewarding is seeing some of your favorite artists,” he said. “Like Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Buffett, dealing with their security people and meeting them.”
Though some days might not go according to plan, for Cacciatore, it’s hard to have a rough day when working a job you love at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.
“Things do get hectic here,” he said. “You got people pulling you in all different directions.
“Some days are crazier than others but no day is ever a bad day at Fenway.”