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Baseball

Inside the business of the Red Sox

Boston’s COO speaks at Amos Fortune Forum

  • Boston Red Sox Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy spoke to a packed crowd at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday, July 26, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Boston Red Sox Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy spoke to a packed crowd at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday, July 26, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Boston Red Sox Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy spoke to a packed crowd at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday, July 26, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Boston Red Sox Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy spoke to a packed crowd at the Amos Fortune Forum in Jaffrey on Friday, July 26, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

While Sam Kennedy’s role as Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of the Boston Red Sox is challenging, the 40-year-old Massachusetts native knows just what it means to work for the team he grew up cheering for.

“I’m lucky to work in the toy department of life — the game of baseball,” said Kennedy to a packed crowd at the Jaffrey Meetinghouse for the Amos Fortune Forum on Friday night.

Kennedy has spent many years working in Major League Baseball, getting his start with the San Diego Padres before moving back to his home state to take a job with the Red Sox in March of 2002 after the current ownership group headed by John Henry and Tom Werner purchased the team that January.

In 2009, Kennedy was promoted to his current role within the organization and he also serves as president of Fenway Sports Management.

He made fast friends with the audience early in his talk when he announced that he brought gifts for the question and answer portion of the night with better prizes coming for the more Red Sox friendly questions. One audience member asked about a free pass to Fenway.

“We’ll see how good your question is,” Kennedy responded.

Kennedy broke down the structure of Fenway Sports Group, which in addition to the Red Sox also owns Fenway Park, Liverpool Football Club, 80 percent of the New England Sports Network and 50 percent of Roush Fenway Racing. He talked about how the group has expanded since first purchasing the Red Sox and prides itself in using its resources to build winning teams.

“Each and every dollar of profits have been reinvested,” said Kennedy. “You have to do that to win year in and year out.”

That was the goal from day one for ownership, said Kennedy. The five goals outlined at the Red Sox ownership group’s introductory press conference in 2002 centered around fielding a team worthy of fan support, preserving and protecting Fenway Park, aggressively marketing the team, becoming active in the community and ending the Curse of the Bambino.

“People probably thought we were crazy with the last one,” said Kennedy.

Since Kennedy came to Boston, the ownership group has invested millions in renovating the historic ball park. They have added seats above the Green Monster, the right field concourse and the roof deck seats above the retired numbers in right field. There are new private suites and the addition of the concourse on Yawkey Way has provided fans a place to gather prior to home games.

“It really is the gateway to the ballpark,” said Kennedy.

But even with all those improvements, the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball is still one of the smallest. Although it is not something Kennedy finds to be a downfall.

“It creates a scarcity in the market, which we think is good,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy answered a variety questions from the audience, ranging from whether or not the purchase of Liverpool impacted ownership’s group priorities to the Red Sox disastrous 2012 season.

“We just made some bad decisions,” said Kennedy of last season. “Sometimes you make mistakes and the deals you make don’t work out.”

Kennedy said a huge focus for him is what the fans are talking about and what their thoughts are about the team.

“You listen and hear what people are saying,” said Kennedy. “People still care and that’s important.”

The toughest question of the night came about the ever evolving role of Performing Enhancing Drugs in baseball. Kennedy knows first hand how strict the MLB testing policies are and is surprised that it is still an issue.

“This Biogenesis stuff that’s going on is mind boggling,” said Kennedy about the latest investigation that has ensnared New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez among others. “It’s an unfortunate part of professional sports with people trying to get that competitive advantage.”

And while the future of the team is important to Kennedy and the entire front office, it is only about 10-15 percent of what the team uses for its Major League payroll, which is expected to be around $175 million this year.

“You spend a huge amount of your dollars in the players who are on the field,” said Kennedy.

Because Kennedy knows what must be the top priority.

“You really need to win. That has to be the first and foremost goal of a baseball operation,” said Kennedy.

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