Kelly returns home to coach at Fenway Park
Alex Carson | Friday, November 20, 2015
Saturday will mark the sixth time Irish head coach Brian Kelly leads his squad onto the field for a Shamrock Series game.
The annual neutral-site game that serves a multitude of purposes for Notre Dame — from another night game to aiding in recruiting — has become a new-found tradition at the school. The first time Kelly led his team onto the field for a Shamrock Series game, it was at Yankee Stadium in New York, where the Irish rekindled a classic rivalry with Army. And since, he’s done the same in Landover, Maryland in 2011, Chicago in 2012, Arlington, Texas, in 2013 and Indianapolis last season.
But despite the fact that Saturday’s opponent sits fewer than four miles from Fenway Park, Kelly will likely feel most at home this year.
“Oh, man, it’s going to be a good homecoming for Coach Kelly,” Irish senior defensive lineman Sheldon Day said. “And it’s going to be a special moment for all of us.”
Kelly was raised in Chelsea, Massachusetts, just six miles north of Fenway Park, and said he has a number of favorite Fenway memories.
“I’ve got a lot of them,” Kelly said. “Recently probably sitting up in the Green Monster seats with my family. That was probably the most recent. As a kid, probably going with my dad to the ‘75 World Series. I think those probably stand out.”
And for Kelly, there’s more to Fenway Park than the games that take place there.
“Going to Fenway is an event in itself,” he said. “It’s not just the stadium, but it’s the surroundings, and it’s always an enjoyable time.”
Fenway Park will be the sixth venue in which Kelly has coached a Shamrock Series game, and he said it is the stadium he has been most excited to coach in.
“I think it’s a classic Shamrock Series [venue],” Kelly said. “Whether it’s Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park. I just think we do a great job of finding those iconic venues.”
Over the summer, Kelly returned to Boston and Fenway Park, and he praised the welcome the Irish have received from the Red Sox organization.
“I threw out the first pitch this summer at Fenway,” Kelly said. “I think it was the Tampa Bay game. So got a chance to go back and go to a Red Sox game, and [Red Sox president] Sam Kennedy has been terrific and really doing everything to accommodate Notre Dame and making it a very comfortable situation for us there. Looking forward to going back.
“Obviously growing up in the area, being a big Red Sox fan, it certainly will be fun.”
After it happened June 23, Kelly described the experience of throwing out the first pitch as “unreal.”
“You know, [Red Sox infielder] Travis Shaw was catching my throw, and he thought it was a split-finger, so they’re supposed to dive a little bit, so he covered it up pretty good for me,” Kelly said.
Kelly isn’t the only high-profile Red Sox fan making the trip to Fenway this week as a member of Notre Dame’s delegation — graduate student linebacker Joe Schmidt, a fan of the Boston-based team despite his roots in Orange, California, said he’ll cherish the moment Saturday.
“I’m going to try to do what’s allowed to do,” Schmidt said. “I don’t want to get in trouble, but if there is an opportunity to go into the Green Monster, I think I would gladly accept that opportunity. I’m not going to try to pull a Manny Ramirez and leave the game to go to the Green Monster, but it’s going to be kind of cool to walk around.”
Saturday will be the second time Kelly leads a title-chasing Irish team onto the field in Boston — but this year is a little different than 2012, when Notre Dame visited Boston College’s Alumni Stadium, Kelly said.
“[There are] more people asking for tickets,” he said. “Well, it’s the venue, right? … I think it’s the Fenway Park attraction. Certainly the Shamrock Series is certainly more of the draw.”
And despite playing in the home city of Saturday’s Holy War opponent, Kelly said he expects the Irish to enjoy a bit of a home-field advantage.
“We’re really excited about the Shamrock Series,” Kelly said. “ … Playing in Boston, playing in front of great fans. We’ve got great support in New England and in particular Boston.”