As the Boston Red Sox battle for the chance to make it to the World Series, TJ Connelly has a bigger interest than most fans. As the team's official DJ, Connelly is responsible for all the pre-recorded music at Fenway Park—an organist handles all the live music—and consequently helps guide the mood of Fenway's 37,400 fans. The DJ talked to Fuse about getting his dream job, Neil Diamond's classic "Sweet Caroline" and deciding what to play among 75,000 songs.
A lot of sports fans would say you have a dream job. How'd you get your start?
[Laughs] I agree. I have an improv comedy background but I was more interested in was doing lights and playing the music in between bits. I've always been a theater guy. I got good at playing music to what just happened and working back and forth with the crowd. There was a friend who worked at Fenway who was a big fan of what I was doing at the theatre. It didn't even occur to me that the Red Sox even had a DJ. I was at Fenway and the DJ made a gag about a pitcher taking too long on the mound and I snapped up my head and said, "Whoa, somebody's doing this." And a dream job was born. In 2002, I started writing them one letter a year like, "Hey, just in case this person wants a day off or gets sick, I could fill in." Three years later, I got a phone call from my friend and became the backup DJ in 2005. In 2008, the other full-time DJ retired and I've done almost every single home game since Opening Day 2008.
What's your typical day like?
Let's say it's a 7 P.M. game. I get to the park around 3:30 for batting practice, find out if there's any special events going on or if someone special is going to come out on the field. The players come out and I'll rotate through all of their different tastes to the best of my ability. As a club DJ, you play to get the ladies to dance and then the guys go out and dance. So 25 dudes is a weird audience. But it's great. At the end of batting practice, [designated hitter David] Ortiz comes out and after eight years, I'm very good at playing music for him.
What's his favorite music?
Unsurprisingly, he likes heavy beats like Kanye West, Wu-Tang, Tupac. When I first started it was all about reggaeton, which was tough because in 2005, it wasn't nearly as ubiquitous as it became. I didn't even know what it was when I walked in the door. But he likes basically anything to nod your head to.
Any other surprises?
Dustin Pedroia only listens to West Coast hip hop. If you're playing NWA or Ice Cube, you're doing good.
It would seem you'd need a wider musical palette than club DJs.
Yes, for the players. I came into the job with the perspective of a life of listening to alternative radio. I've always had broad tastes in music. But i had to find out about the music I didn't know about. But i was already pretty well equipped for playing in a 100-year-old ball park. That's one of the best parts of the job. Families come just to experience the park. There's so many different things you could potentially play. It's the same thing as reading a dance floor; it's just more people. You can tell when they're into it. They're louder; they move a little bit. If you play a dud, you know it. There is not a worse feeling than that.