Having followed their last-place finish in 2023 with a frustratingly (to fans, at least) quiet offseason under new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow, the 2024 season already stood to be something of a fraught transition for the Boston Red Sox. Now, that transition will be on display for everyone to see: Netflix announced on Wednesday morning that the Sox have been the streaming giant full, season-long access for a new documentary series.
From the start of spring training in Fort Myers, Florida, next week through the end of the 2024 campaign, Netflix film crews will be embedded with the team — a sort of “Hard Knocks” on steroids that promises an unprecedented glimpse into what life is really like in a Major League clubhouse over a 162-game grind.
Netflix is teaming up with Major League Baseball for two new projects about the Boston Red Sox.— Netflix (@netflix) February 7, 2024
For the first time, Netflix will follow an MLB team over the course of a full season. This docuseries will feature unprecedented access to Red Sox players, coaches and executives… pic.twitter.com/1VKdax4Dvt
Netflix is also producing a documentary on the 2004 Red Sox to be aired later this year, according to the Boston Globe. The Globe also reports that the series won’t air until sometime in 2025 — a delay that the team hopes will help it avoid distraction.
As with “Hard Knocks”, the introduction of cameras into a sacred space like a professional locker room will always be a sensitive subject. But Adam Grossman, Boston’s executive VP/chief marketing officer, told the Globe that Breslow, Red Sox players and manager Alex Cora all signed off on the decision.
“[Breslow] said, ‘Strong teams with strong cultures won’t allow this to be a distraction, just like they wouldn’t allow other distractions to be distractions,’” Grossman said. “The most important thing to pull this off is trust between the director and the players and leadership. And if that’s there, then we’ll be able to do this.”
The idea was born more than three years ago, according to Grossman, in a conversation among Red Sox owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. While “Hard Knocks” has become an annual phenomenon, and Netflix itself has found success with documentaries like Formula 1: Drive To Survive; Full Swing, NASCAR: Full Speed; and Under Pressure: The U.S. Women’s World Cup Team, baseball has yet to embrace the new media landscape.
The team first broached it to the players last April, when a group of 10 prominent Red Sox at Fenway Park listened to Netflix executives lay out their vision. After considerable dialogue, as well as communication with the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA, a meeting last September greenlit the project.
“The nature of a 162-game season, of playing a game in Minneapolis and then Boston within a 24-hour period, was something that I think the players really wanted other audiences, and frankly other athletes, to see as well,” said Grossman.
Much like “Hard Knocks”, the format will feature direct interviews with players, filming interactions with teammates and, potentially, their lives away from the ballpark. (Players who don’t want to participate in one-on-one interviews do not have to.) There’s no word on how many episodes there will be, largely because no one’s quite sure just what narrative this coming season will generate. Whether the team is able to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2021 or falls short, though, interest — and drama — figures to be high.