Like all of us, Josh Kantor is stuck at home, and unable to go to work because of the coronavirus crisis. But unlike almost all of us, Kantor’s job is to play the organ at Fenway Park. With the baseball season suspended, he decided to bring his work home with him, and thanks to the internet, he’s now bringing music to baseball fans all around the world.
It was such a hit, Kantor is now hosting what he calls 7th Inning Stretch every day at 3 p.m. EDT, and here’s the most amazing part: he takes requests.
As NPR reported, Kantor has been interacting with fans for almost a decade. He’s been playing songs that people suggest to him on Twitter since about 2011. Since starting his Facebook Live event, he now uses the chat feature on his Facebook page. His wife, Mary Eaton, whom he calls “Rev. Mary,” relays the requests via Post-it notes.
Kantor told NPR in an online message that the Opening Day event was supposed to be a one-shot deal.
”We were planning only to do it that one day, but by doing it, we learned how much we got out of it and how much others got out of it,” Kantor said. “We’ve committed to doing it every single day (what’s a weekend?) until people get sick of it or until baseball starts up.”
So what does Kantor play? The Washington Post reports his show is full of music that ranges from Motown and polkas to the Clash and Replacements. And in addition, Kantor relates some baseball-related anecdotes. He’s been the organist at Fenway since 2003 and began playing piano at age 5.
Regular listeners include R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs, ex-Pogues bassist Cáit O’Riordan and organ-playing peers across the MLB, according to the Post. There’s also his mom, friends from his college days and a 41-year-old insurance claims handler from East Longmeadow, Mass. named Matt Pelletier, who has never met Kantor, but tells the paper he is extremely grateful he’s there.
“It’s therapy,” says Pelletier. “If we can’t be in Fenway Park watching them play, at least I can hear him play and it just brings back a little bit of normalcy.”
This show was not something Kantor and Eaton had ever done before, but they have learned as they go, starting with a laptop and now streaming via iPhone. On Sunday, 7th Inning Stretch scored 1,400 views, according to the Post.
“This is a long haul,” Eaton told the paper. “It’s not that we’re bored. It’s that people are working really hard to figure out what to do and are exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually and need to stretch, just to give themselves permission to rest in the middle of the day. To have a respite. We need it.”