Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus PawSox Chairman & Co-Owner Larry Lucchino
Photos Courtesy:Worcester Magazine & Boston Herald
If you've managed to find this blog then most likely you know how we got to this point. What's at stake is the future of the Boston Red Sox' top minor league franchise. It's Pawtucket vs. Worcester. The winner of the PawSox sweepstakes will take home the prize and will claim it for at least the next thirty years. So you can safely say this is a once in a lifetime opportunity without sounding hyperbolic. If you're a baseball fan living in Central Massachusetts you've probably been carrying around a bucket with you for the past year to collect the drool dripping from your mouth every time you think this could actually become a reality.
Worcester has had baseball for a number of years now. The Worcester Tornadoes came blowing into town in 2005. The Tornadoes were an instant success. Fan support was high, Worcester native Rich Gedman managed the club, and they even won the league championship in their inaugural season. In 2012 the team made national headlines after signing forty-seven year old Jose Canseco and to steal a television term, that's when the team "jumped the shark". By August of that year the Can-Am League announced that it was terminating the charter due to a slumping financial state which included failure to pay for uniforms! The owners of the team were based in Maryland and clearly did not have a grasp of what makes a sports franchise work in a parochial city like Worcester. This all changed in 2014.
City leaders knew baseball could be successful in Worcester. They also knew baseball in the city had a better chance of surviving if they had local ownership. Business owner John Creedon stepped up to take on that challenge and The Worcester Bravehearts were born. The team is in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League and from day one the city embraced the ball club. In fact, in 2017 according to Ballpark Digest, Worcester's average attendance of 2,356 ranked 7th in the country in a group of 153 summer collegiate teams and number 1 in attendance among New England teams. The question has been asked, "Could the Bravehearts coexist with the WooSox?" The answer is most definitely not. It would be like putting a Triple-A team in the same city as a MLB team. The PawSox would never survive if they moved to Boston and the Bravehearts won't be around when the WooSox take the field. Then why do we want the PawSox if we already have a great team? At the risk of sounding like a baseball snob I would say to that we are comparing apples to oranges. The Bravehearts play from the last week in May until the first weekend in August. Compared to the PawSox schedule, which runs from April to September. The Braveheats have 25 home games. The WooSox would have 70 home games. If you're a baseball fan what could be better than 5 months of it? In terms of fan base, I have no doubt that the Bravehearts have fans that come from out of town, but the WooSox would attract fans from all over New England. For some of these fans they may be experiencing Worcester for the first time and find the city to be pretty exciting. They might even stay after the game and get a drink, or a bite to eat. Heck, maybe they'll eventually get a job in Worcester, or do I dare say move to the city? Finally, when asking, "why the WooSox when we have the Bravehearts?" IT"S THE BOSTON RED SOX TOP MINOR LEAGUE FARM TEAM. We'll be watching the stars of tomorrow playing baseball in the Canal District! Once in while we'll even see a current player on a rehab assignment. Last week Dustin Pedroia was playing in Pawtucket and this weekend 2018 MVP candidate Mookie Betts could be roaming the outfield at McCoy. This is not to take away from the talented college players on the Bravehearts, but it's just not the same.
Of Course at the time of this writing this is still just a pipe dream. The rumor mill is cranking 24/7 at this point, but City Manager Ed Augustus has been very tight-lipped during this entire process and the PawSox ownership group has yet to comment on the latest stadium legislation in Rhode Island. I do believe the end is near. The PawSox originally wanted to be in a new stadium by 2020, but construction of a new stadium will likely take two years to complete so that ship has sailed. They certainly don't want to push it off another year so time is of the essence. The Rhode Island House is expected to go into recess on June 22nd and if they do so without a vote on the stadium bill then I guarantee we'll be seeing U-Haul trucks in the McCoy Stadium parking lot by July. It's also not clear if the PawSox approve of the new bill. Which is to say that even if the new bill passes in the House it isn't worth the paper it's written on if the PawSox don't agree to the terms of the bill. Alas, for now all we can do is sit back and watch this saga enter its final chapter. How it will end is still anybody's guess, but this guy is feeling cautiously optimistic.