I am in a somewhat unique situation when it comes to the PawSox moving to Worcester.
I am originally from Worcester, lived there for the majority of my life, and still have most of my family in that area. However, I am far more involved and invested in the sports community down here in Rhode Island.
When dissecting the announced move and hearing from many of the locals in Warwick, it’s clear how much the PawSox meant to all of Rhode Island.
Sure, the attendance may have dipped over the past decade, but that’s how it has been for the vast majority of minor league teams in the entire country. The point I am making is that lack of interest is certainly not to blame. If it was, then every professional baseball team in the country would be looking to move. Baseball just doesn’t appeal to the younger generation, but that’s a subject for another time.
As a Worcester-area native, I really am on the fence about the move.
Professional sports in Worcester have been wildly hit or miss in my lifetime. The former Worcester IceCats were an AHL hockey team that played in the Centrum, currently known as the DCU Center. The IceCats were very popular throughout their time in the city, but were eventually moved for political reasons.
Since then, Worcester added the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate team which lasted about a decade. However, this time the issues were just as much about the lack of attendance as they were about politics. The ECHL’s Worcester Railers just completed their inaugural season, and the attendance steadily declined throughout the year.
As far as baseball goes, Worcester had the independent Worcester Tornados. After less than a decade in the city, political reasons moved them out. The Worcester Bravehearts baseball team of the Futures league does pretty well … for a collegiate summer team.
Simply put, Worcester has tried and mostly failed with professional sports, whether it be attendance or politics. I’m happy to see a new ball park added to the city and some jobs be created, but I have a feeling that the Worcester Red Sox may struggle more than some up there want to admit or realize.
In general, I go by the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I don’t know all of the politics and arguments surrounding the move, but I do have a somewhat solid grasp of the sides.
From what I understand the biggest issue is that the Boston Red Sox want a new, flashy park for its Triple-A affiliate. McCoy Stadium will be pushing 80 years old when the team’s lease is up and the state has had trouble finalizing a deal for a new park. Once again, I am ignorant to some of the reasons, but Rhode Island just couldn’t get it done in time.
That leads me to the biggest point that I am going to make, which is the state could have, and probably should have done more.
It isn’t like Worcester came knocking on Boston’s door out of nowhere with a pile of money and a plan and ripped the PawSox from Pawtucket. This has been a long process with many back and forths … and Worcester ultimately did just a little bit more.
Whether it was building a new park in Providence, adding to the current McCoy, I can’t wrap my head around the idea that Rhode Island exhausted all of its resources and options.
When hearing from the locals around here, the disappointment is genuine. This isn’t a matter of fans not realizing what they had until it was gone … they loved and embraced the PawSox.
If I had to choose, especially considering my background in each area, I would rather see the PawSox stay put. Pawtucket and the entire state love the team, and they have been among the top minor league franchises throughout the course of their nearly 50-year-old life. Worcester has tried and failed so many times, and I would hate to see my hometown add another failed sports experiment to its already lengthy list.
I’m not sure who to blame exactly, or if there’s even any blame to go around. All I know is that the Rhode Island baseball community is mourning, and I truly feel for it.
That’s not even mentioning the future of McCoy Stadium. Will the PawSox’ eventual departure affect its future plans? Will a new team move in? Although a new team may relieve some of the pain, it simply won’t replace the void that the PawSox are set to leave behind.
Pawtucket and Rhode Island deserve a professional baseball franchise. The community has made it work for decades, and unfortunately, politicians once again tried fixing something that wasn’t broken which has ultimately left even more damage.