The Unlikely Inside Story of How the PawSox Became the WooSox
MEDIA RELEASE — FOR IMMEDIATE USE
Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018
BOSTON – Dr. Charles Steinberg, President of the PawSox Triple-A Minor League Baseball team, today told members of MassEcon at its Annual Luncheon Meeting how, despite his continuing expectations that the team would stay in Pawtucket, RI, it ended up committing to move to Worcester, MA, set to open in a new stadium in April 2021.
“We signed all the documents that committed us to keep the team in Pawtucket for the next 30 years,” Steinberg said. “The deal was struck.”
However, the veteran of 43 years in baseball in cities as far as Los Angeles said, there were three “really small words” attached to the agreement: “Pending legislative approval.” “Well, they turned out not to be so small.”
Steinberg spoke to a roomful of MassEcon members at the UMass Club at One Beacon Street, following the organization’s annual meeting and election of board members and officers. MassEcon board members and others also expressed their gratitude to Susan Houston, who has been Executive Director of the nonprofit pro-business group for the 25 years of its existence. Houston is departing the role on Dec. 31, 2018, and Peter J. Abair, a veteran advocate of economic development in Massachusetts, will assume the title.
“In 1993 it was a startup, and my sense was I’ll get it moving and then move on,” said Houston. “But it became too interesting, its founders… had big ideas, and I caught the bug. I wanted to be in on the shaping and growing of this enterprise.”
In his luncheon address, Steinberg said that when the Rhode Island legislative session ran out with no final deal, Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino started talking to others among the 18 cities that had knocked on the PawSox’s door. “For nine months Larry Lucchino is falling in love with this city, the City of Worcester, with the most credible of public servants,” he said.
Steinberg, busy with the Red Sox and at the time spending three days a week in Milwaukee helping former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig write his memoirs, wasn’t paying attention and still expected the PawSox to stay in Rhode Island, Steinberg said – until Lucchino called him home and set up multiple meetings with Worcester officials.
“That opened the door for me,” he said. “OK, I see what Larry loves, the kindness, the linear thinking, the logic.” Concerns about being too far from major national media, or I-95 highway, or local corporate buy-in were assuaged over the less than a year.
“The City Manager said in this city and this region we work together,” Steinberg recalled. “The 69 cities and towns that constitute Central Massachusetts will work with you and for you.” The PawSox received 10,000 postcards imploring the team to move to Worcester.
Finally, after a total of three years of efforts to secure the Pawtucket home, the team committed to a new home in Worcester. A 10,000-seat stadium in Worcester’s Canal District, called Polar Park, will be part of a larger mixed-use development that will start construction in July 2019. The Pawtucket Red Sox will become the Worcester Red Sox.
“We have been saturated by the love and the goodwill,” Steinberg said. “The truth is and the fact is that Pawtucket and Worcester are one market…. At the end of the day it’s not a tale of two cities, it’s a tale of one region, of one population.”
“Baseball is this wonderful magnet that unites us,” he said. “It bring together everyone from all walks of life. … How foolish it would be to let the arbitrary geographic border of two states be a reason to divide, when our philanthropic muscle, our charitable might, can help an entire region.
“There’s no reason when it comes to minor league baseball we shouldn’t be the heart of the region.”
MassEcon, founded in 1993, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan entity that serves as the state’s private sector partner in promoting Massachusetts as the premier choice for business growth. Its services include the Site Finder Service, which helps expanding and relocating companies find a home in the Commonwealth; the Research and Information Service, which provides companies with the information they need to evaluate the Commonwealth as a location to grow; and the Massachusetts Ambassadors, a network of civic and corporate leaders who help market Massachusetts as a place to do business. For more information, please go to www.massecon.com or www.twitter.com/MassEcon.