WORCESTER, Mass. (WPRI) — While Rhode Islanders are still coping with the loss of the Pawtucket Red Sox, city officials in their new Massachusetts home held a welcome celebration for the now Worcester Red Sox.
A large crowd flocked to downtown Worcester Monday night to usher in a new era for the city and for minor league baseball.
Last week, the Worcester City Council approved a financing package to build the stadium in the Kelley Square area. The “WooSox” are expected to play in their new stadium for the 2021 season.
Team Chairman Larry Lucchino said Major League Baseball approved the new ballpark Monday, meaning the deal is official. But despite all the excitement in Worcester, Lucchino said that doesn’t mean the team will mail in its last two seasons at McCoy Stadium.
“For every disappointed person in Pawtucket, there’s a happy and jubilant person in Central Massachusetts,” he said.
The event featured a number of big names in baseball, including hall of famer Pedro Martinez and Red Sox broadcasters Jerry Remy and Steve Lyons.
“Guess what Larry? I want to thank you so much for choosing Worcester because not only are we closer to the Red Sox, but because my trip is a little bit shorter,” Martinez said.
Lyons, who played for the PawSox in the mid-80’s, called the team’s move to Massachusetts bittersweet.
“It was at a time in our lives when we were 22 years old and trying to make it, to get to the big leagues, and didn’t know who we were as ballplayers and that Pawtucket community supported us,” he recalled.
Lucchino said the decision to relocate the team wasn’t easy. He referred to Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien as a hero for continually advocating to keep the team in his city.
But in the end, according to Lucchino, the team found the spirit of working together in Massachusetts, not Rhode Island.
“It takes two to tango,” he said. “Or in Rhode Island, I guess three: the city, the state, and us. And we could never put a dance team together.”
Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus said the financing deal approved by the city council last week is a good deal for taxpayers.
While both the city and the team are looking ahead to 2021, Lucchino said the team is also keeping its PawSox faithful in mind.
“We were there for 40-plus years. It was a very good run,” he said. “We have two more years left and we are going to earn their support over the next two years.”
Lucchino also mentioned that he never heard from Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo after the move was announced. When asked if he heard from House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Lucchino said he doesn’t expect to for several years.