By Larry Lucchino
“I think this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Humphrey Bogart says to police captain “Louis Renault” in the classic film, Casablanca. It’s the last line of the movie, and one of the most memorable in Hollywood history.
The beginning of a beautiful friendship. Yes, that captures it exactly. As if that line was written for your city of Worcester and our baseball team. Except here it isn’t the end of the movie. It’s the opening scene. Coming to a brand new ballpark near you. The Boston Red Sox Triple-A affiliate in New England is arriving for the 2021 season.
A few years ago, the idea of building a ballpark in Massachusetts hadn’t really crossed our minds. We admired the tradition of having a Red Sox affiliate in Rhode Island since 1970. This summer, when we reached the crossroads, we were reluctant. It was agonizing; we cherished our history. Even a short move up the Blackstone Valley would be viewed as a big move. But your sincere invitation, and your whole-hearted welcome, helped us overcome our concerns.
We felt wanted. We felt it in the 10,000 encouraging postcards we got from the city’s eager baseball fans (to each of which we are in the process of responding by postcard). We sensed it in the civic pride. We felt it in the vigorous and exceptional support of the Chamber of Commerce and your business leaders. We saw it in your willingness to do whatever was necessary to conclude the deal quickly, quietly, and efficiently. And we saw it in the dependability, dedication, and commitment of the leadership of the City of Worcester and the leadership of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
It may seem premature to express our gratitude only 100 days into this joint enterprise, but to us, it seems timely and appropriate, especially at Thanksgiving. We could not have anticipated such an extraordinary reception, and we are deeply grateful.
We are off to a terrific start. The ceremonies and events in our honor, and the cooperation and collaboration on the ballpark’s design, are early indications that building in the Canal District of Worcester is the right thing to do.
The business community has risen to the occasion. Twenty “Founding Partners” (the Worcester ’21 Club) have already committed to multi-year partnerships. We have been pleasantly surprised by the depth, breadth, and potency of this galvanized business community.
We should note that Polar Beverages and the Crowley family stepped up to lead on Day One to provide the ballpark with a proud, local, catchy name - Polar Park. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Speaking of rings, October Baseball brought us yet another magical chapter with those likable Boston Red Sox, who won their fourth World Series in 15 years. That rising tide lifts all Red Sox ships, and the four World Series Trophies are headed to Worcester, imminently.
Meanwhile, fans are giving us abundant input for the nickname of Worcester’s forthcoming team. WooSox? WildSox? WonderSox? Or a tip of the cap to the 1880s when they were the Worcester Worcesters - or even the Ruby Legs!
Public input is also flowing in on ballpark design at our Fan Planning sessions and on our website, PolarPark.com. Folks from 8 to 80 have offered an array of ideas: LED foul poles that explode with color for home runs. Secure bicycle parking. Student discounts. An on-site brewery featuring local craft beers. Food trucks. Coney Island Hot Dogs and Table Talk Pies. And other culinary creations from local legends. These are just a few of your provocative recommendations. Please keep them coming to PolarPark.com.
The excitement is pervasive and palpable wherever we go. Our front office members are greeted warmly as “new, old friends.” In the words of Worcester native, Red Sox All-Star, and PawSox hitting coach Rich Gedman, “To see the genuine love for the city and all the people who had something to do with (making this happen), it’s absolutely incredible. It’s our team, and it’s our city. It’s cool.”
In response to your warm and generous support, we make these four fundamental promises: (1) We will be a team worthy of this exceptional community and its remarkable level of support. (2) We will work hard to build an innovative, comfortable, safe, clean, state-of-the art, beautiful ballpark that will be both a source of pride and an instrument of downtown economic growth. (3) We will enhance our role as a critical cog in the Boston Red Sox player development process. (4) And, we will be active participants in the charitable and philanthropic life of Worcester and Central Massachusetts.
We are discovering what a hidden gem is this special place. This IS the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You can count on it.
Thank you again, Worcester.
- Larry Lucchino is chairman and co-owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox, which will relocate to Worcester in 2021.