I was recently honored to receive a special invitation from the Pawtucket Red Sox and their “Paws for a Cause” program. The invite included tickets to a game and to speak about my baseball initiative here in Rhode Island. The “Paws for a Cause” program recognizes local companies who make a significant difference in their community through non-profit work and charity. The Rhode Island Baseball Experience has been an incredible ride for me for the past several years. I have visited and cataloged over 60 baseball fields here in Rhode Island. I have met hundreds of players, coaches, volunteers, sponsors, and families that are connected to the Rhode Island baseball community – past and present. My goal remains – to promote baseball in Rhode Island through positive news stories and responsible social media posts.
Joe Bradlee, Director of Baseball Operations and Community Relations, sent me the invitation and I gladly accepted. Bradlee supplied my family with a set of tickets for the game and invited me onto the field for a pre-game ceremony. It has been a fairly rainy April and I was really psyched when the weather cooperated for the game. It was a gorgeous 60 degree afternoon when we arrived at McCoy Stadium for the pre-game. Joe met us outside and ushered us into the stadium and down to the field level. Seeing the field from this vantage point was really breathtaking.
My family and I got some great photos of the park from the field level. The grounds crew was busy preparing the field, watering the infield area, and lining the foul lines and batter’s box. The field looked absolutely incredible and it is a testament to the work of this outstanding crew. One of them, Chris Parent, is also a fields volunteer with Rumford Little League.
The pre-game ceremonies were originally going to include me going out to the mound, having the PA announcer say a few words about the RIBBE, and I would do a few waves to the crowd. But, shortly before I was set to go out, an unexpected cancellation occurred with the person who was slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Joe and his staff asked me if I would step in and throw out the first pitch. I gladly accepted. So, after hearing the kind words over the loud speaker, I was handled the ceremonial first pitch baseball. I peered into catcher Cole Sturgeon and without hesitation, fired a strike. It was a thrilling moment and I was so glad my family was there to witness it.
After shaking hands with Cole and the Pawtucket Red Sox mascots (Paws and Sox), the family and I made it up to our seats. We watched a few innings from our assigned seats and moved around the stadium a bit to get different views of the game. My kids participated in a few of the “games within the games” and got their faces on the big screen.
In the 4th inning, I was invited up to the press box and into the radio broadcast booth. I met Pawtucket Red Sox announcers Will Flemming and Josh Maurer, two outstanding baseball talents who have years of experience calling professional baseball games. Josh and Will asked me about the RIBBE, my background in baseball, even let me do a little color commentary on a bunt fielded by the PawSox Pitcher, Teddy Stankiewicz. I honestly could have spent the entire game in that booth talking baseball, but alas, my time was up after 3 quick outs. It was great meeting these two up and coming broadcasting stars. Great radio voices!!!
As the game rolled into the 5th and 6th innings, the family and I had some snacks, a few bottles of water, and tons of laughs. The temperature had dropped about 15 degrees from game time and a few of us were getting a bit chilly. April games at McCoy Stadium definitely require a sweatshirt, especially night games. We stayed until about the 7th inning, and with it being a school night, and the kids getting cold, we decided to head out of McCoy. It was a really special Rhode Island Baseball Experience for me and my family. I’m so thankful to Joe Bradlee, Josh Maurer, Will Flemming, and all of the Pawtucket Red Sox staff for the invitation and the great evening.
I have seen all of the posts and comments and negativity about the Pawtucket Red Sox and their eventual departure in 2020. Yes, they are moving to Worcester. Yes, we had an opportunity to keep them here in Rhode Island long term. No, they are not going to change their minds. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and their view of whose fault it is or who is responsible for them leaving Pawtucket. The fact remains that a Pawtucket Red Sox baseball game at McCoy Stadium is still one of the most affordable, enjoyable baseball experiences you can have here in Rhode Island, period. Go or don’t go, it is completely up to you and your family. But, I will tell you that I will continue to go to the games, attend the special events, check out the after game fireworks, and support the Pawtucket Red Sox during this season, next season, and for years to come.