Here in the Rhode Island baseball community, The Pawtucket Red Sox have been a constant presence since 1970. The list of players who have trotted out to McCoy Stadium’s mound, outfield, shortstop, batter’s box, and catcher’s positions are some of the Who’s Who of Boston Red Sox all-time players. The opportunity for a local Rhode Island kid to watch a player develop right in front of your eyes, then play on TV, at Fenway Park, at Yankee Stadium, maybe win a World Series Trophy or MVP or Cy Young, that was always so special and memorable. Players coming from the Boston Red Sox to rehabilitate at the AAA level for Pawtucket was also very cool to witness. Does anyone remember trying to get tickets when David Ortiz announced he would be rehabbing for a few games with the PawSox several years ago? The games were sold out and then some. The Pawtucket Red Sox Experience has been 50 years of birthday parties, corporate events, BBQ’s, sitting on the grass in the left field seating area, walking around the park on the night of fireworks, catching foul balls, and being a part of the Boston Red Sox at a local level.
I have written many, many blogs about my Pawtucket Red Sox Experiences. My kids and I go to about 3 to 4 games a year on average. This spring, I had the opportunity to throw out a first pitch during the Paws for a Cause promotion. And, sit it and do a play by play 1/2 inning on the radio. I have sat in just about every seating area in the park – from behind home plate to the left field rooftop, from the bleachers to right field, and hundreds of seats in between. There have been a few games in my PawSox experience that were completely sold out and I literally stood the entire game. This spring, I had the opportunity to visit the PawSox locker room, fitness center, meet Larry Lucchino, Mike Lyons, Joe Bradlee, and other full-time staff members. I got to walk the halls behind home plate, which are filled with 50 years of Pawtucket Red Sox memories, newspaper clippings, local charity and humanitarian awards, photos, trophies, and more. My son, Harrison, who loves baseball, spent his birthday at McCoy Stadium with me again this year. My Pawtucket Red Sox Experience spans close to 40 years of visiting McCoy Stadium, watching the PawSox games, and supporting Minor League baseball here in Rhode Island.
The Pawtucket Red Sox Experience will come to an end with the final at-bat of the 2020 season. For what its worth, I believe the PawSox Experience has already ended for a lot of RI baseball fans. They are hurt, they are bitter, they feel betrayed, they are mad, they are done going to the games, supporting the team, and being a fan. The numbers are alarming. According to www.milb.com, the Pawtucket Red Sox had the 3rd worse attendance in the International League at 331,010. They had the 3rd worse average per game attendance at 5,254/game. By my calculations, with the capacity of McCoy Stadium at roughly 10,000 seats that is a seating % at about 50% capacity. Just 5 years ago in 2014, the total attendance at McCoy Stadium was 515,665 with an average of 7,367/game. Granted, the spring of 2019 was rough with rainy conditions up until and through May. Summer months have always shown much better attendance with kids being out of school, warmer weather, and so on. However, most of the teams that play in the International League are also situated in the Northern or Atlantic regions of the US, so weather, kids, etc are factors in their attendance numbers as well. To give you a comparison, the number one team in attendance numbers this year, according to http://www.milb.com, was the Columbus (Ohio) Clippers who pulled in 590,000 fans and averaged 8,684 fans/game. Oh, by the way, the seating capacity at the home field of the Columbus Clippers, Huntington Park, is – 10,000.
The Pawtucket Red Sox staff, interns, and marketing team did their very best to get you the fans out to McCoy Stadium this year. Promotions just about every night. Free tickets for kids. Run the bases on Sundays. Bring your dog to the game. Fireworks, fireworks, and more fireworks. In Debt to a Vet. Paws for A Cause. Youth clinics. High Five Tunnel. First Pitch ceremonies. World Series Replica Rings. Roger Clemens. Bob Stanley. Autographed Photo night. Youth baseball league discounted tickets. Corporate events. BBQ’s at the Tent. Birthday Parties. The list goes on and on and on. They did their best to get fans excited about coming to a game and having a fun, family friendly Pawtucket Red Sox Experience. I commend every single one of you who made an effort this spring and summer. I can’t imagine the challenges you will have drawing fans next year for the final season of Pawtucket Red Sox baseball.
Despite the fact that the Red Sox organization at the AAA level will be moving to Worcester, MA in 2021, I will still go to my typical 3 to 4 games next spring and summer. I will still bring my baseball fan son to the bullpen to watch tall left-handed pitchers throw, in the event he learns something and can use it in his own baseball world. I will go to games that feature fireworks because the PawSox always do a great job with combining fireworks with popular theme music, like Harry Potter or Star Wars soundtracks. I will still stand in the left field stairwell and place my beverage and food on the metal ledge and watch the game from that angle I am so familiar with. I will still sneak in a few innings behind home plate or maybe up in the press box. As a Pawtucket Red Sox fan, I am well aware they are leaving for good in 2021. I’m not angry or bitter or mad. I’m just sad that one of many Rhode Island Baseball Experiences I look forward to every year will no longer be an option for me in 2021. That’s all.