Future of Worcester Bravehearts in the air after PawSox announce move to Worcester
The move of the Boston Red Sox Triple A franchise from Pawtucket, R.I., to Worcester will have direct and indirect impacts on baseball fans in Pittsfield and Berkshire County.
One obvious impact is that the new stadium planned for New England's second largest city will be a good hour closer to Berkshire County than Pawtucket is.
Of more importance is how the Red Sox move, scheduled for 2021, will impact the Worcester Bravehearts of the Futures League, and the league itself.
"Obviously the Futures League has one of our strongest franchises and certainly one of our strongest ownership groups in the Creedons," Pittsfield Suns owner Jeff Goldklang said. "How it impacts them in the near term, I'm not certain that there's a significant immediate-term impact on them. Obviously, there will be some long term [impact]. I know the Creedons and the ownership group of the PawSox have been in constant communication throughout this process."
Former Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, who is the chairman of the Pawtucket franchise, announced the move during a news conference Friday afternoon.
A 10,000-seat stadium will be built near Worcester's Kelley Square neighborhood at a price tag of $86-90 million. There will also be construction of two hotels, apartments and a parking garage in an effort to improve a bedraggled neighborhood.
Much was discussed during a news conference on Friday in Worcester. What was not talked about very much was the fate of Worcester's current baseball team.
In a statement released by the team, club owner and president John Creedon Jr. admitted that while most in central Massachusetts were "euphoric" over the relocation of the Pawtucket team, he and his staff were not.
"In many ways, Friday's announcement knocks the wind out of us and pause the magical momentum we have generated over the last five years," he said in the statement. "It will be hard for our small, family-owned and operated baseball team to compete with the prestige and resources of the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. However, we do not shrink from adversity or back down from a challenge."
The Bravehearts were established five years ago after the demise of the Can-Am League's Worcester Tornadoes. That team had lost money, failed to pay bills and was shuttered in 2012. Futures League commissioner Chris Hall said that Worcester was scorched earth after the Tornadoes.
Hall said the Creedons and the Bravehearts are a major reason for the Red Sox selecting Worcester.
Out of 175 summer wood bat college league teams, Worcester was eighth in overall attendance with 67,553 fans attending, according to BallparkDigest.com. Worcester averaged 2,502, the sixth best average in the nation.
"What the Creedons have done, they've spent a ton of money and they've spent a ton of time — blood, sweat and tears — to get that place to where it it is today," said Hall. "To be as successful as they are in such a short period of time, has been unbelievable."
Worcester, with 181,045 people residing in it, is the second largest city in New England. As such, Goldklang said that it is possible that both the Bravehearts and the Red Sox could share the market.
"If that's what they decide to do, I certain believe they could," he said. "I'm not privy to direct conversations between the Creedons and the PawSox, but if that were an angle that both sides wish to pursue, I most certainly think they could.
"It's not a small town."
While things could change between now and when Polar Park opens in Worcester, Creedon said that they are planning to stick around.
"Assuming all goes smoothly with the Triple A ballpark construction and the Kelley Square infrastructure project, then the Triple A team would not start playing in Worcester for another three — or possibly four — years from now, in 2021 or 2022," Creedon wrote. "And we are not going away. As we see it, the families of this incredible community deserve to have a baseball team they can spend their summers with in 2019, 2020 and perhaps beyond — namely the Worcester Bravehearts."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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