Red Sox

PawSox announce plans to move to Worcester in 2021

PawSox announce plans to move to Worcester in 2021

The Pawtucket Red Sox announced plans Friday to move to a new ballpark in Worcester in 2021, ending the Boston Red Sox' nearly 50-year minor-league affiliation with Rhode Island.

The Pawtucket franchise, now led by former Boston Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, announced at a press conference that they've signed a letter of intent to move 42 miles north to the central Massachusetts city's downtown Canal District near I-290. 

According to a PawSox press release, the design and construction of the new park will be overseen by Lucchino and former Boston Red Sox executive Janet Marie Smith, who, with Lucchino, oversaw numerous improvements to Fenway Park the past 15 years. Smith also designed Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Smith is now senior vice president of planning and development for the Los Angeles Dodgers and will continue in that job while participating in the design of the 10,000-seat Worcester park. 

“We are eager to build an innovative, family-friendly ballpark that reflects the love and appreciation of baseball and that unifies Central Massachusetts and the Blackstone Valley Corridor,” Lucchino said in the team's release.

Lucchino said the ballpark will be named Polar Park in a naming-rights deal with Polar Beverage Company of Worcester.

A city of Worcester press release says the proposed self-supported Canal District development is expected to cost up to $90 million and Massachusetts will commit $35 million to the project in the next two to three years. 

Under the plan, the PawSox would continue to play at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket until the end of the 2020 season. 

Lucchino signed the letter in a ceremony at Worcester’s City Hall with Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty on hand. The project is subject to the approval of the Worcester City Council, the International League, and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. 

The PawSox spent more than three years trying to build a new stadium in Rhode Island and obtain public financing for it. A deal for a park ballpark in Providence fell through and the team wasn't happy with the package for a downtown Pawtucket park approved in June.

A Red Sox' Double-A affiliate began playing in Rhode Island in 1970 and the Triple-A team began playing at 70-year-old McCoy Stadium in 1973. 

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Red Sox building added dugout space at Fenway Park for social distancing

Red Sox building added dugout space at Fenway Park for social distancing

Baseball will certainly look different in 2020 — that is, if the season is able to start later this month.

Designated hitters in the National League. A runner on second base to start extra innings. No fans in the stands. 

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But it won't just be the absence of fans that will make the stands look different this coming season. At Fenway Park, crews are making changes to encourage and ensure social distancing when games take place.

As captured by reporters in attendance for the team's next intrasquad scrimmage Wednesday, the Red Sox added auxiliary dugout space by building tents alongside the existing dugout.

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Added dugout space complete.

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The added dugout space is the newest change to Fenway Park in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other changes include additional bullpen space, batting cages and weight rooms in the concourses and converting luxury suites into two-player locker room areas.

The Sox are scheduled to host the Blue Jays for exhibition games next Tuesday and Wednesday before opening the 60-game regular season at Fenway against the Orioles on July 24.

A low bar: 2020 season will be a success if we end up hating Red Sox less

A low bar: 2020 season will be a success if we end up hating Red Sox less

The Red Sox brand is a malleable thing. Unlike the consistent they-hate-us-cuz-they-ain't us ethos that has defined the Patriots for two decades, public opinion of the Red Sox tends to bob like a buoy.

When seas are calm, they're a stable beacon. But when the ocean starts churning, they thrash to keep their head above water without becoming unmoored.

Needless to say, the last nine months have featured their share of roiling, 40-foot waves.

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The Red Sox defended their World Series title by winning an uninspiring 84 games and finishing well out of the playoff race. Dave Dombrowski lost his job. Alex Cora followed in the wake of cheating accusations. MVP Mookie Betts departed in a salary dump.

Along each step of the way, fans became a little more disillusioned.

Why invest in watching a player like Betts grow, only to see him given away? Why continue paying some of the highest ticket prices in the game if the team is more concerned with the luxury tax than the product on the field? And what exactly are we to make of Cora? Either the Red Sox cut bait with a successful manager to ease the heat of a burgeoning scandal, or they were actually guilty of something that taints the 2018 title.

Add the collectively disgraceful acts of baseball's owners during the pandemic negotiations, when we heard not a peep from John Henry and Co. while the owners pushed for the shortest possible schedule to limit player payroll, and you've got a sport and a team that engenders more ill will than any other in Boston.

With the games set to resume next week, the Red Sox have a chance to make belated amends. Expectations haven't been this low in a decade. The shortened 60-game season means anything can happen — at a similar point last year, after all, the Red Sox were tied with the Rangers for the second wild card spot.

So what needs to happen for the season to be a success? Quite simply, we need to hate them less.

Fans who feel burned by Mookie's departure, the unwillingness to spend, and the tone-deaf hopes of filling Fenway Park after a nasty labor negotiation could use an overachieving squad that exceeds expectations. It would do the team and its fans a world of good.

We need to be reminded that there's hope for the future. It's not beyond the realm.

An offense built around Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, and Alex Verdugo can compete with anyone. If they can stay healthy (an admittedly big if), a 1-2 punch of Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi is actually pretty solid atop a rotation that will need to get really lucky in the 3-5 spots. And the underrated bullpen finished last year as a strength, led by borderline unhittable closer Brandon Workman.

The shorter schedule plays in their favor, since they simply need to finesse their way through 60 games. Had the season ended at that point last year, not only would the Red Sox have been visiting the Rangers for a one-game playoff, but four other teams would've been within two and a half games of them.

If 10 of the 15 AL teams still have something to play for as this truncated season enters its final week, that's a success for baseball. There's absolutely no reason the Red Sox shouldn't be one of them.

Crazier things have happened, and even if the odds are realistically remote, the Red Sox need to start rebuilding not just their team, but their image.

Might as well start now.