Like most people I planned on having an eventful summer. This included heading down to Mansfield to catch a concert, as well as other various meet-ups with friends. But more importantly, I had one final trip to Pawtucket, RI circled on my calendar.
Then Covid-19 happened, and it turned the entire world upside down. Just about every event has been cancelled, including the 2020 MiLB season. This means that the Pawtucket Red Sox have likely played their last game at McCoy Stadium. The PawSox will make the move to Worcester in 2021 with Polar Park as their new home.
Most of my memories from McCoy Stadium have very little to do with the games themselves. I remember the atmosphere and all of the activities scattered around the ballpark. One of my favorite parts of McCoy Stadium happened before the game even began.
The dugouts at McCoy are built underneath the stands, unlike other ballparks. This allowed fans to lower down memorabilia for the players to sign during warm-ups. With every trip to Pawtucket I would bring a little green bucket with me. My Dad would tie the bucket to the railing of the front row so I could lower it down to the dugout level.
Inside the bucket I stashed a baseball and a sharpie. I never knew which player signed my baseball, especially with the illegible signatures, but the autographs never mattered to me. The excitement of seeing a player walk up to my bucket and take out the baseball is what gave me the most joy. To this day I have dozens of baseballs from Pawtucket full of signatures, but as I said earlier, the names on the ball never mattered. Dustin Pedroia’s signature could very well be on one of those baseballs, but that’s never why I did it.
Every time my family and I went to McCoy Stadium my parents would give me $2 to buy an official PawSox program. I would always attempt to score the game with the scorecard inside the program, but I always lost track when I ventured around the ballpark.
On my trip around the park I would make a stop at the Chillzone to take a photo and get an autograph from Paws. My family would bring a Polaroid disposable camera to the park to take photos, and one of those photos always included a shot with the PawSox mascot.
My journey then took me to the wall that commemorates the longest game in the history of baseball. For those that do not know, the longest professional baseball game took place at McCoy Stadium. The PawSox beat the Rochester Red Wings in 33 innings back in 1981. Displayed on the wall on the first base side is the line score of all 33 innings, as well as photos and the actual home plate from that game.
There is an excellent book on the game by New York Times columnist Dan Barry. The Bottom of the 33rd looks at stories from that game, as well as the history of McCoy Stadium. I actually bought the book from the PawSox team store.
Eventually I would find myself back in my seat where I would take in the rest of the game. Around the 5th inning a trivia question would display on the Jumbotron where the winner would receive a signed baseball. This is before we had the internet in our pockets, so you could not look up the answer.
The question always revolved around a prominent Red Sox player that spent time in Pawtucket. My Dad always had the best guesses to the question, and we even won the contest once. Getting the right answer never mattered, though. The fun part came from trying to think of what the correct answer could be.
It is sad to see the Red Sox leave Pawtucket. I spent so much time there as a kid, and I made some great memories down there, from having a birthday party at McCoy Stadium with some of my friends to just taking in a ballgame with my family. It will be sad if this is the end of baseball in Pawtucket. I would still return to McCoy even if they had an independent league team play there. The allure to me never came from watching Red Sox prospects play. The atmosphere of that place is what I loved the most.
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Featured image via John Tlumacki/Boston Globe