What do Portland, Manchester, Hartford, Lowell, Norwich, Pawtucket (Providence) and Burlington, VT. all have in common? A few things...They are all cities in New England, all have populations smaller than Worcester, and all have affiliated minor league teams. Why has Worcester been overlooked all these years as a city that could be home to a team? Well, the answer comes down to that pesky little team down 146. The Pawtucket Red Sox.
Minor League territorial rights are described under Rule 52, which stipulates each baseball team is granted "protected territorial rights covering a specific geographic area called a 'home territory,' unless a Club and League agree to forego a home territory ..."
Without approval, "no Major or Minor League Club may play its home games within the home territory or within 15 miles from the boundary of the home territory of any other Minor League Club," the rule states.
Under this rule Worcester is in Pawtucket's home territory and the likelihood of Pawtucket ever granting approval for a team to come to Worcester is slim to none, which is why Worcester is presently without an affiliated baseball team.
PawSox President, Charles Steinberg recently commented on this issue. Telling fans that if the team were to move to Worcester they wouldn't be able to replace them.
This means that we are looking at a once in a generation opportunity. Worcester will have to wait another thirty years before we can convince the PawSox that Worcester is the place to call home. This is Worcester's last chance for affiliated baseball. By all accounts the city has made it's case. In terms of fan support, and corporate sponsorship it appears Worcester has satisfied the team's concerns. The biggest issue when building a new park would be the location. There would be no better place to put a stadium in Worcester than in the Canal District. With the many restaurants, bars, coffee shops in the area along with a commuter rail stop less than a mile from the ballpark what more could you ask for? What is not clear is how hard it will be in obtaining the land needed for the ballpark. PawSox consultant, Guy Dufault, recently stated that Worcester didn't control the land where the ballpark would be built. Worcester City Manager, Ed Augutus, brushed this statement off on a recent appearance on The Worcester Magazine Radio Hour, telling Walter Bird Jr. that he "didn't think it would be an issue". I can't imagine it would. I could see Kelley Square traffic patterns being an issue. Trying to get 10,000 fans in and out of Kelley Square might nearly be impossible in its present state. The Worcester Telegram's Bill Ballou reported last week that the state's infrastructure contribution to the project could be as much as $60 million and in a recent interview, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito told the Telegram that a Pawsox move to Worcester could "spark a redesign of Kelley Square." I don't think we are going to have to worry about Kelley Square.
Now we wait. Although not a hard date, it's likely that the Rhode Island legislature will go into recess on June 22nd and if they do so without a vote on stadium then that would pretty much guarantee we'll be seeing WooSox signs soon. Otherwise we'll have to wait another thirty years before we can do this song and dance again.