Polar Park, Worcester, MASSACHUSETTS

WE’RE MOVING!

This page will only be here through 6/29, but I am saving these (and adding new parks as I see them) here, at paulsballparks.substack.com. See you on the other side!

 

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Number of states: 39
To go: 11
Number of games: 1
First game: August 4, 2022 (Worcester Red Sox 12, Durham Bulls 0)

After a night at the kinda-icky Brockton Sox park (not commemorated here–see the rules for why), the pandemic-postponed New England swing for the College Buddy Baseball Annual Tour happened just two years late. And it started with a pretty cool

and unprecedented night in Worcester.

Had the tour happened in 2020 like it was supposed to, we would have made it to Pawtucket instead, and I would have crossed off Rhode Island. But by the time we could make the trip happen, there was no more Pawtucket: instead, there was this place, which was exactly what you’d expect out of a 21st-century ballpark. Corporate. Antiseptic. Nice, but not special. Yes, it has all of the amenities, but it felt the same as pretty much any other spot. Also–it was pretty spendy for a minor league park. 

In any event, I did appreciate the Red Sox history on display in Woostah. The sign that points to Fenway and all of its affiliates feels more regional here somehow, and not just because so many of the Sox’s affiliates are rightly in New England. This is a place to see the future Sawx and talk about the current Sawx, and we got a chance to do that.

And I did so with my buddy Chuck! Chuck is one of the few purely on-line friends I have ever known, and this was our chance to meet in person. I met him through refereeing: he’s a former Division I basketball official who paid some visits to my old officiating blog. That led to Facebook friendship, which led to me wanting to meet him in person when I was near his central Mass home! There were no badly missed calls that night. Had there been, Chuck and I would have had the umpires’ backs.

WOOSTAH! Chuck was as good a guy in person as he was on-line, and we did some ref-nerding out that day.

My seat was right by the passageway to the Durham dugout, so I was treated to a set of autograph seekers. They were the kind I don’t like that much: guys with massive sheets of cards of who they think the next stars would be, leaning over the railing to get some signatures. What bothered me about this was there was a kid there. Now, let’s be clear. I do get signatures sometimes: always of my scorebook, and always of a game that I have seen that person in from the past. What I find is that this frequently leads to a moment of joy for the player that I get to sign. Most recently, this has meant I figure out who a

player is that I have seen play in the past who is now a coach. I get him to sign a thirty-year-old scorebook. For the now-coach, that’s a huge trip down memory lane. Last year, former relief pitcher Doug Henry, now pitching coach for the Tri-City Dust Devils, spent time reading the entire box score of a game he saved as a Brewer in 1993. Truthfully, I like the feeling that I’m sharing a thing with a guy rather than taking a thing from him.

But even with that, I won’t compete with a kid for an autograph. If kids are there, I won’t be. So this means that I either go to a fiftysomething coach while all the kids are clamoring for the twentysomething players, which feels right, or I am in a place that

has set aside time for autographs, where I can queue up with everyone else.

What I do NOT want to be is like the guys in this photo. I mean, different strokes, and I hope they are happy and all of that, but there’s a kid in this photo who wants to interact with a ballplayer, and I find that the transactional nature of trying to create a card that will sell for a ton of money to be kind of joyless in comparison.

We’d get plenty of joy this night, though. Michael Wacha was on a rehab start for Worcester, and he looked awfully good. Kept the pitch count low and got all the way to 4 2/3 innings. The Sox were crushing 4 home runs off of Bulls pitching, so the game was out of control very quickly. Then A.J. Politi came on to get through the seventh.

No hits.

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My rule is that I will not discuss a no-hitter in progress. It’s not that I’m superstitious. I know that I do not have any impact on whether a pitcher gives up a hit. It’s more that it’s not worth talking about until we get through 6 innings. I have stuck with that through my lifetime of baseball, and it has served me well. So I was willing to discuss it even when I finally got to my first no-hitter in 2021 (Baltimore’s John Means in Seattle). 

I don’t find combined no-hitters terribly impressive as one-guy no-hitters like I saw Means do, but having one as a part of our college buddy trip: that was pretty awesome. It was also provided a little tension late in a blowout game.

Chase Shugart pulled it off in front of my friends–old and new–with two more innings of hitless ball. Josh Lowe smacked a

ball pretty hard, but the Sox’s Devlin Granberg made a really great catch: a diving catch to his right. It was a real charge to end the game and begin the on-field celebration.

You can’t go wrong with a spark like that, and something about it happening on one of my trips–like, the coincidence of this

happening on my one time at this park–was kind of special. There’s nothing quite like jumping up and down and celebrating a great play to finish off a great experience.

I didn’t get a real sense of Worcester or Massachusetts as a place, truthfully, beyond the Red Soxiness of it all. I wonder if I’d have felt something different in Pawtucket. Still, there was a lot of fun, great friends, and an accomplishment I won’t soon forget.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional Feel 6.5/10

Other than the Red Sox stuff, I didn’t get much of a sense of New England here.

Charm 2.5/5

Too corporate. Corporations are not charming.

Spectacle 4/5

The higher the level, the less I want stuff to interfere with the baseball. This rule is especially important in the midst of a no-hitter, and the WooSox obliged well.

Mascot/Name 3/5

I didn’t get a shot of Woofster, and he didn’t impress much on my memory, but I wrote 3/5, so I guess he was fine, as is the name “Red Sox,” which matches with the history of the team (going from PawSox to WooSox).

Aesthetics 3/5

Again, fine. Not special

Pavilion area 3/5

Scoreability 4.5/5

They did a fine job keeping up with a LOT of hits and runs (for one team, anyway) and I trust they would have been solid if there had been a tough, important scoring decision late in the no-hitter.

Fans 4/5

My buddy Chuck was great, but the guys bugging the Durham team weren’t.

Intangibles 5/5

I mean, it was a no-hitter capped off by a fabulous diving catch. Can’t give that anything other than a 5.

TOTAL: 35.5/50

Baseball stuff I saw here:

Andrew Wacha, A.J. Politi, and Chase Shugart walk 5 batters but give up no hits.

The WooSox tee off on poor starting pitcher Easton McGee, with 4 home runs in 3 innings, leading a 17-hit attack. 4 of those hits and 2 of the homers come from former Mariner (and “wow, he’s still playing, cool!” guy) Abraham Almonte. Pedro Castellanos adds three hits and a home run.

Devlin Granberg ends the night with a catch everyone will remember.

Written May 2023.

 

 

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