After years of building solid support, the Worcester Bravehearts (summer collegiate; Futures League) believe they can remain in the market after the arrival of the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League).
Starting with their inaugural 2014 season, the Bravehearts have spent several years building solid community support at Fitton Field. Owner John Creedon Jr. came into a difficult situation when the independent Can-Am Worcester Tornadoes imploded and established a credible operation at the ballpark, fueled by a strategy that has included imaginative promotions and solid customer service. As a result, the Bravehearts have become one of the top teams in summer-collegiate baseball–finishing among the highest draws in summer-collegiate baseball in recent years, and annually ranking at or near the top in Futures League attendance since beginning play.
Questions about the Bravehearts’ future arose, however, once it was confirmed that the PawSox will be relocating to Worcester and opening a new ballpark in 2021. While the club’s future seemed uncertain when the PawSox’s impending move was announced last August, the Bravehearts have recently refuted the idea that they will leave Worcester after the arrival of Triple-A baseball. Instead, Creedon and general manager Dave Peterson feel that the community support the Bravehearts have built over the last several years will help them maintain solid support when the time comes to go up against a new MiLB team and ballpark. More from WGBH:
“I feel like what we’ve built up is too good and too strong on too many levels not to keep doing,” he said.
“We’re not rigid baseball,” he added. “Summer collegiate [baseball] is supposed to be a little whimsical. It’s supposed to be fun.”
For the Bravehearts, that means, among other things: an extremely enthusiastic mascot, Jake the Lion; promotions that can seem incomprehensible if you’re not from Central Mass. (like a bobblehead night honoring Anthony A. “Spag” Borgatti Jr., a beloved local retailer); and a remarkably high level of access to the field and the players.
“Their baseball is always going to be better than ours,” Dave Peterson, the Bravehearts’ general manager, said of the WooSox. “Their stadium’s always going to be better than ours. But … as far as autographs, and letting every single kid in this ballpark run across the outfield in the sixth inning, those are things the Bravehearts can do that the Sox can’t do.”
There have been other instances of summer-collegiate teams sticking around their markets after the arrival of MiLB franchises. One such situation is playing out this season for the first time in Fayetteville, where the Swampdogs (Coastal Plain League) are continuing operations at J.P. Riddle Stadium after this season’s debut of the Woodpeckers (High A; Carolina League) and Segra Stadium. There is also the case of the Lexington County Blowfish (Coastal Plain League), who moved from Columbia to Lexington County–leaving the city, but remaining in the same metropolitan area–and opened a new ballpark in 2015 before the Columbia Fireflies (Low A; Sally League) arrived the following year.
Worcester’s situation would be watched closely, though, given that the Bravehearts are slated to have the tall task of going up against a Red Sox Triple-A franchise. In order for the Bravehearts to remain competitive once the current PawSox arrive in Worcester, they will have to hope that the strong backing they have received from the community in recent years translates into long-term support.
RELATED STORIES: It’s Official: PawSox to Worcester, Polar Park in 2021