Worcester, MA: This central Massachusetts city is called the “Heart of the Commonwealth.” Boston’s Triple-A team for the last 48 years called Pawtucket, RI home (1973-2020), and played in McCoy Stadium. Many New Englanders hold fond memories of the PawSox days, but a new era is upon us. The WooSox just opened a brand new ballpark in Worcester’s resurgent Canal District, and Polar Park is now welcoming fans at 100% capacity.
Before I tell you all about the beautiful new facility, let’s just take a quick look at the early stars on the WooSox roster. Some of Boston’s top prospects are getting playing time in AAA, most notably outfielder Jarren Duran. A lot of people have been asking me when Duran is going to be promoted to the bigs. All along my best guess has been around July 4th, but not much earlier. It’s very possible Duran doesn’t get to the big leagues until post-All-Star break, if that. He and Triston Casas (with Double-A Portland) both played for Team USA in the Olympic qualifier from May 31 through June 5. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Polar Park twice so far this season, and have missed Duran’s best games. On May 22nd he was 5-5 with a double and 2 monster homers (475′ and 480′).
Jarren Duran has been unstoppable for the #WooSox
— Red Sox Podcast to be Named Later (@RedSoxPod_BSS) May 23, 2021
As Triple-A is often a site for MLB rehabs, we’ve already seen a couple of big MLB names in Worcester. Kiké Hernandez played 2 games, going 2-6 with 2 homers before his return to the Boston lineup. One of Boston’s free agent signings, Danny Santana, was with the WooSox for 8 games, killing the competition with 3 HR, a .433 BA, and 1.304 OPS.
On the pitching side, most of Boston’s top SP prospects are in lower levels, but there are a few names to know in Worcester. Connor Seabold is definitely one to keep an eye on. He hasn’t pitched yet in 2021 because of elbow inflammation, but he was the key cog in the Workman/Hembree deal to Philly last season that also brought Nick Pivetta to the Red Sox. Eduard Bazardo, another pitcher I’m high on, has had a couple of brief MLB appearances so far, but he needs some more time in the minors. We’ve seen some MLB success already from Tanner Houck, but he too is coming off an injury and is getting some more AAA innings before the Sox need him again. On June 17, Houck tossed 3 no-hit innings, giving up no runs, walking only one and striking out six for Worcester. Kyle Hart has shown some flashes of brilliance in the minors, but he was hit very hard during his 2020 MLB debut.
Seeing some of baseball’s top prospects at minor league parks is one of my favorite things to do each spring and summer, even if it’s a pitcher who shuts down your favorite Red Sox prospect. Buffalo’s Alek Manoah, Toronto’s 1st round pick in 2019 (11th overall), was dominant in Worcester on May 19 (just prior to his getting the call to the bigs) and kept Duran and company at bay.
My favorite hitting prospect (just a little bias there 😉), Jarren Duran, leading off for the @WooSox, against one of my favorite pitching prospects, Alek Manoah @BuffaloBisons. Who debuts in MLB first? I say Manoah. Both Goldust Twins @jweiss21! #RedSox #BlueJays pic.twitter.com/hzbqmKcy2u
— Scott Greene (@Scotty_Ballgame) May 19, 2021
Enough of the game action and performances. Let’s look at the real star. Polar Park itself!
The Worcester Baseball Club. The Heart of the Commonwealth.
The new Triple-A ballpark is mere footsteps from Interstate 290. It really is easy on and easy off the highway to get to the park. Several people have complained that the parking situation is a problem, but don’t listen to them. There are plenty of public and private lots within a 3-10 minute walk to the park, and they’re building a new garage right across the street which will probably be ready for 2022, if not later this summer. If you’re coming from the east (Boston area), the west (Springfield area), or even south (Hartford area), you can get to Worcester and Polar Park in less than an hour. Polar Park’s capacity is 9,508, which is a little nod to Worcester’s area code, 508.
Eats and Drinks
Why go to a minor league ballpark if you can’t experience some of the local flavor, right? Polar Park does Worcester and Central Mass proud by featuring some of the area’s great food institutions. The Wonder Bar, known for its pizza, has a stand in the concourse on the 1st base side. Both George’s Coney Island hot dogs (Worcester, right around the corner from the park) and BT’s BBQ (Sturbridge, MA) have concession stands up on and behind the Worcester Wall. The Wall is like a mini-Green Monster (but this one’s blue). Grab a Coney, some BBQ and check out the view of the field from atop the Wall. It’s one of the best minor league ballpark views I’ve seen.
Don’t forget to hit the Craft Corner on your way up to the Worcester Wall. Hang out in the Corner and enjoy a local craft beverage with a great right field view of the park. Worcester’s Wormtown Brewery is also prominently featured, with several types of their beer available throughout the park. Oh, I almost forgot. The Home Plate Bar and the upstairs DCU Club are also very cool spots.
Other Polar Park nuggets
- Each row of seats features the Heart of the Commonwealth. What’s so interesting about this is the cast-iron Worcester Worcesters logo commemorating the 1880 National League Club. The heart is also designed right into the light standards. Once the sun sets and the park’s lights are shining bright, you can see each set of lights is in the shape of a heart. Find the heart in the Welcome to Polar Park message behind home plate too.
- Another intriguing feature of Polar Park is its proximity to Worcester’s Union Station and there are train tracks right behind the left field wall. Freight trains could pass by several times during a game, and that is a pretty unique view!
- Smiley Ball is the WooSox mascot. If you didn’t know this, Worcester is the birthplace of the Smiley Face. It was created in Worcester by Harvey Ball a few years back in December 1963.
- There are still some parts of Polar Park under construction, most of which should be done and open by July 4th. The left field berm will be a popular Spring Training-like ballpark hangout, and the market area behind the berm will have a bunch of different shops. There will also be a kids playground area out in center field beyond the giant black batter’s eye, which Franchy Cordero so gracefully launched a mammoth blast off of earlier this season.
It’s Minor League Baseball. It’s a lot more affordable than going to a major league ballpark. You can still get some amazing seats and pay $40 apiece, or you can be frugal and get $8 Yaz tickets or even $9 General Admission tickets. What’s sweet about the GA tickets here is you can claim any red stool around the park if it’s not being used or reserved for a group outing. In general, good seats can be had for between $12 to $21. There are several group areas that offer amazing vantage points of the field, including Shaw’s Bullpen Terraces on both sides of the field, and the Hanover Deck, which is out in left field with stellar views of the park and downtown Worcester, and the train tracks right behind it.
It’s a darn shame that Massachusetts and Minor League Baseball lost the Lowell Spinners franchise, and PawSox Nation is still upset about their team moving to Worcester. Nonetheless, if you’re anywhere in or near New England this summer, take a trip over to Polar Park and experience the WooSox in person. If you can’t, watch a game on NESN or NESN+, or even on MiLB.tv. Tell them @Scotty_Ballgame sent you!