I have followed the saga surrounding the efforts of many to keep the PawSox in Rhode Island. Would the state be at risk? Should the owners pay more? What a mess!
As a sports enthusiast, I have enjoyed many opportunities to attend many different sporting events at many venues across our state over the years. McCoy Stadium was a special place (even with its crumbling infrastructure). It was special because of the game, because of the players and because of everything that went along with spending a warm summer evening at the ballpark, right down to the popcorn, the hot dogs and those little plastic helmets brimming with our favorite ice cream.
It was also a special place for Rhode Island high school baseball players. Each year the PawSox welcomed our teams and hosted our state championship playoff series. What a thrill for these kids! I remember Rocco Baldelli (yes, THE Rocco Baldelli who played professional baseball and made Rhode Island proud) playing at McCoy and hitting not one, but two home runs while leading Bishop Hendricken High School to the state title. And he wasn’t the only one. Other great R.I. high school players, such as Jeff Beliveau, Shawn McGill, Anthony Meo, Jeff Diehl, and most recently Mike King and Tom Pannone to name just a few, showcased their talents in the championship series at McCoy before going on to the big leagues.
But, more importantly, it was a great opportunity for high school athletes to play on a Field of Dreams. To play on the very same field where Roger Clemens, Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Dustin Pedroia and other baseball greats refined their skills. Even if their team did not come away with the state championship, for these high school players, having the chance to play at McCoy Stadium was a crowning moment in their baseball careers.
It was also a place where families and young kids had the opportunity to watch their heroes, both the pros and the high school stars alike, and to visit a place where the grass was green, the infield was pristinely manicured, and their hometown team was displayed in bright lights on the giant scoreboard.
Unfortunately, for all of us, this historic and nostalgic ballpark will be gone — and with it all of those great memories.
I don’t know who to blame. The owners? The politicians? But the sad truth of the matter is that I and many other disappointed Rhode Islanders must now watch as we are about to lose a part of our history.
Tom Mezzanotte is the executive director of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League.