Get ready and get excited Worcester, the WooSox are coming to town! With big plans for the city with a big heart, the WooSox are a sign of growth, enthusiasm and pride in our beloved city.
“It was supposed to be a one-month internship…”
President of the WooSox, Dr Charles Steinberg, was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. His career in baseball began at the age of 17 when he received a one-month internship with the Baltimore Orioles in the last month of his senior year of high school at the Gilman School. “It was a senior project of sorts,” Steinberg says. “It was something that, I didn’t know at the time, made a dream come true that I never even knew I could dream.”
That internship extended through the summer, and then the Orioles asked him to come back the next summer. “That was a repeated experience all through college at the University of Maryland,” Steinberg says. “Then, all through dental school at the University of Maryland. For nine summers that internship extended, and then I became the Orioles team dentist. I found myself in an unusual dual role with that and then working in the Public Relations department, going on to start their production department and worked for them for 19 years.”
Steinberg and Larry Lucchino, President of the Orioles for many years, cultivated a great business relationship and friendship, that when Lucchino took over the San Diego Padres, he asked Steinberg to go with him. “I had 7 wonderful years there – we built Petco park,” Steinberg says.
From there, they moved to Boston and joined the Red Sox in 2002, with Steinberg as Executive Vice President. “The saving of Fenway Park was a priority and so was winning the World Series, which we did in 2004 and then in 2007,” he says. After Boston, Steinberg left to return to the west coast to join the Dodgers as Chief Marketing Officer, and then went to the Office of Commissioner of Baseball in Milwaukee. The Red Sox invited him back in 2012, until Lucchino took on the role of Chairman of the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2015, and once again, brought Steinberg along with him, naming him President of the PawSox. After moving the franchise to Worcester, Steinberg, Lucchino and the team haven’t looked back.
A passionate community welcomes a new neighbor
“We are excited about the civic self-esteem that we see soaring in a compassionate, passionate and loving city,” Steinberg says.
For Steinberg and team, being a good new neighbor in the neighborhood means a lot. “It’s important to us to be a good neighbor to these people who have committed to the resurgence of the Canal District,” he says. “We are huge fans of the Worcester Public Market, gotten haircuts at Michaelangelo’s Barber Shop on Green Street, dined at The Banner, etc. This is such a wonderful neighborhood that’s already successful, and we are joining as the big and boisterous new neighbor.”
Steinberg is excited to feature some favorite local spots in the ballpark. “We are incorporating various restaurants and businesses in and around the Worcester area into the ballpark through a rotation called A Taste of Worcester,” Steinberg says. “These restaurants will provide food and beverage at Polar Park this year.”
Some of the local restaurants you’ll find at the park include Coney Island hot dogs, BT’s Smokehouse barbeque, Wonder Bar pizza, Akra Eatery’s West African eats, Table Talk Pies and more.
Community at the core
Immersing into the community has been at the core of the WooSox from its infancy. From the start, Steinberg and team wanted the WooSox to be the community’s team. “In October of 2018, we had 21 fan planning meetings throughout the community,” Steinberg says. “We had these at Worcester State University, Fallon Health, and many more locations. We met with anyone who would have us and came away with 877 ideas for the team’s brand, identity and story.”
Common themes from these meetings included a great sense of pride in the city, Worcester’s identity, Worcester’s jubilation as the birthplace of the smiley face and the commercial valentine, Robert H. Goddard’s achievement in aerospace and rocket industry, and much more. “The more you listen, the more you learn,” Steinberg adds. “As we held these meetings, the more Worcester’s pride became clear. The smiley face is a sign of pride, so we converted that into our WooSox mascot, Smiley Ball. He’s close friends with Wally the Green Monster,” Steinberg adds.
A vision of hope amidst a pandemic
Steinberg, Lucchino and team began to see the WooSox take shape with the help of the community. Looking at the park meant looking at a representation of what they were bringing to the city. “My perspective is of a fan; Larry’s is an urban visionary,” Steinberg says.
When COVID-19 hit, it brought on challenges for so many, but also provided bright spots in a rather dark period.
“On March 16 of last year Polar Park was a vision and a pancake – a flat piece of land that has been a parking lot,” Steinberg says. “On that day, we erected the first piece of steel. One year later through a pandemic, Polar Park was a shining, gleaming testament to community collaboration. To see how many people from various backgrounds and neighborhoods we were able to employ and have bring home wages that paid for dinner, rent, mortgages and tuition, while so many projects were put on hold – it’s a story that we will understand better when grandchildren are taught about this ballpark. We will say to them, ‘See this ballpark? Your grandmother was an ironworker, your grandfather built this park and put food on this table during a pandemic.’ It’s very much an illustration of the Worcester story – a multicultural community that comes together to achieve great things.”
The WooSox Foundation
The WooSox are also giving back to the community in more ways with The WooSox Foundation. “We want the WooSox to be more than a baseball team and Polar Park to be more than a ballpark,” Steinberg says. “We are going to figure out how to say yes to every accredited non-profit that needs our help. If we can highlight good deeds that so many nonprofits are doing in Worcester and Central MA, we can help raise awareness. That is a benefit the community receives by having a ball club.”
The WooSox Foundation focuses on three pillars – education, investing in the future of the city by supporting youth education, Recreation, celebrating baseball in the Commonwealth and Conquering Cancer, supporting the research, treatment and care of those fighting the battle.
“We operate our own programs and are in the Worcester public school systems,” Steinberg says. “Four students in the eighth grade are given college scholarships each year and are named WooSox Scholars.”
The Foundation partners with organizations and people who align with the three pillars and share the common goal of creating a better future for the people of Worcester.
“We are looking at those who are taking action to promote diversity and inclusion to ensure we are all playing on a level playing field, partnering with Umass Memorial when it comes to conquering cancer, and promoting diamond sports – baseball, softball, kickball, streetball, etc. – all fun, safe, healthy sports that promote teamwork and important life lessons. These three pillars are the blueprint for the focus of The WooSox Foundation.”
The WooSox’s season kicks off in May. “We have 60 home games this year,” Steinberg says. The WooSox will compete against the Buffalo Bisons, Syracuse Mets, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Rochester Red Wings and more, all Triple A-affiliate teams.
As for tickets, there is a full season ticket option, as well as a half season package. This option is a great way to enjoy the WooSox and be a part of the development of the city and Canal District for those who can’t or do not want to commit to full season tickets. There are two half-season plans to work around your schedule.
A home run for the city
Looking back, Steinberg never thought that taking on that internship in high school would lead him to where he is today. “It was supposed to be a one-month internship…but it lasted 46 years, and I am so grateful for that,” he says.
When it comes to what Steinberg and the team are most excited about, it’s rooted in so much more than a park and a baseball game.
“We are most excited to fulfill the vision of being more than a ballpark,” he says. “We want this to be a community gathering spot in or off season, a magnet that can draw nearly 10,000 people to a part of the city in a post-COVID resurgence that can flourish with restaurants, bars and shops. We seek to see the Canal District, Shrewsbury Street and the entire city of Worcester be a completely livable, walkable and entertaining place to be, thriving like never before. With Vernon Hill, The College of the Holy Cross and more surrounding us, it’s beautiful to see what a centerpiece this will be, one that showcases the incredible livelihood that is this city.”
For more information, visit Milb.com/worcester.