Andrew Johnson

Worcester is a baseball town. The roots of the sport’s history are entrenched within the walls of the Hotel Vernon, between the lines of Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat”, and beneath the rocky soil of College Hill where Fitton Field still stands. 

The home of the Worcester Bravehearts has seen the likes of Lou Gherig, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams grace its confines over the years. It has endured changes to the city and to baseball itself, for it persists to be a place where fans of the sport and those in search of affordable family entertainment can appreciate the play of a team that has charmed the local community since its inaugural season in 2014. 

In February it was announced that the team had been sold to new owner and Shrewsbury local Frank Vaccaro and family. At the same time it was made clear that Dave Peterson, the team’s general manager, would be retained amidst a period of strong ticket sales and creative campaigns such as the “You-Choose-The-Rules” games. Despite falling short of championship aspirations in recent years, fan attendance grew 45 percent between 2021 to 2023. Remarkably, the team’s upcoming season will be its 11th, tying the beloved yet defunct Worcester Ice Cats for longest running professional sports organization in the city’s history.

Peterson spoke highly of new ownership and the future of the team. As fans look forward to 2024, they can expect some changes and improvements made to the fan experience at Fitton 


“I think in some ways our operation grows – particularly in staff numbers and stadium upgrades,” Peterson stated, “We are going all-in on this all-you-can-eat model for every seat in the ballpark, and it’s really going to be a point of differentiation for us against any other sports team or amusement park in the northeast.” However this is not without its obstacles. The Creedon family, the team’s previous owners, operated food and beverage service at a high level and had plenty of experience doing so. “We lose out on some infrastructure, like a commercial kitchen, storage space, and trucking, but we have struck up some new relationships with the College of the Holy Cross and The Mill 185 in West Boylston that will really help us address those challenges.” 

Peterson is optimistic that these transitions will be smooth and coming additions would be implemented with engagement in mind. 

“I also think fans are going to love the amped-up Fan Zone in right-field with more bounce houses, more yard games, and a new bar for parents!” Peterson also elaborated on ways to bring the Fitton Field experience to the fans, even when they can’t attend games. “I also think they’re going to love to see our new food truck driving around Central MA serving pizzas shaped like baseballs to kids far and wide.” This is just one of many examples of the way the organization has grown throughout its tenure. It continues to defy doubts about the team’s sustainability, which were magnified since the Boston Red Sox’s AAA team moved to town in 2021.

According to Peterson, the Vaccaro family boldly and firmly dismissed the idea that the Braveharts and the Worcester Red Sox must compete against one another. 

“The Bravehearts have their own brand and the WooSox have their own brand, but if you can find the areas where they intersect you can really do some special things in the community.” New ownership will embrace the idea that the city is big enough for both teams and contends that there is no reason why fans should have to choose between the two. “That’s why Bravehearts players will be partnering with the WooSox players on a series of baseball clinics in the community beginning June 22. We also hope to support one another in back-to-school drives and food drives.”

“People thought baseball [in Worcester] was done after the Tornadoes folded,” Peterson recalled, “And with the city’s history of a dozen or more minor league teams that were out of business within 5 years, there was really no reason to believe in the Bravehearts.” But the business model changed from what had previously been done in Worcester. Peterson noted the national attention and success of the Savannah Bananas, a team that he has seen in person not once but twice. Perhaps some ingredients of the secret sauce of “Banana Ball” could trickle their way into other collegiate summer baseball leagues, namely the FCBL to which the Bravehearts belong. Perhaps they’re already here. “The Tornadoes were baseball,” Peterson discerned. “The Bravehearts are entertainment for everyone.” Enthusiasm in the front office continues to remain incredibly high.

“We’re here, we’re growing, we’re always staying true to our core values, and we’re going to keep contributing to the city,” Peterson declared, echoing sentiments from last season. “The Future is Bright.” 

As bright as the sunny yellows of the Savannah Bananas? Possibly. As bright as the neon greens of Bravehearts under the lights on a warm summer night? Almost certainly.