What’s Next for the PawSox?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


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Jim Skeffington, 1942-2015

The passing of Pawtucket Red Sox President James Skeffington raises new questions about the future of a Providence stadium, as the ownership group was in the midst of negotiating a new deal with Governor Raimondo and state leaders -- and embarking on a community tour to hear from residents of the city, spearheaded by Skeffington.  

"In my experience as a member of corporate boards, there have been times when a key player involved in a deal changed such as a loss of a CEO. The change slowed down the process but did not derail the deal. In this case, there is no deal," said URI Distinguished Professor of Business Edward Mazze. "There is a proposal which has been rejected. Deal discussions will still continue. There is too much money involved in the purchase of the PawSox to allow too much time to pass."  

Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello was one of the many elected officials who expressed his sympathies on the passing of the 73 year old lawyer on Monday -- and indicated his optimism that a Providence stadium deal will in fact happen.   

“I am deeply saddened by the stunning news of the passing of Jim Skeffington.  He was a true legend in the Rhode Island legal and business communities, having a hand in nearly every major project in our state for decades.  Jim was a gentleman in every sense of the word and a real champion for all that is good about Rhode Island," said Mattiello. "It is tragic that he did not live long enough to see his vision for the Pawtucket Red Sox come to fruition, but he left a legacy that will live on for generations to come. He loved Rhode Island, and I will miss my friend."  

Plan in Transition

One of Skeffington's last public appearances had been a community discussion at the Mt. Hope Community Center last Thursday; a forum at Hope High School had been scheduled for Monday, which still took place.  

"Putting together a stadium deal -- especially given how poorly the first one went over -- was going to require someone with energy, charisma, and drive to get it done," said Holy Cross Economics Professor Victor Matheson, who recently gave a talk on stadium financing in Pawtucket.  "The real thing to look for is if there is an obvious voice and face who steps forward and is willing to do the heavy lifting, a person who has that gravitas, and clout to negotiate the sort of deal the ownership group will need to have to make the stadium deal."

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What are the prospects facing the PawSox now? See what experts have to say.

"The financing probably doesn't work privately -- I've been saying it doesn't work with public financing -- so they need a strong leader now for any deal they may broker," said Matheson.  

Mazze similarly saw an opportunity for a new face on the effort to emerge.

"There is now an opportunity for a new spokesperson/leader to evolve and present a new proposal.  It would be unusual for this group of owners not to have a succession plan in place as a result of their own experiences in business as well as for estate planning purposes," said Mazze. "Sharp businesspeople recognize that there investment is at risk so decisions must continue to be made even when you lose a great leader like Jim Skeffington."

Politics of the Deal

Political experts in the state offered their perspectives on the chance for a new deal to take place -- and what the ramifications for elected officials might be. 

"Given Rhode Island’s political climate, it’s going to be difficult to justify any significant financial package.  With the numerous poor choices made in the last few years, the General Assembly will be hard pressed to vote for any proposal that doesn’t show immediate return to the economy and state’s finances," said Rhode Island College Professor of Communications Kay Israel. "Of all the concerns facing the legislature this session, it’s the one issue that will be most closely scrutinized and remembered by the voters in the next election. That means the individual legislator won’t have the benefit of cover by the Governor, the leadership, or eleventh hour sleight of hand votes.  Instead any legislator will have to justify both the need and the benefit of any subsidies enacted."

"Still there is always the possibility of the emergence of a competitive offer from out of state adding more impetus for coming to an agreement," continued Israel. "Similarly, the offer by another farm system team to use McCoy Stadium could halt the negotiations and appease R.I. baseball fans."

Last Thursday, Skeffington had indicated that Raimondo had asked the owners to not disclose the terms being discussed on a new proposal.  

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Strong opposition had emerged for the first deal proposed. Where will things stand moving forward?

"The most logical way to move forward is to operate in an atmosphere of transparency and disclosure.  While behind-closed-doors negotiating is part of the process, political leaders simply have to go the extra mile to make sure their constituents understand what is at stake and the repercussions," said Rhode Island College Professor of Communications Val Endress. "The sort of shot-in-the-dark decision making that often characterizes economic projects in the state, and the zero-hour decision making that often characterizes major decisions in the RI General Assembly will only serve to create more public distrust."

The consequences of a stadium vote at the General Assembly --  if one is to take place this year -- was broached by Roger Williams University Professor of Politics June Speakman.

"In terms of the electoral consequences, 2016 is right around the corner, and neither the promised benefits or anticipated costs of the relocation will be clear by then.  Even 2018 is probably too early to see the real economic, job-creation and tax implications of a new stadium for Providence and the state," said Speakman. "If the stadium is built and does not bring the promised benefits, opponents will not forget, nor will they hesitate to draw the connection between this project and 38 Studios."

Opposition Remains Vigilant

One of the most vocal segments of the initial opposition group, spearheaded by Coalition Radio host Pat Ford, weighed in on Monday.

"The membership of "Citizens Enraged & Engaged, Say No! To The Providence Baseball Stadium" wish to express their condolences to the family and friends of Mr. James Skeffington. Many of our members have shared personal recollections of the positive impact Mr. Skeffington had on both family and community members during his storied career as an attorney," said Ford, who had spearheaded call-in campaigns and protests against the first deal proposed. "We ask that the community move past recent controversies, and maintain an attitude of respect and dignity in the coming days. As an organization, we will be quietly vigilant as new details emerge about the future of the Pawtucket Red Sox."

Dave Fisher, who co-hosts the Coalition along with Ford, say he hoped the circumstances would allow elected officials -- and the public -- to "take a step back."

"A lot's at play.  There's going to be some legal wrangling of Skeffington's slice of the pie. Will it be bequeathed to his heirs, will he be bought out?  There's a slew of questions that need to be answered," said Fisher. 

"You're probable looking at a close to a month before anything gets settled legally. It's good for people to step back, and fully vet it, and all of it," offered Fisher.  "We need to realize there's so many hoops for this to jump through, in spite of -- or in conjunction -- with the financial aspect."


Related Slideshow: Greatest Moments in PawSox History

With the Pawtucket Red Sox sold and looking to leave Pawtucket, here is a look back at the some of the greatest moments in Pawtucket Red Sox history. 

See the slideshow below. 

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4th of July

McCoy Stadium fills up on every 4th of July for baseball and then one of the best fireworks shows in the state of Rhode Island. 

The PawSox put on several fireworks shows that go throughout fourth of July week and weekend depending on the team's schedule. 

Baseball and fireworks has become quite the family event over the years. 

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Mondor Gardens

In 2011, the Pawtucket Red Sox completed work on Mondor Gardens, a tribute to late owner Ben Mondor behind the left field fence. 

The garden features six miniature bronze statues of kids playing baseball along with park benches and handicap accessible area's. 

"Mondor Gardens adds a park-like setting to the exterior of McCoy where fans both young and old can sit and relax and enjoy thinking of tonight's game or memories of seasons gone by," said PawSox president Mike Tamburro at the time. 

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Move to AAA

The Pawtucket Red Sox moved from AA to AAA prior to the 1973 season. 

They have since stayed in AAA and have become one of the model franchises in the international league. 

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Community Work

The Pawtucket Red Sox have done great work in the community and in 2014 they were rewarded for it, winning the John Henry Moss Community service award. 

Over the last five years, the Pawsox Charitable Trust has donated more than $250,000 to important causes in the area and their Ticket Fundraiser Program has contributed over $200,000 to organizations like the American Parkinson's Disease Association. 

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Major League Stars

Throughout the history of the Pawtucket Red Sox, they have been able to develop great Major League players who have gone on to be successful in Boston or in other organizations in the Major Leagues.

The list of players is endless but here are a few of the names that came up through Pawtucket.

Wade Boggs, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis among others.  

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Ortiz Comes to Pawtucket

Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has made a couple of rehab starts with the Pawtucket Red Sox and McCoy Stadium has been filled for each and everyone. 

Ortiz's last rehanb start with the Pawsox came in 2013 when he batted third as the DH in the PawSox lineup. Ortiz went 2-for-3 in the game and notched one RBI.  

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Perfect Games

There have been four perfect games in Pawtucket Red Sox 121 year history. 

The last one came in 2003 when Bronson Arroyo was perfect against the Buffalo Bison in a 7-0 PawSox Win. 

Arroyo threw 101 pitches and had nine strikeouts in the game.

Photo courtesy of Aaronstrout/ flickr

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Baseball Hall of Famers

Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Carlton Fisk are among several former PawSox  players that have made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. 

Other PawSox members such as Ben Mondor, Joe Morgan, President Mike Tamburro along with Rice and Boggs have been inducted into the International League Hall of Fame. 

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Mike Tamburro

PawSox President Mike Tamburro's story is one of the great stories in the Pawtucket Red Sox history. 

Tamburro started with the PawSox as an intern under Ben Mondor and worked his way up to now being the president of the team. 

Tamburro was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame in a 2012 ceremony at McCoy Stadium and is the only front office employee ever to earn the International league's Executive of the year award five times. 

Mike Tamburro is a major reason why the Pawtucket Red Sox continue to be a model franchise in AAA ball. 



Photo courtesy of tjperr/ flickr

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The Longest Game

The Pawtucket Red Sox played in and won the longest game in ever played in baseball history. 

The game started on April 18, 1981 and went until play was suspened at 4 a.m. the next morning in the middle of the 32nd inning. 

The game resumed on June 23 and that is when Pawtucket's Dave Koza got a base hit to drive in Marty Barrett .

The PawSox won the game 3-2 in the bottom of the 33rd inning. 

Photo courtesy of bunkosquad/ Flickr

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1984 Champions

The Pawtucket Red Sox won their second Governors Cup Championship in franchise history, defeating Maine 3-2 in the best of five series. 

The team went 75-65 under manager Tony Torchia that season before making a playoff run and winning the title. 

This was a huge turnaround for Pawtucket considering the previous season the PawSox went 56-83. 

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First Title

The PawSox won their first championship in 1973 defeating Charleston 3-2 in the series. This was Pawtuckets first season in AAA ball. 

Pawtucket then went on and won the Junior World Series (now the Triple-A National Championship) by beating Tulsa 4-1. 

Darrell Johnson was the manager of the team that season as the PawSox went 78-68 finishing second in the International League. 

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Birge/ Flickr

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Ben Mondor Purchases Team

After the 1976 season, the Pawtucket Red Sox franchise, which actually had changed it's name to the Rhode Island Red Sox, went bankrupt and it looked certain that the team's stay in Pawtucket was over. 

Ben Mondor bought the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1977 and kept them in Pawtucket. The Pawsox won the Governors Cup in 1978 and in 1998, Ben Mondor oversaw the revamping of McCoy Stadium into one of the nicest minor league ballparks in the country. 

Ben Mondor passed away in October of 2010 at the age of 85. 

The PawSox have since won two Governors Cup Championships (2012, 2014) and McCoy Stadium remains one of the nicest minor league ballparks in the country.

Photo courtesy of Butch Adams/ Flickr

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2012 Governors Cup Champs

In 2012, the Pawtucket Red Sox won their first Governors Cup title in 28 years, defeating the Charlotte Knights 4-1 in South Carolina.

PawSox pitcher Nelson Figueroa earned the win in the game shutting down the Knights while the PawSox offense scored two runs in both the second and seventh innings.


Photo courtesy of tjperr/ Flickr

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2014 Governors Cup Champs

The Pawtucket Red Sox won the Governors Cup for the second time in three years in 2014, defeating Durham 3-2 in the best of five series. 

The PawSox trailed 2-1 in the series and faced elimination in game four before Ivan De Jesus hit a two run home run to force a game five. 

In game five, the PawSox Keith Couch pitched a one hitter through 6 2/3 innings while the PawSox added offense. Pawtucket defeated Durham 4-1 to advance to the International League Championship. 

Ryan Lavarnway was named MVP. 

Photo courtesy of tjperr/ Flickr


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