Tuesday, August 11, 2020

McCoy Stadium Welcomes Diners on the Diamond

McCoy Stadium Welcomes Diners on the Diamond

URCC Member Pawtucket Red Sox Adds a New Fan Experience

Everybody talks about pivoting during the COVID-19 pandemic. We all have to think about how people are feeling and how we can best serve our customers.

But United Regional Chamber of Commerce (URCC) member Pawtucket Red Sox hasn't just pivoted; they've reinvented; adding an experience that hometown fans will remember forever. The PawSox, celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, had the 2020 season cancelled by the coronavirus in an announcement made by Minor League Baseball on June 30. You'd think the stadium would be empty, but it isn't. So, what are they doing?

Instead of hosting Minor League Baseball games, McCoy Stadium has morphed into Dining on the Diamond, a unique dining experience that the leaders of the organization created. When they heard Rhode Island Governor Raimondo say in late April that outdoor dining would soon return, they asked themselves, "Who has a better outdoor dining venue in Pawtucket than the actual field at McCoy Stadium?" And the idea was born. Of course, the club is complying with Rhode Island guidelines in light of the coronavirus pandemic and asks diners to wear masks (except when dining) and conduct self-screenings when they arrive at the stadium.

"One of my many roles is to ask families as they're exiting how they would rate the experience," says Rick Medeiros, the club's head of Fan Services and a friendly fixture at McCoy Stadium for years. "It's amazing how, on a scale of 1-10, the most frequently stated number is 11. Really. It's been so gratifying for all of us to present an experience that provokes so many stories and elicits so many emotions. As a five-generation Rhode Islander, I think Dining on the Diamond is the best thing, and the most therapeutic thing, we've done in years. It really gets to the heart of the families and fans — of all ages."

Dining on the Diamond started on June 5 and has continued most Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. During the four weekends in June, the PawSox hosted more than 900 families (which equated to more than 3,000 fans). The phenomenal response inspired more than 25 teams in Minor League Baseball to duplicate the concept. It paused in early July to see if it could co-exist with Boston Red Sox workouts at McCoy, and the big club gave its full support to continue the extraordinary innovation. And now there are more than 3,000 on the waiting list. That's 3,000 reservations; not 3,000 people. The tickets sell out each time in less than two hours, so if you're interested in sharing part of PawSox history, you have to move quickly.

To keep interaction to a minimum, you order your food online when you reserve your table. With ballpark fare and family-friendly pricing, the club added new items to the original menu, including a New England lobster roll, chicken caprese, and Rhode Island steak tips. The rest of the menu includes such specialty items as eggplant parmesan; barbequed beef brisket; pulled pork; and a Grand Slam hot dog smothered in bacon, pulled pork, and macaroni and cheese. More traditional ballpark offerings include Ballpark hot dogs, bigger better burgers, chicken tenders, French fries, and nachos. Vegetarians can enjoy not only the eggplant parmesan (with pasta), but also veggie bites. All dishes can also be prepared gluten free. A full variety of beverages, including beer, wine, and spirits, is available before and during dinner.

They've spread 33 socially distanced tables throughout the McCoy outfield. The number 33 has a real historic significance. It references the number of innings in The Longest Game in the history of professional baseball, played at McCoy in 1981 between the PawSox and the Rochester Red Wings, who were then the Triple-A Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Future Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, Jr. were among those players in the legendary game that started Saturday, April 18; continued until 4:09 a.m. Easter Sunday, April 19; and then concluded on Tuesday, June 23; a three-day game that attracted an international media throng. And this month, the club is accommodating even more families by adding more tables on the beautiful outfield grass.

And don't forget that the PawSox have a new line of COVID-19 inspired merchandise for charity, with t-shirts that read "Wash Your Paws," "Safe at Home," and "Hands…Washing Hands" which, of course, is a reference to Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline.

Members of the Waiting List have the first opportunity to secure the tables, and fans seeking personal service can call the PawSox at (401) 724-7300, daily, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Also, just announced this past Saturday are their Drive Through Giveaways starting on August 12, they'll be giving away bobbleheads and jerseys that they intended to give away at games this season. This Thursday, they'll be giving away a Keith Foulke Bobblehead. For more information and registration, visit their website.

They're really pulling out all stops to keep the PawSox experience alive. Awesome job!

McCoy Stadium Welcomes Diners on the Diamond
McCoy Stadium Welcomes Diners on the Diamond

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