By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
THE MAESTRO AND WORCESTER
Singles and doubles and triples and homers,
Popcorn and hot dogs and ballpark aromas;
These things are all coming, it isn’t a dream.
Worcester will soon have its very own team.
Managers, coaches, and, most of all, players,
Fans in the stands with their high fives and prayers;
They’ll come from all over, and we know to where.
They’ll fill the new ballpark down by Kelley Square.
Cheering and clapping and shouts of hooray,
We cannot wait for that great op’ning day,
When the team takes the field and the whole town just rocks.
Get ready, they’re coming, the Worcester Red Sox!
In a day and age when anger and hostility fuel so much of our national discourse, it was
reassuring and, yes, fun to be on Worcester Common the other day when the celebration
of the city’s winning a Triple A baseball franchise was held. One could feel the civic
pride pouring out the front door of City Hall and enveloping every person in the big
crowd on hand for the festivities.
Larry Lucchino, who had spent recent years being treated as a pariah in Rhode Island,
stood in the spotlight, both hands raised in victory by Red Sox legends, one by Pedro
Martinez and the other by Jerry Remy, while thousands cheered.
It was a grand celebration for Worcester, but, as the legendary song and dance man, Al
Jolson, used to tell his audiences, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
The reason is that now Lucchino’s right hand man, Charles Steinberg, is free to work his
magic. He is the great impresario of the fan experience who orchestrated the memorable
World Series trophy tours when the Boston Red Sox won their championships in 2004,
‘07, and ‘13. It was Steinberg who choreographed the unforgettable 100 th anniversary of
Fenway Park, and other events, such as the one in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon
bombings and the memorial following the death of Ted Williams.
His genius for producing such events is rooted in his past. He grew up in Baltimore, a
chubby, undersized kid who didn’t play baseball very well but was head over heels in
love with the game. That was half a century ago. Today he is still somewhat chubby and
undersized, but he is possessed of a giant intellect, a vivid imagination, and the same
undying love for baseball that he had all those years ago. Worcester hit the jackpot. It not
only won a baseball team, but it also won Dr. Charles Steinberg in the bargain.
You could already see his fine hand in the civic celebration, from having Martinez throw
a ceremonial first pitch to Worcester favorite son Rich Gedman, to the unfurling of giant
banners on the façade of City Hall, to the high school marching band, and the fireworks
display. Everyone loved it, and that’s just the point.
Steinberg has never forgotten what it’s like to be a kid in love with the game. That’s the
mindset he brings to his craft. An example of that is when the big team’s first trophy tour
was in progress in the winter of ‘04/’05. A busload of players and dignitaries pulled into
a town to display the hardware. Autographs were signed by the hundreds before everyone
reboarded the bus and made ready to head for the next stop. (Steinberg had pledged to
bring the trophy to every one of the 351 cities and towns of Massachusetts, a pledge he
fulfilled when it visited Gosnold, population 77.) As Steinberg was getting on the bus, he
noticed a little boy who was crying. He stopped to ask why, and his mother explained that
his hero was Jason Varitek and that he hadn’t had a chance to get his autograph.
Steinberg, remembering when he was young and shy and had heroes of his own, took the
boy by the hand, motioned for his mother to follow them, and led him onto the bus; he
took him to where Varitek was seated and introduced them to each other. The kid not
only got an autograph and a handshake from his hero, he also got to meet every other
player on the bus. Charles thought that was the end of it, just another act of kindness like
those he makes every day because he remembers when he was just a kid.
Several months later he was in his office when he got a call to come down to Lucchino’s
office on the double. Not sure if he’d done anything wrong, he nervously made tracks. In
Lucchino’s office was a senior executive from a major corporation. When the executive
asked if Steinberg had been the person who, months before, had taken a small boy onto a
bus to meet Jason Varitek, Charles admitted that he was. The man said that the boy was
his son, that it had been the greatest day of his life, and that the man had just signed a
contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for signage in Fenway Park because he
wanted to do business with a company like the Red Sox, who treated people the way
Charles had treated his son.
Lucchino and Steinberg have been a team for more than three decades; they’ve made the
journey together from Baltimore, to San Diego, Boston, Pawtucket, and soon to
Worcester. (Steinberg did do a stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers for a few years but
returned to the fold.) They have their baseball act together - and it’s a good one.
You think the party in front of Worcester City Hall was big? Wait til next summer, when
they break ground for the new ballpark and Charles Steinberg has a few months lead time
to plan the festivities. Then there’ll be other causes for celebration as each significant
step is made along the way. It will culminate with the ballpark’s grand opening in April,
You want to go to Opening Day in Worcester’s Polar Park in 2021? Or to any other game
that year? Start making plans now because the place is going to be packed.