WORCESTER – As leaves finish their exodus off of trees and the temperatures begin to dip in Worcester, one of the city’s summer gems is hard at work to get us ready for another season of fun.
The Worcester Bravehearts, the city’s entry in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League [FCBL], are two months removed from another successful season, in which it saw its team on the field go to the finals for an unprecedented fourth time.
The season is two months long, but the work that goes into bringing the full fan experience of the Bravehearts is a twelve month project, according to team Owner John Creedon Jr. and General Manager Dave Peterson.
“Bravehearts baseball is bigger than baseball. It’s a project to us — a community project,” Creedon said in an interview held at the Bravehearts office last week. “In a lot of ways it’s a labor of love and for me personally it’s a way to show love to Worcester and the Central Mass community.”
The work that the Bravehearts put into the season earned them FCBL 2017 Organization of the Year. It is an honor the team has received in three of the four seasons in its existence.
“We’ve got a wonderful team in place, and when I say team, I mean staff,” Creedon said. “We are lucky to have Dave Peterson at the helm. He’s a force of nature and he is a pleasure to work with.”
The Bravehearts are in the planning stage for the 2018 season and have no definitive plans for new events. Creedon and Pederson will attend the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL Dec. 9-13. At those meetings they will meet with vendors and other teams across the country to get more ideas to bring back home.
While in Orlando they will take a backstage tour of Walt Disney World to get a full understanding of the customer experience from the top organization in the world that prides itself on the customer experience.
In 2017, the Bravehearts drew 65,957 fans in 28 home game which ranked them tops in New England and eighth in the nation. It was also a six percent increase in attendance from the 2016 season.
“More,” Creedon jokingly replied when asked if their was an attendance goal for 2018.
Although plans are not concrete, one thing that is certain is that the Bravehearts will be celebrating its fifth season in the FCBL in 2018
“Something special will happen to celebrate our fifth season,” Peterson said. “It won’t be about celebrating us. It will be about celebrating what’s going on in Worcester.”
Both Creedon and Peterson feel it is their work in the community and off the field that makes them so successful.
“This needs to be growing every year,” Peterson said. “What happens on the field, we can’t script that. What we can script is what type of community events we are doing and what type of events will we be leading.”
Last year the Bravehearts added a key community element to its annual Fan Fest by celebrating Worcester’s Little League opening day. The festivities included a parade on Fitton Avenue, a free coaches clinic for parents, and ceremonies on-field highlighted by former Boston Red Sox star Trot Nixon.
Another program the organization runs is a Pen Pal program where local seniors are matched with local fifth and sixth graders during the year and write to each other in a Bravehearts supplied notebook. To culminate this program, the pen pals meet each other at a Bravehearts home game during the season.
This week the Bravehearts will launch another event to raise money for the Worcester County Food Bank when it hosts its annual Heart Stove event featuring local baseball stars and industry experts for a spirited baseball discussion. The event will take place on Thursday, Nov 16 at 7 PM, with a pre-event reception beginning at 5:30 PM in the Robert R. Jay Performing Arts Center at Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury.
The event will include Worcester Native and New York Mets Executive J.P. Ricciardi, ESPN Baseball Analyst Buster Olney, NESN host Tom Caron and St. John’s alums and professional baseball players John Andreoli and Ryan O’Rourke.
The discussion is just one aspect of the event. The Bravehearts will spotlight its connection with Saint John’s High School. Creedon and his father John Creedon Sr. are both alums, as well as many players that have come through the Bravehearts organization. The 2018 members of the Bravehearts that are Saint John’s alums will be introduced as well.
The Bravehearts strongly value its ties to the community and all of the initiatives that it encounters.
“It’s about what community initiatives do we want to attach ourselves too,” Peterson said. “We are not just going to cast a wide net. When we want to do something we want to do it very well.”
On the field, the front office of the Bravehearts have full faith in their coaching staff in putting together a team that is not only competitive, but has the attitude that reflects that values and mission of the Bravehearts organization. J.P. Pyne will return for his third season as Field Manager for the 2018 season.
Recently, the City of Worcester has engaged in talks with the Pawtucket Red Sox as they look for a new stadium deal. The Rhode Island legislature recently put a vote on a new stadium on hold for the rest of 2017, which makes a deal in Worcester back on the radar.
Creedon has respect for the Pawtucket Red Sox organization and its ownership team, as he does with Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus and Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Timothy P Murray in making a deal that is right for all parties involved.
“If the Pawtucket Red Sox do make Worcester their home. I would feel awful putting them out of business,” Creedon lightheartedly joked in reference to the ongoing negotiations.
Creedon truly feels the summer collegiate financial model works and that it fits Worcester being a college city.
Creedon said that sharing a stadium with the Worcester Red Sox – if the opportunity presented itself – was premature and that they had a great partnership with the College of the Holy Cross for the use of Fitton Field and there was nothing that would change that at this time.
Even if the PawSox come to Worcester, it’s years away — if it happens at all. Meanwhile, the Bravehearts are focused and are committed to working harder than ever to making the Bravehearts experience an excellent, intimate baseball fan experience in Worcester.