In some places, the stadium is the star. Others, it's the product on the field. If you're lucky, you
might get both; if you're unlucky, you get neither. More often than not, you land somewhere in the middle. McCoy Stadium, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, falls into that middle category. Built in 1942, there's nothing glaringly wrong with it. While it's a perfectly adequate and comfortable place to see a game, you won't find any particularly special perks that differentiate it from other parks. The Pawtucket Red Sox, AAA affiliate of the Boston team that resides 45 miles to the northeast, have been playing here since 1970.
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One of the best things about the concessions at McCoy is that they are everywhere. You can pretty much be guaranteed that no matter where your seat is, you won't have to walk far to find some grub.
As far as variety, you've pretty much got standard ballpark fare. Dogs, peanuts, pizzas, burgers, if you think of it as ballpark food, it's here. But not much beyond that. It's all affordable though, and you'll be hard pressed to find anything on the menu that costs more than $7. What bugged me was that some obvious local delicacies were nowhere to be found- no Rhode Island Chowder, no Del's Lemonade, no coffee milk. You can, however, find some regional treats, like fried dough. But for a park in New England, a place with lots of regional food traditions, it seems like a missed opportunity.
Beer selection is also fairly standard, with draft beer priced at $4.75 and bottles at $5.75. The local choices here would be the Green Monsta Ale ($6), or, even more specific, Narragansett, the Rhode Island beer famous for its slogan, "Hi, Neighbor, have a 'Gansett!"
To be fair, the game I attended was on a weeknight late in the season, and the PawSox were already eliminated from playoff contention at this point. It also certainly didn't help that the big league team had to call up many Pawtucket players during the 2010 season to fill in for injured players, stealing much of the AAA club's star power. That said, the atmosphere was fairly flat. One nice touch is the series of portraits lining the circular ramp leading to the upper level seats, which gives you a perspective on how many Sox greats have come through Pawtucket on their way to the bigs. The team does very few on-field promos between innings, as you might see at lower-level minor league parks. This is a plus, in the sense that besides between-inning trivia on the jumbotron and the occasional t-shirt launch into the stands, there's not much to distract you from the game. The one historical distinction that Pawtucket holds is that it was home to the longest game in professional baseball history, a 2-1 PawSox win over the Rochester Redwings that lasted 33 innings and spanned 3 different days.
Not much is happening in Pawtucket. There's an Irish bar, the Galway Bay Pub, right across from the stadium, which offers a $5 game day deal featuring 2 hot dogs and French fries. Otherwise, there's The Right Spot Diner and a Chinese restaurant, and that's about it. If you make the trip to McCoy, it's not necessary to allot extra time to explore the surroundings.
Working in the PawSox favor is that because of the lack of distractions and amenities at McCoy,
many of the fans are truly there to - gasp - simply watch baseball. The Red Sox, during Theo
Epstein's reign as GM, have been known to have a strong farm system, which means that quite
often Pawtucket players get a shot in the majors. So, on any given night, you could be watching
Red Sox stars of the near future. During 2010 alone, several PawSox made the jump. While there
wasn't a great amount of enthusiasm or raucousness, the fans who were there did their job - paid
attention, and cheered and booed as called for.
McCoy is just a couple of miles off Route 95, making it an easy trip from the Boston area (50
minutes to just over an hour depending on traffic). The MBTA's commuter rail does not have a
stop in Pawtucket, but the South Attleboro, MA stop is 2 miles from the park. Amtrak's closest
station is in Providence (about 4 miles away). Rhode Island's bus system (RIPTA) does have a
stop near the stadium, and you can grab the bus in downtown Providence. Parking is free - yes,
you read that correctly - free, on a first come, first serve basis, right next to the stadium. If that fills up, there are some $5 lots not too far. But get there early and save the money - you won't find many parks that offer parking that close for free. Bathrooms in the park are plentiful and easily accessible.
With the free parking and the affordable cost of food and drink, Pawtucket is a bargain, despite the stadium lacking the sparkle that some others venues offer. Given the fact that you're likely to see at least one or two guys who are ready to make a splash in the big leagues, your money here is well spent.
The lawn seating in left field is a good option for games on nice summer nights. The one extra that really does make Pawtucket unique is the fact that the dugouts are built into the wall underneath the seats, so fans who want autographs must "go fishing" for player signatures. You'll often see kids leaning over the wall with milk cartons on the end of a rope, waiting for players to grab their baseball card, glove or hat, sign it, and put it back in the carton for the autograph-seeker to "reel in."
McCoy Stadium is one of the oldest and smallest stadiums in the International League. While
it's not Camden Yards by a long stretch, if you're purely interested in taking in some baseball,
you'll get your money's worth here. If you're looking for an entertaining experience for the
whole family, you're better off trying the single or double A affiliates of the Sox, in Lowell and
Portland, who provide more of a family atmosphere. But if it's baseball you want, plain and
simple, Pawtucket is the place. Just don't forget your fishing rod.
I've only been here once and there was a special circumstance that should be taken into consideration by anyone reading this review. I visited this stadium in 2009 and happened to be in town when David Ortiz was in Pawtucket on rehab. The place was PACKED. Had to park far, far, far from the stadium (I think I was in Vermont) and we were very lucky to get tickets from some guy who wasn't able to go to the game. Otherwise, we would have been unable to to get seats. I really like the stadium. While I prefer an open concourse, I liked the historical displays (I am a Sox fan). Bill Lee was there signing autographs (for money, I didn't get one). I liked that young fans were lowering buckets on a string with programs, hats, etc in order to get autographs from players (including Papi). The food was average and the crowd seemed to be interested in the game. It made for an interesting atmosphere. Wouldn't mind seeing this park again if I'm in the area.
EVERYTHING there is advertising that 33 inning game.
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