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McGAIR: Wondering what the final PawSox game at McCoy Stadium could have looked like

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Section 5

There’s no question that all of the reserved box seats in Sections 4 and 5 would have been accounted for on a day the Pawtucket Red Sox were scheduled to take the field at McCoy Stadium for the final time in franchise history.

Editor’s note: In non-pandemic times, this is the column you likely would have been reading …

PAWTUCKET — Today is Labor Day. Around these parts, there’s a strong sense of sadness as the elephant in the grandstands is being waved home.

After this afternoon’s game – a picturesque weather day is on tap – the Pawtucket Red Sox will be no more. Down to their final nine innings at McCoy Stadium, the franchise that sent countless players to the major leagues and served as a family-friendly spring and summer institution is set to join Benny’s and Rocky Point in the graveyard marked “Here lies former R.I. staples.”

Technically, McCoy Stadium runs off Division Street and Columbus Avenue. For one-day only, we’re going to rename Division Street as Bitterness Street. Columbus Avenue will be called Nostalgia Avenue. Judging by the rash of statements on social media in recent days, there’s no middle ground when it comes to how you feel about the end of an era that spanned five decades. Either you’re ticked off or feeling sentimental.

Like a deep flyball, a sense of inevitability has hung in the air ever since the PawSox announced they were Worcester-bound on Aug. 17, 2018. When the 2020 schedule was released, eyes quickly darted to see what day the home finale would take place. In no time, tickets marked “Sept. 7, 2020” were gobbled up as very few remained when Opening Day back in April rolled around.

Now, a day that doubles as a curtain call is upon us.

Need proof that the last act at McCoy is one tough ticket? Before Sunday’s first pitch against Syracuse, the prices on Ace Ticket’s website ranged from $300 for general admission to $1,200, which would land you a seat in the first row of Section 7. That’s as close to home plate as you can get at a ballpark that continues to hold up pretty well despite celebrating its 75th (plus three) jubilee earlier this season.

If you think the “I know a guy” card is going to aid the quest to be inside McCoy, think again. Mike Tamburro, the man who has truly seen it all when it comes to PawSox baseball, told me that he’s been adhering to the same party line for better than two months.

“I’ve been out of tickets for a while!” said Tamburro with a hearty chuckle.

Changing subjects, Tamburro was asked what the late Ben Mondor would be thinking on a day when it’s last call for the franchise that Mondor rescued from the abyss in 1977.

“Knowing Ben, he would probably try to stop the moving trucks from crossing state lines,” replied Tamburro, who arrived in Pawtucket the same time as Mondor.

Speaking of those holding their hands out, longtime PawSox media relations czar Bill Wanless shared that 200 media members have been credentialed for today’s scheduled 1 p.m. first pitch. The list includes a writer from the New York Times and longtime respected baseball scribe Peter Gammons.

To put that 200 figure into perspective, 150 media members applied to cover the conclusion of “The Longest Game” on June 23, 1981. As someone who knows the importance of when to say yes and when to say no, Wanless shared with the Times/Call that the final count was 400 folks calling or emailing about credentials for the last hurrah at McCoy.    

“With the size of our press box, which can accommodate 10 writers on a good day, we’re going to place extra seats that hopefully covers the demand,” said Wanless, noting he reached out to the New England Patriots’ media staff for pointers on how to properly feed a press corps where there’s strength in numbers.  After all, the Pats are in the business of routinely welcoming large swaths of media to Gillette Stadium.

The race for space among TV satellite trucks began in earnest on Sunday afternoon as several Boston-based stations could be spotted in the McCoy parking lot. PawSox director of security Rick Medeiros could only shake his head as space that normally goes to paying customers with a parking pass was being gobbled up left and right.

“Hope their bosses don’t mind paying the fine if they have to leave their trucks in the street overnight,” said Medeiros, riding around in his trademark golf cart.

Sitting in the stands with a yellow legal pad on Sunday afternoon, PawSox president Dr. Charles Steinberg was going over last-minute revisions to today’s pregame ceremony. At the same time, the Pawtucket players were busy taking batting practice, hence you had to wonder how Steinberg – baseball’s patron saint of pregame festivities – was able to concentrate with all those bat-cracking sounds.

“It’s going to be a ceremony where the intention is to express sincere thanks to the legions of PawSox fans for their support over the past 50 years,” said Steinberg, who for the millionth time expressed his desire for those in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts to follow the team to Worcester.

Trying to pry the guest list out of Steinberg was like pulling teeth. The only hint he dropped was that McCoy will be overflowing with PawSox alumni. There were whispers that Wade Boggs was staying at the Omni in Downtown Providence. Steinberg could only smile when pressed about welcoming back a former International League batting champ who went on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career in the big leagues.

“You’re just going to have to wait and see,” said Steinberg, advising those who are coming to McCoy to be in their seats by high noon. That’s when the ode to PawSox/McCoy lore will be getting underway.

As for who will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, Steinberg once again went to great lengths to throw this reporter off the trail. There was an interesting exchange between Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and PawSox pitching coach Paul Abbott before Sunday’s game. Perhaps Grebien – a man who at times must have felt like he was on his own island when it came to keeping the PawSox within the city’s boundaries – was receiving a tip from Abbott that ensures he doesn’t bounce his throw.

Upon the conclusion of today’s game, PawSox fans will have the chance to head onto the field and play catch until it gets dark. The idea was the brainchild of several PawSox front office members – including Woonsocket native Brooke (Coderre) Cooper –  who felt it was important to add a personal touch to a day where emotions figure to run extra high.

Bottom line, an era in Rhode Island sports is ending. After today, the PawSox will only be referenced in past terms.  

Hopefully there’s plenty of Kleenex to go around.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03    

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