Emerson professor partners with Worcester restaurants for WooSox menu

Polar+Park+in+the+snow.

Photo: Courtesy to Joe Jacobs/Worcester Red Sox

Polar Park in the snow.

By Joey DuBois, Deputy Sports Editor

Dr. Charles Steinberg, director of sports communication and Worcester Red Sox president, built his career around redefining what a ballpark should be. 

His work over the years includes experiences with the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers. At each step of the way, he prioritized enhancing the fan experience.

In his current role, Steinberg oversaw the move of Boston’s Triple-A affiliate from Pawtucket, R.I. to Worcester, Mass. Now, with the inaugural season just weeks away, the club begins to unveil a crucial part of any ballpark—the food.  

The WooSox announced their initial local offerings via a partnership with Professional Sports Catering in a statement last week. The restaurants announced thus far are largely located in the city’s Canal District. Further partnerships with establishments in the Main South and Green Island are expected to be announced in the coming months.

“We wanted to resonate with the city of Worcester, which bursts with pride about its restaurant scene,” Dr. Charles Steinberg said in a phone interview. “Worcester’s restaurant scene is one of the real attributes of Worcester’s identity.”

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The announcement featured the restaurants in the “Line-up of Locals,” placing each establishment at a different spot in the batting order. Highlights include Worcester classics like Coney Island Hot Dogs, Table Talk Pies, and Polar Beverages. 

Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Crain played a crucial role in securing the vendors for the “Line-up of Locals.” He reiterated the importance of getting the best food Worcester has to offer into the stadium. 

“Local, local, local, local, local,” Crain said in a phone interview. “(WooSox Chairman) Larry Lucchino has always said the ballpark must look and smell and feel and taste like Worcester. I think we took that edict seriously, and we wanted to make sure the ballpark reflected Worcester, especially in a culinary way.”

Steinberg and Crain hope the “Line-up of Locals” is only the beginning of a healthy relationship between the team and Worcester’s restaurant scene.

“I don’t think that any of us think this is finished,” Crain said. “I think we can still grow and create new partnerships.”

“What we did was start with a starting lineup of locals,” Dr. Steinberg said. “Now, a baseball team has a starting lineup of nine ballplayers, but there’s 16 more on the roster, and there’s 25 more at Triple-A. So this starting lineup begins the process, not ends the process.”

The WooSox and PSC also announced they are offering opportunities to Worcester-area charities to raise money by operating the concession stands with volunteers. 

The club announced its impending move to Worcester in 2018. With the season just around the corner, reality is beginning to set in for Crain, who has been with the organization since 2015.

“I don’t think words can describe what that’s going to be like,” Crain said. “We just want to get people in there, obviously in the safest manner possible, but we’re pumped. We’ve been working on this forever. In 2018, 2021 seemed [a distant future], and now it’s here. I think we’re all very enthused to be able to do it and start off a new page of Worcester.”

The Worcester Red Sox will begin their inaugural season on the road on April 6, before returning to central Massachusetts for their home opener at Polar Park on April 13.