Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

January 10, 2024

Q&A: An insider’s perspective on the WooSox sale

A group of men do a cheers with Polar seltzer on a sunny day in Worcester. Photo | Courtesy of Worcester Red Sox; Photographer: Kate Foultz Larry Lucchino (right) and Ralph Crowley (center) celebrate the groundbreaking of Polar Park in 2019. The two men were part of the nine-person ownership group that sold the Worcester Red Sox to Diamond Baseball Holdings, although both Lucchino and Crowley have stayed on as part owners.

Already a prominent figure in the Central Massachusetts business community, Ralph Crowley Jr., president and CEO of Worcester drink manufacturer Polar Beverages, further increased his profile in 2019 through his entry into the ownership of the Pawtucket Red Sox, in the runup to the team’s move to Worcester for the 2021.

The sale of a majority of the Worcester Red Sox to New York-based Diamond Baseball Holdings has been finalized, leaving Crowley as one of the more well-known local faces that has remained in the ownership group, as minority owners.

WBJ sat down with Crowley in December to discuss how he got involved with the Worcester Red Sox, what the negotiations with Diamond were like, and what the transaction means for the team’s future in the city. 

What’s your overall perspective on the situation with the WooSox right now?
Polar has really enjoyed the relationship with the WooSox. We’re absolutely thrilled with the success of the team, the Polar Park baseball stadium, and what it's done for the community. It’s just plain remarkable, when the state is losing a thousand people a week and yet you see Worcester’s population go over 206,000, it says some things around here are going pretty well. If you look at all the buildings going up around Polar Park, you get a sense of what it’s done for the area.

From Polar Beverage’s perspective, this is our hometown. It’s just awesome to see the revitalization going on in the city. The WooSox and Polar Park are a major part of it.

Our financial commitment is significant, with naming rights, pouring rights, and being a minority owner of the team. Our view as a family is we desperately need this to be a success. We’re not just being casual and throwing some money at it. We’re going to do everything we can to help Diamond Baseball be successful in the city.  

The first thing Diamond has done is keep Chairman Larry Lucchino, President Charles Steinberg, General Manager Dan Rea III, and Senior Vice President Jack Verducci in management. Diamond sees we’re one of the top minor league baseball teams in terms of attendance, and Polar Park was voted the prettiest ballpark in the country, out of 122 teams. For Diamond, this is going to be the crown jewel of the 20-plus teams they’ve bought. From my conversations, they just want to keep plugging away and continue to grow. 

We have to thank 11+ owners from Rhode Island that helped make the decision and voted unanimously to leave and come to Worcester. But they don’t have the ties here that we do. So if there’s someone like Diamond that will buy them out and let it run, that’s great.

Going back to when you got involved, what inspired you to join the ownership team?
The existing owners are acquaintances of mine, including Terry Murray, Tom Ryan, and Bill Egan. They asked if I would like to be part of the group. Since we made the largest financial commitment of the group for the naming rights, getting a seat at the table where we could understand what’s going on behind the scenes, that’s even better. We as a family felt it would be worthwhile having a piece of the ownership.

I know your family has a lot of business ties with one another. Is this also a family affair?
My four siblings and I are partners in most of our investments. We invested as a family in the WooSox. 

What has been your favorite part of being a WooSox owner so far?
Polar had a fun event over the summer at the stadium where we had our million-mile drivers throw out the opening pitch. One of them had driven 6 million miles for the company. The pride these people had, wearing WooSox shirts and having Polar caps on, was great.

My favorite part is what it's doing to make everyone in Worcester a little prouder, and it makes the Polar team proud to see our name on it. We’re lucky enough to have a bunch of tickets as part of our sponsorship, and there’s probably at least 25 employees at every game. 

When did talks of a sale first start, and what was that process like?
Larry Lucchino is the principal owner, and the way baseball works, he’s the chief decision maker. He was approached, probably last spring, and then we had a chance to meet the Diamond Baseball guys. It took a long time.

I was wondering if you can give some details on the ownership team after the deal is finalized. Is this a situation where Diamond is going to have 51%?
Diamond Baseball will be the principal owner. Larry, the Crowley family led by me, and Jim Skeffington Jr. are the minority owners. So really, it’s the Massachusetts owners that will be staying in.

Is your role going to change at all? It seems like you may be a bit more publicly-facing now with Diamond involved. Is that the case?
My job is really simple: How can I make this thing better? You really have Larry, Charles, and Dan leading the band. I’ve been behind-the-scenes helping these guys since they’ve got here, and I’ll continue to do that. I’m on the bench and get called in when needed.

Obviously, the operation of a minor league team isn’t just about your win-loss record. How do you personally measure what a successful season looks like?
It’s interesting because a number of WooSox players went up to the Boston Red Sox last year. The funniest headline I saw was “WooSox beat the Yankees”. That’s how many players we had up there. I like that success. 

You’re always going to see a great game, but with the players changing so fast, it’s hard to get totally emotionally involved in how many games you’ve won or how many you’ve lost. It may be a winning season means you send five players up. It’s more about the experience of the patrons.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Eric Casey.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners

Related Content


Order a PDF