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A Fourth of July Meditation
Larry Luchino and Ed Tivnan watching the Woosox at Polar Park, Worcester MA, July 2021
July 4, 2022
Last year at about this time, I spent a perfect summer day at a Woosox game in Worcester, Massachusetts. The team serves as the Triple A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Yes, I’m a long-time Yankee fan, but I cheered my heart out for the Woosox.
I was a guest of friends of Woosox chair and principal owner Larry Luchino. Larry pioneered the return to baseball-only stadiums located in the heart of downtown when, as president of the Baltimore Orioles, he oversaw the construction of Camden Yards. Ballparks like these have spurred local redevelopment in downtown areas that had long been ailing.
Certainly, the Woosox’s beautiful and intimate new stadium has been key to Worcester’s recent revival. That’s the stadium pictured above, with Larry in the blue hat in conversation with my friend Ed Tivnan, a Worcester native and former high school and college baseball star who serves as the team’s historian. My steak dinner in the foreground is a consequence of sitting in Larry’s box and my poor photography skills.
After the game, the outfield was thrown open and wiffle balls were handed out to anyone who felt like tossing one around. Kids poured onto the grass to throw, catch and hit, and to run around the bases. Classical music rather than the usual hyped-up pop tunes flooded the stadium. People stuck around to buy hotdogs. Nobody appeared eager to leave. Since many of the locals were able to walk home, the usual ninth inning race to the parking lot was avoided.
Being in the presence of people of all ages and from every possible background coming together to support their local team created a general sense of ease and calm on the soft summer night. Community pride and spirit were also evident in the messages honoring Worcester’s baseball and immigrant past along with the rebirth of its downtown. The scene presented a total contrast to the city I had visited just a few years before, which looked as if it were on an irreversible slide toward dereliction.
After decades of losing the local businesses, industries and institutions that had knit the city together, the people of Worcester once again had solid reason to hope that life in their town was on the path to something better. The gorgeous stadium, which they used as if it were theirs, was both a spur and a symbol of that hope, fostering the solidarity that was everywhere on display.
I realized that solidarity, which I have been writing about in my forthcoming book, Rising Together, depends above all on hope. The shared sense that we are moving forward gives us the strength to ignore whatever divides us, rather than building our identity from ever-more specifically defined differences or ever-more carefully nourished grievances.
Hope gives us the capacity to renew community spirit and foster the joy of belonging to something larger than ourselves. It matters in the workplace, which is the focus of my work, but it matters for nations as well.
This is what America should be, I kept thinking at the Woosox game. And on that night, it’s what America was. But it wasn’t an exercise in nostalgia: the game’s theme was Los Wepos de Worcester, celebrating the Salvadorans who have recently settled in the city, as well as the many Salvadorans on the team.
This Fourth of July has been a tough one in our country. The divisions between us are on stark display, as they are to differing degrees around the world. With the future feeling dangerous and uncertain, it’s easy to lose hope in our country’s purpose and our ability to represent and fight for those things that strengthen communities and serve the common good.
That’s why I spent the Fourth this year reflecting on my day with the Woosox. Because fundamentally, it filled me with hope.