WORCESTER – Growing up just north of Chicago, Matt Levin always had a thing for baseball.
“I remember walking home from shul during Sukkot or Yom Kippur and watching games through the window at a local restaurant,” said Levin, revealing the depth of his devotion to America’s Pastime.
Although he was already in one of the great baseball cities, Levin and his father eventually visited every major league park in the country and many minor league parks as well. “It was the perfect father-son event,” said the brother of three sisters, who calls himself a proud Conservative Jew.
This path has taken Levin to Worcester, where he has helped create a beautiful new home for the Boston Red Sox Triple-A farm team, the Worcester Red Sox or WooSox. “I am a student of ballparks,” Levin said, recalling how he first began to study the business of baseball as a teenager and how he has worked his way up from intern to administrator. “I love being around sports.”
Levin wears many baseball hats. He is 28, and holds the positions of senior vice president, chief financial officer and chief technology officer. He believes his combined roles and business background have not only helped him integrate many elements of team management, but also innovate and improve the fan experience.
Polar Park (which is named for and well stocked by the local soda giant) features many other local legends, including George’s Coney Island hot dogs, Table Talk pies, Wonder Bar pizza, Wormtown beers and, of course, the famous yellow smiley face that was created in Worcester and that now serves as the team’s mascot.
Worcester has a long history when it comes to baseball. The second-largest city in New England was home to the Worcester Worcesters, a National League team from 1880-1882. It was also the site of the first perfect game in major league history in 1880. And Poet Ernest Lawrence Thayer wrote “Casey at the Bat,” in 1888 in his home on Chatham Street.
“It took me a while to learn how to pronounce ‘Worcester,’” Levin said during an interview in the new park’s upscale DCU Club, where fans can have food delivered as they watch the game from inside or outside, “but I had friends at Clark and knew a bit of its history.”
While the local foods are fan favorites, Levin has also brought in Hebrew National hot dogs and, in the pioneering WooSox Market (which allows patrons to pick what they want and pay when they want with no need for long lines), foods are provided by the Butcherie in Brookline. This last relationship was secured when Levin and his wife moved to Coolidge Corner, just steps from the kosher market and also from Fenway Park. “It is no problem to walk a mile to Fenway,” Levin said.
It was such closeness to Fenway that first attracted Levin to Boston.
“I was on Passover break from Solomon Schechter,” Levin said, noting that his basketball team was the first parochial school team in his home state to win a regional tournament that also included the school Michael Jordan’s children attended, “and my sisters were going to Boston to look at schools.”
As soon as he saw Boston University, Levin was hooked. “It was such a great community,” he said, noting the strength and beauty of the campus Hillel House (which offered kosher meals, and where he served as a treasurer) and BU’s Nickerson Field, the home of another team that overcame decades of adversity to win it all. “I also loved that Nickerson Field had so much baseball history,” he said of the former Braves Field, which hosted a National League team from 1915-1952.
While he did not cross paths with Theo Epstein when the former Red Sox VP and GM went from Boston to Chicago (where he again won a World Series with Levin’s beloved Cubs), Levin has found many mentors in the Red Sox administration, including WooSox President Dr. Charles Steinberg and Chairman Larry Lucchino.
“Dr. Steinberg is a historian of baseball,” Levin said, recalling the many lessons he has learned from his colleague, “and both he and Larry have been very supportive.”
Levin has been especially grateful that his bosses always let him leave early on Fridays to prepare for Shabbat.
Levin also has a close connection to Israel. “I love Israel,” he said, recalling many visits and emphasizing his pride that Team Israel will be participating in the Summer Olympics. “It’s a testament to who we are that we can compete on a world stage.”
Speaking of competing, Levin’s own team is doing quite well, which bodes well both for the Red Sox and the community the team is helping to revive.
“It’s great to have thousands of people all cheering for the same cause,” said Levin.