The announcement on Friday that the Pawtucket Red Sox plan to move to Worcester is being met with dismay in the team’s current hometown.

Rose Martelle is a waitress at the Right Spot Diner. The restaurant sits in the shade of McCoy stadium, which for nearly four decades has been home to the PawSox. Seven months ago, Memorial Hospital, just up the road, closed down. And now this. “It seems like it's going to turn into a ghost town or something," she said. "Like, who's going to support everything you know pay the taxes?”

“We are,” customer Sherill Barrette called out from a few tables down. She just heard the news. “To me it would be like the Red Sox leaving Boston. It would be devastating," Barette said. "The mayor should have done more. I mean not that we should pay either, but the mayor should have done more.”

Right Spot Diner
The Right Spot Diner in Pawtucket is in the shadow of McCoy Stadium
Craig LeMoult WGBH

In a statement, Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien said he’s been working for three years to try to keep the team.

"Sadly, we had to learn through media reports, like everyone else, that the ownership group had decided to take our team and move it to Worcester in light of substantial subsidies provided by Worcester and the State of Massachusetts," Grebien said.

"While [it's] unclear if the Massachusetts subsidies are truly a done deal, no matter what Pawtucket will pursue other innovative ways to invest in our quality of life, as a community and with our fellow Rhode Islanders," he said, calling the city resilient. "The PawSox do not make Pawtucket. Pawtucket made the PawSox."

But the loss is certainly going to be felt. New York Times writer Dan Barry used to live in Pawtucket when he worked at the Providence Journal. He calls it a challenged city.

“The zoo closed, the mills closed, and there have been efforts over the years to have some kind of a renaissance or revitalization. And they haven't always really been that successful," Barry said. "But the one thing that this city of Pawtucket had was the Pawtucket Red Sox.”

It’s been part of the community. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops would camp in the outfield when the team was out of town. And the games were affordable.

“The family wouldn't have to hock their heirlooms to have four seats in the grandstands," Barry said. "And so it really mattered to the to the psyche of not only Pawtucket, but I think the entire state of Rhode Island.”

The team also made baseball history in Pawtucket. On a cold April night here in 1981, the PawSox and Rochester Red Wings played the longest game in baseball history. Barry wrote a book about it -"Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game."

“The pitchers were burning broken bats to keep warm in little garbage cans and people were falling asleep," he said. "And I think by the 30th inning there may have been 19 people in the stands.”

On Friday, many more fans lined up to get into those same stands to see the PawSox play the Durham Bulls. They eagerly counted down to the moment the gates opened at McCoy Stadium. The stadium was built in 1942 as part of the Works Progress Administration, and its size and condition are the main reasons the team started looking for a new home.

The reaction of many fans at Friday's game was unsurprising - lamenting the loss of a beloved team and a defining institution to the community. But some, like Paul Dunphe who came here from Southbridge, Massachusetts, likes the idea. “It’d be a lot closer for me to travel and not an hour- and-half drive," he said. "It's like a 15-minute drive instead. And I think it’d be good for the area up there.”

Ollie Brennan of East Providence has been coming to games here since the 1960s. "They can offer me a heck of a lot more than we can," he said. "They can throw a lot of money at them and it won't hurt them that much. It's probably a better spot for the team in Worcester.”

And he’s not mourning the loss of baseball in Pawtucket, because he’s pinning his hopes on another MLB farm team moving in and calling the city its home.

PawSox fans Kari Tieger and Ollie Brennan both hope this isn't the end of minor league baseball in Pawtucket
Craig LeMoult WGBH