Lucchino touts bonds between Assumption and WooSox as he gives grads grand slam send off Sunday
By Craig S. Semon
Telegram & Gazette
WORCESTER — Play Ball!
Despite the Assumption University Class of 2022 marching into the DCU Center to “Pomp and Circumstance,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or even the old “The thrill of victory and agony of defeat,” the beginning of “ABC Wide World of Sports” might have been more appropriate for the occasion with WooSox Chairman Larry Lucchino giving the commencement address.
As they poured into the arena for one of the happiest days of their young lives, as well as symbolically starting a new chapter in their adult lives, the graduating class was a sea of smiles caressing a black wave of flowing gowns and endless possibilities for the future.
It was a big day for the graduates and their parents, especially their mothers, with the ceremony took place on Mother’s Day, the importance of which didn’t escape Francesco C. Cesareo, president emeritus at the university, who referenced the special occasion happening on a special day, during his opening remarks.
“Moms, I am sure there are many thoughts racing through your head,” Cesareo said. “That little baby that you first held in your arms, who you nurtured, loved, guided and cared for today steps out into the world, prepared to embark on a life of meaning and purpose as result of the education that they received here at Assumption. Most importantly, however, that you don’t have any more tuition bills to pay."
Lucchino: 'Close bonds' between the WooSox and Assumption
Lucchino served as president and CEO of the Boston Red Sox during a historic 14-year period through 2015, in which the club won three World Series, preserved and expanded Fenway Park and established the Major League Baseball record for consecutive sellouts.
In his 15-minute commencement address, Lucchino name-dropped and referenced non-baseball legends Brendan Gill, writer for The New Yorker, Meryl Streep in “Defending Your Life,” Jimmy Stewart in “Harvey,” and Sigmund Freud, as well as baseball legends Jackie Robinson, Yogi Berra and David Ortiz, the latter of which he referenced early in remarks in the form of a self-lacerating joke.
“I know you have hoped for a commencement speaker beloved in Massachusetts, a man known for his popularity, character and grace under pressure,” Lucchino chimed. ‘Unfortunately, Big Papi couldn’t make it today.”
In 2018, Lucchino made a landmark agreement with the city of Worcester that brought the Boston Red Sox’s longtime Triple-A affiliate from Pawtucket, Rhode Island to Worcester. Opening in April 2021, Polar Park was Lucchino’s fifth ball park project.
Before speaking solely to the graduates, Lucchino spoke about “close bonds” between the WooSox and Assumption and how the university’s name is not only featured prominently in the ball park but is the only academic institution among the 21 founding members at Polar Park.
“Since everything ends badly for us in the inescapable catastrophe of death it seems that the first rule of life is to have a good time,” Lucchino said, referencing the cherished clipping of Gill’s. “And, the second rule of life is to hurt as few people as possible. And, in the course of doing so, there is no third rule.”
Playing off his four decades as a baseball executive and several decades of “errors, missteps and regrets,” Lucchino delivered what he called his personal top 10 list, life lessons for the new graduate to enter the world, done in no particular order or importance.
With 10 being a positive nod to the rules of the aforementioned Gill, Lucchino continued with “Be bold. Please take risks,” in one’s personal life, career and travels.
‘I think it was bold to assume that we could move to Boston and acquire the historic Red Sox franchise in 2001. I think it was bold to disregard the conventional wisdom that Fenway Park could not and should not be saved,” Lucchino said. “It was bold to believe that we could eradicate the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ and finally win a World Series after 86 years. It was bold to assume that Worcester and Central Mass. would warmly receive us after 50 years of us being in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.”
Lucchino also stressed the importance of smiling, laughing and be pleasant; "if you don’t have the answers, don’t be afraid to say so; and remember that life is too hard to be lived alone.
“Find time for your family. You only get one,” Lucchino said. “Call your parents, especially your mother, and not just on Mother’s Day. And, check in with your grandparents as well, often the most loyal, loving and supporting people you will ever have in your life.”
Lucchino, who was one of five who received an honorary degree Sunday, said stay in touch with your classmates, whether fate smiles gladly upon them; continue to have the capacity for outrage for injustice and don’t be colorblind.
“The world is, in fact, a rich, open, diverse, multi-colored, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural experience,” Lucchino said. “Embrace and celebrate the pluralism and diversity that are the essence of American life, of all life.”
Lucchino — who has the distinction of earning a Final Four watch, Super Bowl ring and multiple World Series rings — also stressed the importance of living “a balanced life” and being a positive force in one’s community.
“Be sure to thank your professors and your mentors. They have pointed the way to the doors. But only you can choose the one to walk through,” Lucchino said. “Walk through proudly, confidently and into the world with all its uncertainties, its tragedies and all of its magnificent opportunities. I wish you long and rewarding lives. God bless you all and thank you very much.”
Nicholas J. Macchione, valedictorian, also gave a speech and Samuel C. Davenport II, salutatorian, introduced Lucchino.
On Sunday, 460 under-graduate, 185 graduate and seven continuous and comprehensive degrees were passed out during Assumption's 105th commencement.