PAWTUCKET â There was Paul Labossiere, as usual focused on the task at hand inside the McCoy Stadium ticket office. To this Central Falls native and current Lincoln resident, Labor Day Monday was typical â no deviation in the slightest from the previous 71 PawSox home dates in the 2012 season, or the 39 years of loyal service that preceded this one.
As an unsuspected Labossiere went about his usual business, he received marching orders to promptly bring an envelope containing tickets to Gate A, where Jeff Bradley, the PawSoxâ director of community relations, was waiting. Naturally Labossiere obliged, yet as he neared the entrance that leads to the barbeque tent and first-base suites, he started to see a number of familiar faces.
Something was up, he thought. Standing next to scores of family members and close friends, Bradley informed Labossiere of a secret that had been kept under wraps for several weeks. In recognizing his 40th season with the PawSoxâs franchise, the team chose to acknowledge Labossiere with an on-field pregame ceremony.
Labossiere didnât have time to become overwhelmed by the moment. Walking out to the mound flanked by team president Mike Tamburro and Sandra, his bride of 53 years, provided the man of the hour with an adrenaline rush, a jolt that proved quite handy when it came time to throw out the first pitch.
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âTo tell you the truth, I wasnât surprised, I was shocked. Everyone did a great job keeping this a secret,â said a smiling Labossiere a short time later. âWhen I saw my kids and grandchildren, I was like, âOh my God.ââ
Added Tamburro, âHe had about 60 people that celebrated the day with him. I donât think he saw this coming and I give credit to his family for putting it together and keeping it a surprise.â
Prior to delivering the ceremonial offering to infielder Nate Spears, Labossiere was presented a PawSox team jacket from Tamburro, the gesture serving as the organizationâs way of tipping their cap and saying âthanksâ to the longest-running employee in team history.
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After all, itâs not every day that someone of Labossiereâs longevity is still putting in the time and displaying the kind of enthusiasm that personifies a behind-the-scenes PawSox worker.
âHeâs a delight and a guy we rely on every night,â Tamburro noted. âHe knows the customers by their first names and is just a big part of PawSox baseball and the PawSox family.
âWhatever (the acknowledgement) meant to Paulie, it meant the world to us,â Tamburro added. âHeâs a guy who deserves the honor.â
A graduate of Sacred Heart Academy (Class of 1945), Paul Labossiere was a fulltime worker for 39 years at Liberty Plating Co., Inc., a Central Falls-based jewelry company. His brother, the late Leo Labossiere, served as a major-league scout for the White Sox and the Orioles while his nephew, David Labossiere, was formerly the head trainer of the Houston Astros. His baseball ties extend to the present day with his grandson, Lincoln High senior and Elon University recruit Nick Zammarelli.
A fit and trim 74-year-old, Paul Labossiere started showing up at McCoy in 1972, when Pawtucket served as Bostonâs Double-A affiliate. His tenure bridges the decaying state the PawSox found themselves in prior to Ben Mondor coming aboard in 1977, his main objective being to lift the woebegone operation from the dregs and into a position of prominence.
âI had mixed emotions (when Mondor first took over). I didnât know if he would do an about face, but he went on to do a great job with this ballpark. He turned it around to the point that itâs now a great place,â Labossiere said. âI think this [meaning the PawSox brand] is as close to a major-league feel as youâre going to get.â
A seasonal employee who would begin his duties in early spring and conclude them once the final out has been recorded, Labossiere started out taking tickets at the turnstile before relocating to the ticket booth, where heâs proven to be just as valuable and indispensable a resource.
âPaulie made his way in the old ticket offices, which in those days we used to call âThe Dungeon,ââ said Tamburro with a slight chuckle. âA lot of times, the only people the fans meet who represent the PawSox is that ticket taker, ticket seller or usher. To have seasoned veterans like Paulie who have been here year after year and understand how important that first impression is to the fan, weâre very fortunate.â
Besides seeing firsthand the blood, sweat and tears Mondor poured into the PawSox, Labossiere has been privy to the evolving nature in how tickets are dispensed to the masses. Initially, there was a cash box that collected that nightâs game sales. There werenât any phone lines to take credit card information, nor a will-call window designed to cut down on the time spent in line.
To his credit, Labossiere embraced all these changes.
âHeâs been through it all and has tried to stay up to date as much as us older guys do with technology!â Tamburro remarked. âHeâs been a warrior and a great ticket seller, thereâs no doubt about it. A lot of the nights, heâs our leading ticket seller.â
Labossiere made sure to tell Tamburro that by no means does he intend to step aside, a message he conveyed during a chat in the ownerâs box following Mondayâs ceremony. He plans on sticking around as long as possible.
âI told Mike that youâre not going to get rid of me now. Iâm still going to be here next year,â Labossiere said. âMike said, âWeâll be glad to have to you.ââ