This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Since Wahconah Park opened in 1919 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, it has been home to more than 15 teams representing 9 major league organizations in addition tobeing home to independent league and collegiate baseball teams. Dozens of former and future major leaguers have roamed the field of Wahconah Park, perhaps most notably Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk and future Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux. Most recently, the Pittsfield American Defenders of the New England Collegiate Baseball League called Wahconah Park home.
The American Defenders are one of the two oldest collegiate baseball teams, but during the winter of 2009 the team moved back to its original state of Connecticut. However, it wasn’t long before there was a return of professional baseball to the Berkshires of Massachusetts.
Another team with the same name as the previous club, the American Defenders of the Can-Am League, had recently vacated their home in Nashua, New Hampshire after 11 seasons that included a pair of league championship titles, changing leagues once and a franchise name change. An original member of the Atlantic League that was formed in 1998, the franchise joined the Can-Am League at the beginning of the 2006 season. The arrival of the Pittsfield Colonials is the first independent league ballclub to play at Wahconah Park since the Berkshire Black Bears in 2003.
The team from Nashua bring their own lineage of history to Pittsfield, with several former and current major league players that played with the club in their former location. Several notable players from the Boston Red Sox including Rich Garces, Paxton Crawford, Curtis Pride and Sam Horn donned the hometown uniform just north of Boston. Current Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Brendan Donnelly played with the franchise in 1999. Colonials skipper, Brian Daubach, comes full circle as he played minor league ball with the Pittsfield Mets during the 1992 season.
As the team prepares for their opening season at one of the oldest ballparks in the United States, the general manager of the Pittsfield Colonials took some time to answer a few questions about his team and their new home.
Baseball Digest: Wahconah Park has had a long history of affiliations with major league baseball, and has seen more than a few players who bacame or will eventually be future Hall of Famers play at the 91 year old ballpark. More recently, the independent Berkshire Black Bears and Dan Duquette’s Pittsfield Dukes have called the park home. Can you tell us a little bit about the transitioning of the team that moves from New Hampshire to western Massachusetts? Aside from the name change, what else can we expect with the new location?
Greg Martin: There will be a greater focus on Pittsfield baseball history and Wahconah Park history with an approach that blends the past and modern ball. Home and road uniforms will reflect early 1900’s, which will be a pro-ball first, outfitting a club in vintage uniforms since the early 1900’s. There will be a strong effort to create a ballpark experience that is more back to the basics, letting the game sell itself and not excessive in-game events or special effects.
BD: Wahconah Park has undergone a few upgrades over the years, most recently while Dan Duquette’s Pittsfield Dukes played there. Are there any plans for additional renovations?
GM: The city of Pittsfield just completed $750,000 of renovationas which included a new infield, irrigation system, public restrooms, ballpark painting and a repaved parking lot. An additional $750,000 renovation is planned, and may include a makeover for the front facade of the ballpark to better reflect the historic interior.
BD: After serving as the hitting coach of the Nashua Pride in 2008, Brian Daubach was named the manager of the American Defenders in 2009. Will Daubach be returning for the inaugural season with the Colonials? To piggyback that question, are the Colonials expected to have any major changes to their coaching staff?
GM: Brian Daubach will return as the skipper of the Pittsfield Colonials, though the rest of the coaching staff has not yet been named.
BD: The Can-Am League has always had a few former and future major leaguers throughout the league rosters, are there any signings by the Colonials on the horizon that fans might want to keep an eye out for?
GM: Daubach is currently assembling the roster through free agent signings and local, regional and national upcoming tryout camps. Typically, independent rosters contain a few namesakes and with Brian’s MLB connection, could include a couple of surprises.
The Pittsfield Colonials website is constantly being updated as their inaugural season at Wahconah Park nears, but you can find great information about the season there as well as on their Facebook Fan Page, which is loaded with tidbits about the players that make up their roster and promotions that the team will offer during the season.
The Colonials open Wahconah Park on May 23rd, 2010 with an exhibition game against Worcester, with all proceeds of the game(tickets at $1) going to benefit the Berkshire Medical Center. They open their season at home the following Monday, May 31st, against the New Jersey Jackals. The Minor League Spotlight will follow the Colonials during their first season in Pittsfield, and provide an update as their season gets underway.
A big thanks to Greg Martin for taking time to answer a few questions for Baseball Digest during the busy weeks leading up to opening day.
Next Week: As a two-part series, the Minor League Spotlight will showcase one of the oldest minor league teams in history, the Rochester Red Wings. Later in the week, there will be a preview of a newly released book that chronicles the historic club that famously took part in the longest professional baseball game in history(at 33 innings!).