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Mayor Bianchi Commends Pittsfield Babe Ruth Team

By Joe Durwin
Pittsfield Correspondent

Mayor Daniel Bianchi congratulates the coaches of the All-Star Babe Ruth team for the team's efforts in the World Series.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Daniel Bianchi hailed the city's 15-year-old Babe Ruth All Stars Tuesday on their performance in the World Series in Van Buren, Ark., two weeks ago. 

At the first City Council meeting following the team's return, the mayor presented certificates from the city in recognition of their achievements.

"We are so proud of you as a community," said Bianchi. "You guys have done a great job, and you've represented the city of Pittsfield beautifully through great sportsmanship, and great sports."

The team swept five games in the series before finally being eliminated in the opening game of the single elimination tournament by El Segundo, Calif.  The team represented all New England after bringing home both the Massachusetts and New England regional titles.

The team was also honored for its participation in the World Series at a ceremony held Sunday at Fenway Park, where they received an ovation from a crowd of more than 37,000 people.

"You inspire us all to do our very best, guys" said Bianchi. "Thank you so much for representing the city of Pittsfield. We're proud of you."

SteepleCats Back at Joe Wolfe After Season-Opener Win

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The SteepleCats return to the city on Friday night  to take on the Vermont Mountaineers at 6:30 at Joe Wolf Field. A fireworks show follows the game.

The 'Cats opened the season on Thursday night with a 6-0 victory over the Sanford Mainers at Goodall Park.

Tonight's game is sponsored by Hoosac Bank. Be one of the first 500 fans in and receive an inflatable baseball beach ball. Stick around after the last out and enjoy the post-game fireworks spectacular sponsored by T&M Auto Sales, Village Ambulance Services, Aladco, Racing Mart, Pete's Gun Shop, HD Reynolds Sales and CW Construction.

One third of the SteepleCats season will be played on Sundays this year. You can support your hometown and have dinner at the The Joe because Sunday is $1 hot dog night. To accommodate fans still in school, the first three Sunday’s in June will feature a start time at 4:30.

The first Sunday of the season, June 10 , the team will host the Mystic Schooners. All fans in attendance will receive a free 2012 Schedule Magnet.

 Visit shopsteeplecats.com or call 413-663-7333 or purchase your season ticket opening at tonight's game.

Q&A With Pittsfield Suns Owner On Opening Day

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

The Suns first game is Thursday night at 7 p.m.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It is opening day at Wahconah Park and while fans won't be watching THE show this summer, Suns President Jeff Goldklang promises that it will be definitely be a show.

The Suns are the newest team to call Wahconah Park home — the sixth team and fourth league in 10 years. Goldklang, however, boasts experience in running professional ball clubs and says they can succeed with the Futures League club with their prices, mid-inning entertainment and quality baseball.

The Suns kick off their season Thursday night at 7. Following the game there will be a fireworks show.

iBerkshires sat down with Goldklang on Thursday to find out what fans can expect this year as employees bustled about the park to ready it for opening night.

Q: Today is opening day. How does it feel to be here right now?

JG: It's fantastic. I'll probably say this again tonight but one of my earliest baseball memories is shagging flyballs about 25 years ago for the AA Pittsfield Cubs. To be sitting here tonight, running the opening of our own team out of Wahconah Park is ... it might sound like hyperbole to say it is a dream come true but in reality, it is.

Q: What do you guys have planned for this season?

JG: We're known around baseball circles, I think it is one of reasons the Parks Commission and the city of Pittsfield chose us, is that every time people step into Wahconah Park, it is a brand of entertainment. It's a show.

Obviously baseball and what happens between the lines is the most important thing and will always be the most important thing. When that's not occurring, whether it is between innings, before games, after games, we anticipate bring our brand of entertainment to the greater Berkshire area.

Q: What does that mean? What kind of promotions do you have set up or eyeing?

JG: Our assistant general manager Kevin Maguire, one of the reasons we hired him is the fact that he is one of the most creative individuals in the game. We have all sorts of fun stuff planned. Tonight, we have a horse delivering the first pitch. A real horse coming out to deliver the first pitch.

The fireworks shows that we will put on will be longer and better than most of the other firework shows in minor league or professional ballparks across the country. Other than that, it is a living, breathing, environment where we may change whatever we are doing on the field in the middle of the game or we may change it after the game. Whatever we feel the pulse of Pittsfield would like to see.

Q: Since you've been here working on the field and in the stadium, there is a difference between knowing the park and actually working on it, what is your opinion on the condition of the park and usage of it?

JG: It's fantastic. We had an ownership stake in the Pittsfield Cubs in the mid-80s. Today this ballpark is in better shape than it was back then. The playing surface itself is in fantastic shape. The city of Pittsfield does a wonderful job on it. We operate four other professional ball clubs and this will stand up to each of them.

In terms of the ballpark itself, you are obviously dealing with an aging ballpark — or an aged ballpark — so you don't have the bells and whistles and some of the creature comforts you would have in many other ballparks. But one of the great things about Wahconah Park is that it's not just an old ballpark, it is a historic ballpark. It's a ballpark with a tremendous amount of character and that aids what we are trying to do. It adds to the nostalgia of what baseball is in Pittsfield.

Q: How is your team shaping up?

JG: We like it. I spoke to [general manager] Jamie Keefe right before you came in and we think we have a pretty good ball club. You never know, especially at this level, until you get out there and play a couple games.

Tonight, we anticipate playing one of the better teams, one of the more highly regarded teams on the field so we should have a pretty good sense. But it's not only tonight because baseball isn't just one nine inning affair. We believe we have a good product on the field this year.

Q: On paper, what can people expect? A lot of running, heavy hitters?

JG: It's a Jamie Keefe team. We're going to be aggressive. Jamie asked in the clubhouse before the season started 'who here can't run?' You had two or three kids raise their hand and he looked at them and said 'you're going to have five bags by the end of the year.'

It's going to be a really strong defensive team, Keefe teams are strong up the middle and we have a couple really strong hitters that we feel can probably contribute from the power standpoint — gap power and the occasional homerun. In general, it's going to be a real aggressive and defensively strong team.

Q: You are running a team here in Pittsfield after many teams have failed. We talked about the overall product but what are your thoughts about those teams? Are you finding places where they've gone wrong or is it a 'we can do it better?' What makes you believe that you can succeed where they've failed?

Goldklang said overall food prices are lower than last year's Pittsfield Colonials team.
We will not make a promise that we cannot keep. We will not make a promise we won't keep.

There have been some really good people that have tried their hand at running ball clubs in Pittsfield and it hasn't worked for various reasons that we don't necessarily need to get into at this juncture. I will say this, we have a very large organization behind us and over the years and over the next three years — in terms of how long we have our licensing agreement with Pittsfield —  we will not disappoint the city of Pittsfield or the greater Berkshires with the product that we put on the field and the product we have in the stands.

We anticipate growing relationships with businesses and the community at large in a different way than what has been done in the past. Certainly, I am not going promise that we are going to be unbelievably successful at the gate but I can promise that we are going to try and we are going to be doing the exact same things three years from now as we are today.

Q: At least three years?

JG: We have a licensing agreement with the city of Pittsfield for three years. My brothers and I right now would love to say that we'll be here for 10-15 years but we'll see. We anticipate this being a long-term relationship.

Q: Are there changes at the park? I see there is a bouncy-bounce thing out [in right field] that used to be a gazebo. There was another gazebo here in the beer garden. What kind of changes should fans expect?

JG: We're catering to the fan base as a whole. We were here last year and they had a fantastic higher end. You can still do that if you contact us or we contact you and you want to have an executive or corporate party, but in general we are very kid friendly and kid specific.

You can see the bounce houses out there in the outfield. We're going to have our own version of pony rides, where it is going to be inflatable horses that kids can bounce around on out there. There will be a spin art area catering to the very artful background of the Berkshires in the summer. You can see down the right field line there is a tent area and like every baseball operation, we're going to cater very largely to picnics and groups.

In general, the changes we've made, some being cosmetic some being operational, are meant to cater to the overall demographic of families in the greater Pittsfield area.

Q: How are your ticket sales so far?

JG: Ticket sales have been online for quite some time. Ticket sales are progressing very much as we've been anticipating. Pittsfield is a very walk-up type of mentality. In the Berkshires, the old expression is 'if you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes and it will change.' People are cognizant that at this ball park they should be able to walk up and hopefully be able to buy some high-quality tickets the day of the game.

At this juncture that is the mentality out there and we fully support that. We hope by mid-season or the end of the year and future years, we will be able to attract purchases in a much stronger fashion. In general, ticket sales are progressing even better than we anticipated three months ago.

Q: What about food service? How are you running that?

JG: That's going to be third party. It is Michael Roller who runs Samel's Deli and Savory Catering. One thing I will say about the previous regime here, when we would come into Wahconah Park and having eaten at four to five dozen ballparks across the country every year, there was never a higher quality than what Michael supplied at Wahconah Park. One of the first things we did was contact him, reach out to him and secure him for this season because we haven't found his equal in any ballpark.

Q: Are food and beer prices going to be about the same?

JG: They should maintain. We've probably lowered in a few areas and the average price of a food item at Wahconah Park in 2012 is lower than the average price in 2011. Even though food costs and other items went up, we felt from a customer service standpoint, providing not only food but entertainment in general at a very family friendly cost. It was one of our No. 1 goals.

Q: How about merchandise?

JG: Merchandise will be on an aggregate less expensive than last year.

Monterey Softball Seasons Starts Month Early

Community Submission

The traditional Monterey Sunday Softball season got off to its earliest start ever on March 18 at Greene Park.

MONTEREY, Mass. — Baseball season is coming early this year. Thanks to a mild winter, the ballfield at Greene Park is game ready a month earlier than usual. Weather permitting, informal pickup softball games for all players ages 13 and up will be played now through the end of October.

For more than 20 years, players from Monterey, Otis, Sandsfield, Blandford, Lee, Great Barrington, Sheffield and surrounding towns have enjoyed the friendly competition at the picturesque park. All skill levels welcome. Batting practice starts at 10 and games at 10:30 every Sunday.

Cal Ripken youth baseball also started March 18 as ages 8 to 12 pitchers, catchers, hitters and runners from Monterey, Otis, Great Barrington, Sandisfield, Mill River and surrounding towns reported for spring training and an exhibition game. Players of all levels are welcome to sign-up for South County Cal Ripken baseball now by emailing sgraves8@yahoo.com or by calling 413-269-4632.


Pittsfield Baseball Team Dubbed 'Suns'

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city's latest team has a cheery moniker: the Pittsfield Suns.

reported the name of the Futures League franchise that will call historic Wahconah Park this summer.

The collegiate team, owned by the Goldklang Group, will have a familiar face at the helm in Jamie Keefe, general manager for last year's Pittsfield Colonials. Keefe was named Can-Am League Manager of the Year for 2011.

Also on the team are assistant general manager Kevin McGuire and director of client services Jackie Wendling.

Owner Jeff Goldklang has had a home in the Pittsfield area for 30 years. He said in a statement that "we intend to honor the tradition and history of the game in Pittsfield, while adding heavy doses of smiles and laughs."

The Suns are the latest in a string of professional and collegiate leage teams to take up residence at Wahconah in the last decade, including the Defenders, Black Bears and Dukes. The Suns owners are hoping to break the city's losing streak in keeping teams for more than a year or two.

"We have a different business model, highlighted by our signature and often times unconventional promotional initiatives," said Tyler Tumminia, Suns co-owner and senior vice president of the group. "It's an experience we are providing in addition to a ballgame."

Hopefully, the Suns sunny name will deflect the washouts at Wahconah Park that have put previous teams under water.

The Suns will play 54 games from June through August, half at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield. The Suns will kick off their 2012 season at Waconah Park on June 7 as they take on the Nashua Silver Nights.

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