PITTSFIELD, Mass. — There will be baseball at Wahconah Park next year.
Jeff Goldklang will be the owner of Pittsfield's next baseball team.
The Park Commission approved Tuesday night the Goldklang Group's pitch to form a new team in the newly created Futures Collegiate League
, a wooden bat league. The group will now negotiate a lease agreement with the city for the park's usage.
"We believe Pittsfield has a fantastic baseball market," Jeff Goldklang, managing director, said and added that the team has positioned itself to hire a staff in the next few weeks. "We're going to start tomorrow."
The park's future team came down to either Goldklang or Rick Johansen, who proposed purchasing the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide, in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, and relocating it to the city. However, the Goldklang Group's experience seemed to push the commissioners over the edge.
The finances nearly matched between the two clubs, a point commissioners emphasized during discussions with the teams because the city has not gotten paid in the past. The decision came down to the team's merits.
Johansen's proposed Pittsfield Panthers had the benefit of joining an established 12-team league. However, Johansen's group lacked experience running a baseball team, thought the commissioners. Goldklang is joining the Futures Collegiate League, a five-team league established in 2010, as an expansion but the group currently manages four teams, one independent league and three affiliated with Major League Baseball. The Goldklang Group has consulted for teams on all levels.
"I'm really down the middle ... at this point, it feels a little like a beauty contest," Parks Commissioner Simon Muil said.
The vote was unanimous but the discussion before the vote was split. With the majority in favor of Goldklang, the Panthers' supporters changed their vote to show support for the team that ultimately will call historic Wahconah Park home.
After the meeting, Johansen was not upset with the decision and congratulated Goldklang. Johansen said he initially began pitching the team because he grew up watching baseball at the park and did not want the city to go without a team. Now that there will be baseball, Johansen said he is hopeful that Goldklang will be successful.
"When I entered there was no other team," Johansen said. "The good news is that I don't have to spend the money to purchase the team."
Now forking out the money falls to Goldklang, who is embracing the challenge of playing in a city that has seen its fair share of baseball teams fail. Goldklang is prepared to invest a lot in the new organization.
"Our budget is going to be in excess of the Colonials," Goldklang said. "It certainly will be significant and very high for a collegiate league team."
The expansion team will be the sixth team in the Futures League that spans only three states and was developed by owners of professional-affiliated teams. With teams in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the league mandates that at least half of the roster is comprised of athletes from New England.
The new team does not have a name yet but Goldklang said the city's residents will likely choose the name.