NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The SteepleCats are relaunching with a new look, a new attitude and new leadership.
"We're changing the brand, and we're changing the look, and we're changing the feel," says new President Allen Hall. "A lot of things are going to change this year to be more North Adams-centered and focused in terms of its approach, its affordability, and our marketing and corporate packages."
The New England Collegiate Baseball League team is switching out its friendly fuzzy black and yellow cat for a leaner, meaner blue panther. The Drury blue logo and uniforms, with black, white and gray, is meant to evoke a more assertive, competitive talent while still reflecting the team's North Adams roots.
At the same time, the team is pitching its draw from the Northern Berkshire area and its position as the only Berkshire County team in the NECBL.
"We draw a lot from around the region," Hall said. "This simplifies the logo and opens up doors in branding."
That local feeling is also being encouraged through the recruitment of Berkshire County talent, like the recent signing of Matt Koperniak, a Hoosac Valley standout who ended his freshman year at Trinity College with a .310 batting average. The GM is Andrew Agostini, a Mount Greylock graduate and its football coach.
"We have some of the best college players coming here every summer and a lot our players get drafted to play in the Major League Baseball," Hall said. "So we have a great history of not only the top-level players but one of the organizations that continues to be a model in our league. ...
"We are one of the smallest in the league but our fan base, our enthusiasm, our players are the best in the league."
In addition to local flavor in the team, the team is looking to add more flavor to the Joe Wolfe Field experience.
"We're dedicated to adding a much stronger level of hospitality to the in-game experience so when you get the field, we want you to have more fun — between innings, before the game, to be able to experience for everyone," said Greta Kipp, whose extensive background in hospitality is helping inform the team's seasonal offerings.
This update includes a "fresh take" on food and refreshment and more opportunities for children's activities before and during games, she said.
Hall replaces Daniel Bosley, who's run the 'Cats for nearly eight years. The former state representative announced his departure last week, saying he had loved his experience in baseball but that his business is taking him to Boston and throughout New England more often.
"We are the smallest franchise in the league and have no year-round staff," he wrote, recalling how one of his first crises was an uncooperative nacho warmer. "President is a full-time job with duties and activities that need to attention on a year-round basis."
Bosley wrote that he was sure Hall "will carry on our traditions while improving our team with new ideas and initiatives. He is a good guy with a lot of baseball experience. I hope that you give him as much support as you have to me over my tenure."
Hall, who's lead Cal Ripken Baseball in Williamstown, said he understands the operations aspect of the team but also believes he's positioned to make stronger connections with the local youth baseball and softball leagues, including sponsoring teams.
"We are the connection to the sort of higher level of baseball here," he said. "We have resources that they don't have and they have the enthusiastic fans and we want to bring that together ...
"We think it's really important that we're seen as the pinnacle of baseball in Berkshire County. We should be that for the kids, too."
For now, the organization is trying to get the word out that there's a new SteepleCat in the city and start building some excitement for the spring season.