Archive for July 22nd, 2009

Boy, That Escalated Quickly

You looked at that title and thought this post was going to be about Tony Bernazard and the Binghamton Mets, didn’t you?

Actually, the escalation in question is the California League homerun race.  Just a couple weeks ago, I was ready to fit High Desert third baseman Alex Liddi for a Triple Crown.  The 20-year-old slugger was leading the league in just about everything, including homeruns, runs batted in, and batting average.

He still stands at the head of the line in the latter two (despite a spirited battle from teammate Jamie McOwen, who has seen his batting average slide to .335 since his hitting streak ended), but the first one?  Homeruns?  That’s another story.

Liddi has no homeruns and only five runs batted in in his last ten games.  His teammate, Joseph Dunigan, has four and nine in that same stretch, moving him past the Italian Stallion in homeruns (22-20) and narrowing the gap in RBI (78-73).

The big mover and shaker, however, resides in Lancaster.  Jonathan Gaston, the JetHawks leftfielder, has seven homeruns and twelve runs batted in in his last six games, including two straight two-homerun outings.  Last Wednesday, he and Liddi were tied atop the standings with twenty homeruns each; Gaston now has 27 and a commanding lead.  And, like Dunigan, he is narrowing the RBI lead by the day (78-72).

These guys can be shuffled up to a higher classification at any time, but until/unless they are, the homerun standings in the California League are gonna be a lot of fun to watch.

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Maybe I Should Just Forward This Directly To Dan Duquette

I’ve written about the Nashua Pride/American Defenders here many, many times. For various reasons, and despite all attempts to break me, it is an organization that holds a place close to my heart.

I want the Defenders to succeed, and I feel bad that I don’t personally do more to make it happen. There are probably a lot of people in the city who feel the same way – “We like the idea of the team, we just haven’t done enough to support it.” It happens.

The problem is this: the Nashua baseball fan has been abused and taken for granted for years. Every year, they hear that their team is endangered, on the brink of extinction, only to be saved at the last moment by a kind benefactor who assures them that things will be better this time around.

An ownership group led by former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette bought the Pride from local owner John Stabile (in 2005, conventional wisdom held that the one thing that could save the Pride was local ownership), who had been the main money man for three seasons, I believe, before taking shots at an “apathetic” community near the end of his foray into minor league sports.

At the time of Stabile’s comments, I noted that this was the absolute wrong attitude to have, that after being kicked in the proverbial head for five years or more, after seeing promise after promise after promise fail to come to fruition, the Nashua community needed to be nurtured. The team’s fan base was broken; only years of hard work and patience would bring it back.

Stabile didn’t have that patience (although, to be fair, I’d be a bit short-tempered myself if I lost as much money on the team as he did). I hoped that Duquette and his crew would be sharper, more willing to work with the community and convince people that the new Defenders were not an outside entity, but an honest-to-goodness member of the local community.

*Sigh*

“We were hoping to make a stronger connection with the community and that hasn’t happened,” Duquette said. “The stadium is charming. We would like to succeed here in Nashua but only if we get the support of the community.”

“All teams need to connect with the community in a meaningful way,” he said.

When asked why that connection hasn’t yet formed, Duquette seamed [sic] miffed.

“We’ve tried,” he said. “And we’re going to continue to try.”

It is July of the team’s first season of existence. Criticizing the Nashua community, even lightly, for not supporting the Defenders at this point is asinine.  It’s not a good idea.  Just don’t do it.

What you have to do – and I’ve written similar stuff here before – is show the people in the local community that you actually give a crap.  Get out there, players and coaches and front office and all, and build relationships. Go downtown and talk to people.  Volunteer at the Soup Kitchen.  Put it an appearance at Special Olympics softball practice.  Talk to kids in the schools.  Take every last nook and cranny in Nashua and blanket it with Defenders-related goodwill.  If someone of Eric Gagne’s caliber is coming to Holman Stadium, you get out there and spread the word.  Tell all 85,000 people in the city personally, if you have to.

What don’t you do?  Don’t pass out 4,000 vouchers for free tickets, then get pissy when thirteen people show up – putting a piece of paper in someone’s hand without showing that you give a crap about them won’t work at this point.  And don’t whine in the paper that you’re trying SO hard, but the community just isn’t responding.

I’m almost out of optimism regarding this team.  I’ll still go to games.  I’ll still hope they succeed.  But I harbor no illusions that it will actually happen.  I think they might have finally broken me.

Enjoy Canada.