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.
“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.