Posts Tagged ‘Nashua Pride’

The Long, Winding Road To Complete Nerd-dom

“You know, they have Monkey Boy bobbleheads for sale out front.”

Those were the words uttered by my friend Allison in the eighth inning of the Nashua Pride game last night.  She and her boyfriend, Cody, had just returned from an excursion around the ballpark with my son.  Holman Stadium is not that big, and they had found themselves on the main concourse.  Their reason for being there is unimportant: what matters is that Allison happened to see Monkey Boy, that evening’s special guest, signing autographs.  And she saw the bobbleheads.

Now, Allison is not particularly supportive of my bobblehead habit.  I bought one of Jeff Giuliano, a Nashua native who plays for the Los Angeles Kings, last week.  When the glue holding the spring gave way and the head fell almost completely off, she laughed for a full ten minutes.  But being a good friend, she knew that this was something I would enjoy, so she mentioned it.

My eyes lit up.  My wife’s face fell.  She also does not condone my bobblehead habit.

“I need to check this out,” I told her.  “I need to at least find out how much they are.”

The line was at least 75 people long and composed almost entirely of parents and small children.  It was surprisingly light on sketchy guys in their late twenties.  I wasn’t interested in an autograph or anything, so I wandered up to the head of the line, where they happened to be unwrapping bobbleheads before my very eyes.  I decided to approach a Pride employee who was standing near the table.

“Hey, I have a quick question.  How much are the bobbleheads?”

“Six dollars.”

I withdrew ten or fifteen feet to regroup and survey the line.  Still a ton of people.  Not worth waiting that long for a bobblehead.  Maybe…

“Hey, sorry, I have one more question.  Do I have to wait in line to buy a bobblehead or can I just grab one and pay for it right now, real quick?”

He looked at another employee, the one who was pulling the bobbleheads out of a bag.  She gave the okay, so I pulled my money out and handed it over.  I figured they give me an unopened box, but the guy sort of looked at me funny and I got the feeling that I was supposed to just grab one of the opened ones on the table and be on my way.

That’s when it happened: Monkey Boy picked up a bobblehead, looked at me, and made a scribbling motion with the pen in his hand.

“Want him to sign it?” someone said.

In that one moment, I went from a nerd who hopped to the front of the line to make a quick bobblehead purchase to the nerd who cut a line filled with kids to buy a bobblehead and have it signed.  That’s like seven notches higher on the nerd scale, folks. 

Monkey Boy signed my bobblehead and I got out of there as fast as I possibly could.  Back to my seat, where the first thing I saw was the “What the hell” look on my wife’s face at the sight of a small monkey clutched firmly in my left hand.  She softened somewhat when I told her the price; she softened a lot when our son decided it was the greatest thing he had ever seen and almost leapt from her seat to mine to get it.  I had to put it in his diaper bag to keep it away from him.

Oh yeah: the Pride lost, 8-1, after giving up six runs in the eighth inning.  And I still don’t know what the deal is with Davilia’s number 11.

Nashua Pride Opening Weekend Pictures

It only took a week, but I finally managed to get some pictures from last week’s Nashua Pride games that my wife and I attended.  Big props to Mrs. OMDQ, who downloads these from the camera because I’m too technologically illiterate to do it myself.

Looking at the field for the first time, Joey appeared a little unsure of what he was actually seeing.  One of my favorite parts of being a dad is watching him look at things for the first time and trying to imagine what is going on inside that little brain.

The first game we went to, Opening Night, featured a pregame ceremony in which members of the Pride team and staff received 2007 Can-Am League championship rings.  The first person introduced was former PA announcer Ken Cail, who served in that capacity for the team’s first ten seasons before moving down the highway to do radio broadcasts for the Lowell Spinners (A-Red Sox).

On hand to receive his ring was Olmo Rosario, the 2007 Can-Am League’s Most Valuable Player.  While he was standing in line, a fan in the next section raced around trying to set up an “Ol-mo” chant that seemed like it was left over from last season.  Didn’t really work out well.  Olmo is currently playing for the Connecticut Defenders in the Eastern League, hitting .319 with three homeruns, 17 RBI and 10 steals. 

After the ring ceremony was complete, they raised the championship banner on the flagpole in right field.  My wife managed to snap a picture just as the wind kicked up and made the banner wave, just like banners are supposed to do.

Game 2 of the season.  Joey hadn’t quite recovered from Opening Night.

Prior to the game, longtime manager had his number 17 retired by the team.  He was given a framed jersey and his number was hung on the wall below the press box.  As you can see, I got a picture of one of those things.

Problem was, I meant to get a picture on Opening Night and never did, so these were taken pregame, before Butch’s number was added.  Next time I go, I’ll get a shot of his number, which actually hangs directly over one of the tunnels. The numbers on this side, on the left of the press box if you’re standing with your back to home plate, belong to Joe Grahe, Milt Cuyler, Felix Jose, and Glenn Murray.  The first three used Nashua as a springboard back to the major leagues.  Murray was a longtime fan favorite who broke the Atlantic League record for homeruns with the Pride.

On this side: Mike Easler, the first manager in 1998; Curtis Pride, who used to spend about a month with the team every spring before some team realized they should have signed him already; and some guy named D’Avilia.  I wanna say his first name is Vic, but I’m not entirely sure, or why he’s up there.

And finally, we need to include a photo of the Pride mascot, Stitches…or, as I like to call him, Mr. Met North.

Butch Hobson Night in Nashua? I’m So There

As previously promised, my wife and I ventured a few miles down the road again on Friday to watch the Rox of Brockton square off against the Pride of Nashua in an official Canadian-American League regular season contest.  We probably wouldn’t have bothered if not for a couple my wife used to babysit for in high school – they’ve been a host family for several years, which means they get tickets to every home game, but weren’t able to go last night and offered us the tickets instead.  Free tickets?  Heck yeah.

We were joined in our endeavor by our friend Allison, who had the unfortunate luck of standing at the cash register waiting to pay for her food while the longest national anthem rendition in sports history was being sung.  I’m as patriotic as anyone, but I think I missed my son’s first birthday waiting for “the home of the brave.”  We also had to wait for the cashier to get quarters (one of the best things I saw on either of the past two nights?  Workers at the concession stands digging into their own pockets and yelling out, “I’ve got four quarters!”  Folks, THAT is minor league baseball, and it is awesome).

 The fourth and final ticket went to my friend Chris, who arrived in the second inning and immediately asked, “So where’s Barack Obama?”  The senator wasn’t on hand, unfortunately, so Chris ended up turning his attention in another direction: a charity auction to benefit a local girl who has leukemia.  For several innings, he kept a close eye on a great picture of Bobby Orr, Larry Bird and Ted Williams.  It appeared to be autographed and had a high bid of about $125.  Midway through the game, Chris got into a conversation with the guy running the auction, who broke the sad news that the “autographs” were laser engraved, not real.  The whole thing was priceless: the guy gave Chris the whole, “You didn’t think those autographs were real, did you?  Oh, you did?  That’s so sweet and naive of you,” spiel, at which point Chris decided that he was not interested in submitting any further bids.  I texted my wife and Allison: “I just saw hope die.”

With slightly better weather than the previous night, there was a bigger crowd on hand (announced at just over 2,000 after the game, with more actual bodies than Thursday).  They had a good reason to be there: prior to the game, the Pride had a ceremony to retire the number of former manager Butch Hobson, who led the team to the Can-Am League championship in 2007 before moving back to the Atlantic League with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.  Butch was given a framed “Number 17” jersey and his number was hung below the press box along with his name and years of service.

After the ceremony, Butch signed autographs on the concourse.  I wasn’t sure how much of a line would greet him, given the fact that everyone in southern New Hampshire who wanted a Butch Hobson autograph probably already has at least five (I don’t know that Butch ever, EVER refused an autograph request in eight years), but there was an impressive number for most of the first inning.  I waited until the end, when I could walk right up, and caught Butch’s eye. 

I was uncertain that he would remember me.  He meets so many people in his travels, has probably dealt with hundreds of front office staffers in his career, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t know my name when I worked for the team, but that wouldn’t stop Butch Hobson.  As I approached the table, he greeted me with a spark of recognition in his eyes, a firm handshake, and a hearty, “Hey man, how you doin’?”  Did he actually remember me, or was it the practiced response of a man who is supposed to know everyone?  Who cares?  He autographed a ticket stub for Joey – his first autograph – and years from now I’ll be able to tell Joey about the time I talked with Butch Hobson and got him to sign something for my boy.

(Keep an eye out in the next couple years for K.C. Hobson, Butch’s oldest son, who is a pretty fair baseball player.  Word is that he throws in the low 90s, hits well, and may be drafted next year.)

As for the game…what game?  I was busy socializing.  The Pride fell behind early, then built up a decent lead, then gave up eight runs in the sixth inning (I think) and ended up losing 12-8.  Krazy George was on hand again (they announced at one point that he was part of the group responsible for the first Wave in sports history) and we saw the mascot Stitches a few times; once, he gave Allison a high five, which pretty much made her night (he refused to give her a “high two” – don’t ask).  Joey got a little stuffed Stitches from the frightened kid who was selling merchandise in the stands (I don’t remember what led up to it, but I do recall saying, “Run now, James.  Run while you still can,” as he backed away with a nervous smile on his face).  Chris took one look at it and wondered why Mr. Met was wearing a Pride hat.  Well put, sir.

We were supposed to be treated to a fireworks show after the game, but a Nashua city ordinance prevents such displays after 11:00 PM.  Since the Pride staged a minor ninth inning rally and the game ended at about 11:01…no fireworks, a very disappointing turn of events.  I know they always say that promotional schedules are subject to change, but it’s always extra sad when they actually do.

A Lovely Night For A Ballgame

Last night, my wife and I took our ten-month-son, Joey, to his first professional baseball game, a Can-Am League tilt between the Brockton Rox and the hometown Nashua Pride.  We weren’t sure if we’d make it, considering the rain showers that peppered the area during the afternoon, but things cleared up as game time approached and we were able to settle in for a nice (albeit cold) evening at the ballpark.

Watching my son look around Holman Stadium for the first time was both awesome and hilarious to see.  I’ll have pictures tomorrow, hopefully – you could just tell he was thinking, “Alright, what in the hell is this place, and why have they brought me here?”  I had high hopes of his first exposure to the crack of the bat – maybe he would instantly perk up, eyes totally focused on the field, and I would know at that moment that my boy was SUPPOSED to be a ballplayer – but alas, it was not to be.  Joey’s first reaction to the crack of the bat was to continue staring down the teenage girl sitting next to my wife.  A little ladies man, that one.

As shocking as it was for Joey to see Holman Stadium for the first time, it was twice as insane to enter the ballpark and not hear Ken Cail’s booming voice over the PA.  As noted here some time ago, Cail, the team’s longtime PA announcer, left the position during the offseason to pursue an opportunity as a radio announcer for the Lowell Spinners, Single A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.  Ken was on hand to receive a championship ring during a pregame ceremony to commemmorate the Pride’s 2007 Can-Am League championship, and I ran into him at one point before the game.  He sounded excited to be calling the Spinners games, acknowledging that it was a good opportunity for him, but it’s still sad to go to the ballpark and hear someone else’s voice. 

(That voice, by the way, now belongs to Woody Woodland, who I spoke with once or twice a few years ago and am probably treating unfairly by comparing him to Ken.  It’s not Woody’s fault he has to follow in the footsteps of the greatest PA announcer in minor league history.  And no, I’m not just saying that because I told Ken about this blog and he might read this.  Seriously, I’m not.)

One of the things I tried to keep an eye on through the night (well, through the six innings we stayed, anyway) was the promotional schedule, which was surprisingly light, even when you take into account that it was Opening Night.  The team only ran two on-field promos that I saw, a sponsored bicycle race and a pizza toss.  In all honesty, I didn’t see the pizza toss – I think I was in the team store at the time.  My wife actually texted me to ask if I had the camera because she knew I wanted pictures of stuff like that.  She’s a good woman, that one.  They also did another between-innings thing with the mascot dancing to a song on top of the dugout, which was sort of cliched and unimpressive.  I’ll be interested to watch throughout the season to see if the paucity of promotions was actually planned or if they plan on bumping their efforts up on nights when larger crowds are expected (about 1,500 announced last night, maybe 500 or so actually on hand).

I’ll have some pictures of the ballpark and festivities tomorrow, hopefully.  We’re going again tonight, when the Pride honor former longtime manager Butch Hobson by retiring his number 17 before the game.  Hobson left the team after last year’s championship and is back in the Atlantic League as manager of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.

Two Roads Diverged

On a shelf in my parents’ living room, there is a baseball signed by every attendee of the 2004 New Hampshire Baseball Dinner. Some of the names are starting to fade, but most are still clearly visible. Jim Rice. Johnny Pesky. Rick Wise. Butch Hobson. Bill Monbouquette. It’s one of those items that is pretty cool to have, even if the actual monetary value is probably nonexistent.

In addition to some of the big name stars who signed balls for fans that night, there were a couple of relative nobodies, minor leaguers who had played their high school ball in New Hampshire and were now working their butts off for the opportunity to play in the major leagues.

Manchester’s David Williamson (for some reason, all the stats sites refer to him as “Willie” Williamson) was a former seventh round pick by the Cardinals out of UMass-Lowell who was starting to run into some serious and confusing trouble. Like Steve Blass, Mark Wohlers, and others before him, Williamson was a pitcher with immense physical talent who, somewhere along the way, had forgotten how to throw strikes. In 2002, with the Low A New Jersey Cardinals, he appeared in six games, all starts, posting a 2.25 ERA, 10.13 K/9, 7.13 BB/9, and a 1.29 WHIP in 24 innings pitched. His line the following year? 17 games, four starts, 9.90 ERA, 7.20 K/9, 15.30 BB/9, 2.45 WHIP in 20 innings pitched. In 2004, he ended up at the end of the world, in Nashua, pitching for the Pride, hoping to figure out the problem and capitalize on his potential. Didn’t happen. I distinctly remember watching him in one of the three games he pitched – he got two quick strikes on one of the hitters he faced, then hit the backstop on the fly with his next pitch. He ended up appearing in a total of eight games between Nashua and Pennsylania (the league’s traveling team, which really WAS the end of the world for most guys), walking 31 batters in 7 2/3 innings. Just like that, his career was over.

The other minor leaguer at the dinner that night was Litchfield’s Kyle Jackson, a 32nd round selection by the Boston Red Sox in June 2001. Unlike Williamson, Jackson has achieved limited success at the minor league level; for awhile, he was even included on Boston’s 40-man roster. He suffered a setback in 2007, however, going 4-9 with a 5.99 ERA in 42 relief appearances at AA Portland. Now 25 and in his seventh minor league season, Jackson’s career is at a critical stage. Will he finally follow in the footsteps of Charlie Zink and Chris Smith (Portland’s “Governor” and “Mayor”, respectively, as Kevin Gray tells us at the beginning of a story on Jackson in today’s Union Leader), who left the Sea Dogs after a combined nine seasons with the team, moving down the highway to AAA Pawtucket? Or does Jackson’s story end before he walks down the tunnel, through the dugout, and out onto the impossibly green grass of Fenway Park? At this point, only time will tell.

Ken Cail Is Leaving Nashua; This Is The Saddest News Ever

Okay, so maybe it’s not the saddest news ever.  But for anyone who has ever attended a Nashua Pride game at Holman Stadium, the announcement in today’s Nashua Telegraph that Cail, the team’s play-by-play announcer since its inception in 1998, is leaving to broadcast Lowell Spinners games is upsetting.

The lede to Tom King’s story perfectly explains Cail’s importance to Nashua and its Pride:

One day, just prior to a Nashua Pride game a few years ago, then-team owner Chris English was mingling in the stands, and listened to the bellowing voice of Ken Cail over the Holman Stadium public address system.

“Listen to that voice,” English said. “Ken Cail is the Nashua Pride.”

That’s not hyperbole, folks: it’s fact.  Cail was the perfect PA announcer, with a deep, rich voice and the ability to think quickly on his feet.  I’ll never forget a night in 2004.  One of my daily tasks was to prepare the game script for that evening, detailing all the necessary promos and advertisements to be read throughout the evening.  Somehow, things got mixed up, and the copy of the script that Ken got was different from the one that the rest of us had – not the whole thing, but he had the Flying Rubber Chickens promotion scheduled for the seventh inning, we had it for the eighth, or something like that.

The inning break came, Ken announced it, and…nothing.  Nobody went on the field.  He caught it after about three seconds, made a swift acknowledgement of the mixup, and moved right into a different, unplanned promo.  He was always doing stuff like that, taking little mistakes that I might’ve made and smoothing over them until they were barely noticeable.  By the end of the season, I almost didn’t have to give him a script – he just knew what needed to be said, and when.

That story explains the real reason why Ken Cail was so phenomenal as a PA announcer: because he is so phenomenal as a person.  Most people would have been pretty upset about an incident like that because it puts them on the spot publicly.  Not Ken; he was probably the most professional person I’ve ever met, an incredibly decent person who could be forced into a situation like that, see that I was upset about it, and pick me right up with his “We’ll get ’em next time” attitude. 

After I left, Ken worked as the Media Relations Director for the Pride, and according to the Telegraph called road games on the Internet for the team.  His true love, however, is radio – he has a morning radio show in New Hampshire and does play-by-play for the Manchester Monarchs hockey team – which led to his decision to leave the team for the opportunity with the Spinners.  In all honesty, I feel sad because that job is probably beneath him.  As talented a voice as Ken Cail is, he belongs in the big leagues.

The Nashua Pride will have a new public address announcer when the 2008 season begins next month.  They will never have another Ken Cail.