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New Hampshire baseball focuses on community outreach as much as good baseball. Courtesy photo.




New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Where: 1 Line Drive, Manchester
When: Next home game is Thursday, July 17, at 7:05 p.m. against the Portland Sea Dogs 
Visit: nhfishercats.com
Call: 641-2005
 
Nashua Silver Knights
Where: Holman Stadium, 67 Amherst St., Nashua
When: Next home game is Saturday, July 12, at 7:05 p.m. against the North Shore Navigators 
Visit: nashuasilverknights.com
Call: 718-8883




Moneyball
Why baseball in New Hampshire makes sense

07/10/14



 If you’ve ever listened to the radio station 93.7 WEEI for more than 30 minutes during baseball season, you can hear the broadcasters, and the fans who call in, complaining about the length of the games and the prices for a Boston Red Sox game. Meanwhile, in Manchester on a recent Sunday afternoon, the Northeast Delta Dental stadium, home of the Fisher Cats, is half empty.

This seems hard to believe considering the game lasted two and a half hours (about an hour and a half shorter than a typical Sox game) and tickets behind home plate cost $12 (almost $30 less than Fenway’s bleacher seats).
And while the MLB has the big names under its belt, Ronnie Wallace, the general manager of the Nashua Silver Knights, says the minor league is just as geared toward creating a good ballpark experience for fans of America’s pastime as it is toward creating a good team.
“I love the minor league business model because it is more about promotions and about finding several different reasons to get people out to the ballpark,” said Wallace. “There’s a kids area where kids can play while the parents can enjoy beers and the game. We also have a lot of elders; that’s what they do during the summer. We can cater to all age groups.”
Logistically, both New Hampshire-based teams (the Silver Knights, the single-A affiliate of the Red Sox, and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays) are more easily accessible — closer, for most, than Boston and without the traffic congestion of Boston’s streets. This allows fans to leave closer to game time and return home by the kids’ bedtime.
While both teams are affiliated with major-league organizations, Wallace said the Silver Knights consider drafting players from local colleges first, with frequent pick-ups from University of Connecticut, Southern New Hampshire University and Northeastern University, amongst others. It’s good for the morale of the Silver Knights organization, Wallace said, and it makes for a better baseball game.
“Kids that play for us are going to play harder for people in the stands than someone who comes from California,” he said. “If there’s a girlfriend in the stands or friends and family in the stands, the players are going to want to win more than someone who doesn’t have anybody there.”
Of course, these teams also have players who could get called up to the majors, giving New Hampshire the ‘I saw him before he was famous’ bragging rights. According to Ramshaw, the team has had over 60 players make it up to the majors since 2007.
But for fans of baseball who only want to watch their favorite players from the majors, because the teams are affiliated with Major League Baseball, major league players will sometimes step down into double-A leagues to get their bearings after rehab stints.
Michael Ramshaw, senior vice president of sales for the Fisher Cats, says that some of the biggest draws he’s seen at the stadium have been when Red Sox players have played with the Portland Sea Dogs, the Sox double-A team. He recalls when pitchers John Lackey and John Smoltz performed several games in Manchester before making it back to the majors.
“What that creates for us, besides just getting a lot of people out, is it gets a lot of people out who have never been here before,” he said. “It’s like that old cliche ‘just give us one chance.’ Give us one chance and you’ll really see what we have to offer.”
To attract families looking for a frugal night out with the kids, the Silver Knights organization holds adult ticket prices to $5; kids under 10 pay $3 and children under 3 get in free. While the kids can enjoy things like $1 hot dogs on Wednesdays, parents and other of-age baseball fans can go to the concessions to get draft beers for $1 on Thursdays. 
The Fisher Cats have seats starting at $6 a pop and offer several promo and giveaway nights featuring businesses in the area that sponsor the team.
“We want [the fans] to … just enjoy a good baseball game and make it affordable,” said Ramshaw. “Minor League baseball is very affordable. Who wouldn’t love to come out here and see the quality of baseball you could see here in New Hampshire and go home with money still in your wallet?”
Wallace doesn’t believe there is a true comparison between the Red Sox experience and the experience of the minor leagues. When looking at the league and his organization, he says minor-league ball is its own entity, offering a more intimate focus on the fan experience while still keeping the game exciting.
“Baseball is awesome in general,” said Wallace. “The minor league is family-oriented and family affordable. You’re in the ballpark for less than $20 and you’re not gonna spend more than $40 at concession. Especially where our economy is today, you’ll probably have a lot of fun if you come here.”
 
As seen in the July 10, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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