Tuesday, June 15, 2004

I bought a baseball team.

Well, that’s a bit of an overstatement. I bought a tiny percentage of a baseball team that’s forming in Pittsfield, MA. The team is scheduled to start playing for the 2005 season in Wahconah Park, an ancient ballpark best known for having “sun delays”. When Wahconah was built, it was set up so that the batter would be facing west at sundown, so games are sometime delayed until the sun goes behind the trees and the batter can see the ball without being blinded by the sun.

So, how did I get involved in this? A few months back, I had sent Jim Bouton, the former major league pitcher and author of the second-best baseball book ever, “Ball Four” (the best is “Veeck as in Wreck”, but that’s a topic for another day) an email through his Web site about something in his latest book, “Foul Ball”. To my surprise, I got an email back thanking me and from then on I’d get an occasional email intended for some sort of “friends and family” list. I’d also send him something of interest once in a while.

Just before our Cooperstown trip, I sent Jim a piece of news that I thought he’d find interesting. When I was checking my email at the inn, I got an email back asking if I’d be interested in joining a group he was putting together to bring minor league baseball back to Pittsfield. The town had been abandoned by the Berkshire Black Bears after the 2003 season. I discussed it with A. and then wrote back and said I would be interested. Jim said he’d have his partner send me a copy of the prospectus.

A bit of background here. Jim Bouton’s last book, “Foul Ball”, was about his attempts to refurbish Wahconah Park and bring an independent minor league team to Pittsfield. It didn’t work out, for reasons detailed in the book (you can find it on Amazon or in your local library). The Berkshire Black Bears team came in and quickly moved out.

So I got the prospectus, read it, and liked the business plan. Much of the plan was outlined in “Foul Ball”, although it’s been tweaked over the last couple of years. I thought the financial projections were doable, given good management. The company, Wahconah Park, Inc., is planning to upgrade the ballpark (which is in desperate need) and bring in an independent minor league team, likely from either the Atlantic or Northeast League.

I decided I wanted to do this and talked it over with A. She asked me a lot of really good questions and wanted to make sure for herself that this wasn’t primarily an emotional investment. I convinced her (and myself), that while there was certainly an emotional component to doing this, I though the venture had a reasonable chance to succeed and that we could make some money with this if it works out.

Wahconah Park, Inc’s first event is going to be on July 3, with a vintage baseball game played at the ballpark. The players will all wear uniforms and play the game as it was played in the 1920’s and ‘30’s. I’m going to go out to the game and meet my partners for the first time, along with checking out the ballpark. I’ve been to Wahconah once before, pre-kids, when I went with a friend to see the Mets NY-Penn League team out there. The ballpark has an ancient wooden grandstand, and the seats are VERY close to the field. In fact, we had box seats for that nights game and we were closer to the batter than the pitcher was! I was very alert every time a right handed batter came up, and I was wishing that I hadn’t left my glove in the car. We managed to escape uninjured, and had a good time, but it was obvious even seven or eight years ago that Wahconah needed some serious improvement.

So, that’s it. I’ve fulfilled a lifelong dream. The July 3 game is going to be aired on ESPN Classic at 7:00, so you can get a glimpse of what I’ve bought there.

On another baseball front, I had my first experience in a suite at McCoy Stadium on Saturday night. There were 20 of us who rented out the suite and we had an incredibly fun time. The suites are on the field level, a place I had only sat once before, so it’s a completely different perspective on things than sitting in the regular seats, which are elevated above the field. The suites themselves are very nice, with seating outside to watch the game, plus a TV, private bathroom, fridge and other amenities. Included in the price of the suite is food, which consists of typical ballpark fare (hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, ice cream, etc.). There’s also a menu for drinks and other types of food, which cost extra.

We had a great time in the suite. It’s such a different way to watch a ballgame that it really made even a lousy game (the Pawsox lost 15-7) into a really fun evening.

Ah yes, the game itself. This may have been the most poorly played game I’ve seen in all my years of watching baseball. There were six errors made by the two teams, three dropped fly balls (including one by rehabbing Trot Nixon) and an assortment of poor pitching. If I had been sitting in the regular seats, I probably would have taken off after the 7th.

Final note on the suite: a big thank you to my friend Dave for arranging it. I can’t wait to go next year!

Finally, I saw Roger Clemens lose his first game of the season to Mark Prior and the Cubs last night. Roger was 9-0 going into last nights game, and he’s pretty much a dead certain lock to start the All-Star Game for the National League next month. At 41, Roger has a decent shot to win his seventh Cy Young Award. It’s amazing how my dislike of Clemens dissipated once he wasn’t wearing that big “NY” on his hat anymore.


At 10:13 AM, Blogger The Hey said...

*Final note on the suite: a big thank you to my friend Dave for arranging it. I can’t wait to go next year!*

My pleasure!!!


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