- Staff file photo by Bob Hammerstrom^^American Defenders of New Hampshire lost their home field after the city of Nashua locked the gates to Holman Stadium Tuesday, August 25, 2009, and parked a tractor on home plate canceling the night's ballgame.
- Staff file photo by Bob Hammerstrom^^American Defenders of New Hampshire players gather on the deck outside the team's offices at Holman Stadium Tuesday, August 25, 2009 after the city locked the gates to the field and parked a tractor on home plate putting a halt to the night's ballgame.
- Staff file photo by Bob Hammerstrom^^American Defenders of New Hampshire players leave the locker room carrying some of their belongings Tuesday, August 25, 2009, after the city of Nashua locked the gates to Holman Stadium and parked a tractor on home plate to halt the night's game after the team's ownership failed to make rent and pay accumulating debt to the police and fire departments.
City officials boot baseball franchise out of Holman
NASHUA – It began with so much promise, many fans actually on the outside looking in on a warm, late May night in 1998 because Holman Stadium couldn’t fit more than 4,325 fans because of the local fire code.
It ended 11-plus years later, with the baseball franchise those fans had paid to see actually on the outside looking in, as well. That included owners, front-office staff and players.
The American Defenders of New Hampshire, successors to that Nashua Pride franchise, weren’t even a one-year wonder; while they finished the 2009 season on the road, they were never able to conclude the Holman half of their schedule, locked out by city officials for failure to pay their rent.
The lockout, similar to how the ill-fated, woefully run Nashua Hawks independent baseball franchise died in 1996, essentially ended the city’s 12-year run of uninterrupted independent minor league baseball.
The Defenders’ ownership group, Boston Baseball All-Stars LLC, whose point man eventually was former Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, owes the city some $44,000, most of it back rent but a portion of it for police and fire department detail overtime costs.
The group bought the team from former Pride owner John Stabile in September 2008 and appeared to be on solid financial footing, promising that revenue from its U.S. Military All-Stars program would filter down to the minor league team.
It never happened. Marketing was lacking, so were fans, and word leaked out in early July that the club had failed to make its one-time, $50,000 rent payment to the city. A portion of it was later paid, but Aug. 25, Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, citing money still owed the city, had the Department of Public Works place a tractor at home plate so the club couldn’t play any more home games.
Asked if she were disappointed in the outcome, Lozeau said, “How could I not be? What these guys brought to the table was baseball experience that maybe the other owners didn’t have. John Stabile may not have had baseball experience, but he paid his bills.”
The owners blamed lack of fan and business support for their financial woes, but the players were the ones caught in the squeeze. The product was watered down as the season went on with a rookie-filled, low-payroll club that ultimately finished last in the Canadian-American League at 36-58 and last in attendance with an average of 1,153 fans for only 35 dates.
“I’m afraid,” Lozeau said, “this will have a chilling, long-term effect on the future of (professional) baseball in our beautiful, historic stadium.”
– TOM KING