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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Silver Knights Travis Terril, left, and Alek Morency are interviewed during practice Monday, June 6, 2011, at Holman Stadium.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Silver Knights Logan Gillis takes batting practice Monday, June 6, 2011, at Holman Stadium.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Silver Knights Logan Gillis gets ready to take batting practice Monday, June 6, 2011, at Holman Stadium.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Silver Knights Brandon Cox gets ready to take batting practice Monday, June 6, 2011, at Holman Stadium.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Silver Knights coach Mike Chambers, right, talks with John Minucci during batting practice Monday, June 6, 2011, at Holman Stadium.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Silver Knights Brandon Cox takes batting practice Monday, June 6, 2011, at Holman Stadium.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Silver Knights shortstop Rob Benedict turns a double play over Sharks baserunner Jack Colton during a game at Holman Stadium Wednesday night against Martha's Vineyard.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Nashua Silver Knights Logan Gillis from Merrimack takes one for the team during a game Wednesday night at Holman Stadium against Martha's Vineyard.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Nashua Silver Knights six-foot-six-inch first baseman Mark Sanborn rips the ball for a single during a game Wednesday night against Martha's Vineyard.
Thursday, December 29, 2011

4. Silver Knights hit to all fields

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Telegraph will run the 10 biggest local stories of 2011 in the paper during the next several days.

NASHUA – They took the baseball equivalent of a lump of coal and turned it into silver.

The Nashua Silver Knights put fun back into baseball at Holman Stadium and restored the belief that some type of baseball entity could exist in a facility that many always looked upon as a New England jewel.

The Silver Knights weren’t a professional team, but they were professionally run. They became the model franchise for the first-year Futures Collegiate Baseball League, a summer wooden bat league for collegiate players.

The irony is that they were owned and operated by the Lowell Spinners, the Class A minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox whose success some always felt hindered the chances for independent minor league baseball to ever succeed in Nashua.

In the end, it all worked out for the best. The Silver Knights led the futures league in attendance, averaging close to 900 fans a game. That’s almost double what Spinners officials – namely Nashua resident and VP/general manager Tim Bawmann and VP of marketing/promotions Jon Goode – had expected.

On and off the field, they were a success. They had the most fans, had the league’s best facility, the best promotions and, it turned out, the best players.

They captured the inaugural FCBL championship with a two-game playoff sweep of the Torrington Titans. They eventually captured the title on the road in Torrington with an 8-3 win and returned to a hero’s welcome at Holman, with fans lined up by the entrance to the stadium as the bus pulled into the parking lot at 1 a.m.

“A championship always feels good,” said Silver Knights third baseman James Katsiroubas, one of four players from nearby UMass Lowell who were keys to the team.

Katsiroubas led the league with 39 RBI. The other two River Hawks who were Silver Knight offensive keys for the summer were .342 hitting center fielder Matt Jacobs and power hitting (six homers, 35 RBI) first baseman Mark Sanborn. Their UMass Lowell teammate on the mound, Geoff Fisher, went 6-0 with a 1.53 earned run average.

There was local flavor as well, including second baseman Logan Gillis of Merrimack, who, after his college season at Bentley University, led the FCBL in hitting.

The club was managed by Franklin Pierce University assistant coach Mike Chambers, a former Spinner who was familiar with that outfit’s promotional ways and knew how to push the right buttons when it came to college players.

Chambers, it would turn out, had to give up the job this fall because of expanded duties given him at Franklin Pierce. Now longtime former Nashua High School South baseball coach B.J. Neverett, Chambers’ assistant this past season, is taking over.

Besides the on-field talent, what made the Silver Knights a success was their promotional abilities.

Armed with one of the best promotional schedules for any summer collegiate league team around the country, the team enticed curious fans to re-enter the Holman turnstiles and even had steady clientele for the luxury suites above home plate.

New England Patriots placekicker Stephen Gostkowski came and kicked footballs into the stands. Forward Shawn Thornton of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins came and signed autographs and tossed T-shirts into the crowd. Dollar soda-beer nights on Thursdays drew crowds as large as 1,500. You had a phenomena known as Cowboy Monkey Rodeo and the heralded return of the popular Monkey Boy as well.

As Bawmann said after the team was named the FCBL Organization of the Year, “We made it a priority to ensure your trip to Holman was about more than just baseball.”