Gold aspirations for Silver Knights

On Thursday night, the Nashua Silver Knights will open their Futures Collegiate Baseball League season with a road game against Pittsfield, Mass.

On Friday night, they are set to host Old Orchard Beach, Maine, in their home opener at Holman Stadium, before which they will distribute rings to players and team personnel to commemorate their 2011 FCBL championship.

They should also receive a round of applause for renewing their fans’ faith that the business of baseball can actually succeed at Holman Stadium, which some might consider a far more difficult achievement than their on-field triumph.

Minor league ballclubs have come and gone at Holman, all with the best of intentions. The Silver Knights, operated by the Lowell Spinners, the Red Sox affiliate in the New York-Penn League, look to have found a path to long-term success.

The season is relatively short – 54 games – played during the prime time for summer baseball: June, July and the beginning of August. The ticket prices are affordable, the team features college players who are eagerly pursuing their baseball dreams, and there are plenty of off-field promotions and entertainment, appealing to young families and older fans who are looking for affordable ways to while away their summer evenings.

Perhaps most important of all, the Silver Knights have not only worked hard to win over those who cynically wrote them off as one more baseball venture doomed to fail at Holman, they have made inroads to turn those cynics into business partners.

Merchants who may have brushed them off in 2011 actually have expressed varying levels of support for the team, which has offered more than brave talk to show that they are intent on making this work.

Realizing that potential sponsors wanted, more than anything, some convincing that the team and league would be here for the long term, the Silver Knights pre-paid their 2011 rent. They also signed a two-year lease extension on Holman Stadium while their league aggressively went after more New England communities, expanding from four teams in 2011 to nine in 2012.

Seeing any sort of league more than double its franchise roster from its first season to its second is close to unheard of.

Three Massachusetts cities that lost their independent league professional teams in recent years – Pittsfield, Brockton and Lynn – saw the Silver Knights’ 2011 success and have joined the FCBL. Cities that have had teams in other summer leagues featuring college players have joined.

As a business model, summer college leagues offer high quality baseball with relatively low overhead. Their greatest advantage over independent pro leagues is that they have no player payroll. Travel expenses also are minimized since there are few, if any, overnight road trips.

There is every reason to believe the FCBL will successfully establish itself around New England and that the Silver Knights
will call Holman Stadium their home for years to come.

Perhaps most impressively, any remaining cynics in Nashua may actually come around, take in a game or two at Holman this summer, and climb onto the bandwagon.