Sullvan has his place in Silver Knights and Holman history

The Mayor was back at Holman Stadium on Saturday night.

No, not hizzonor, James Donchess. He’ll be there enough in the next few weeks with July 4 festivities and July 17 Holman 80th Birthday Celebration.

We’re talking about former longtime Nashua Silver Knight Ryan Sullivan. Believe it or not, he has his place in Holman history, and who would’ve thought that five years ago?

He was nicknamed “The Mayor” ,he thinks but isn’t quite sure, by former Silver Knight pitcher and Nashua North alum Ricky Constant who was asked during an interview if Sullivan had a nickname. “I think he just made it up,” Sullivan said.

Either way, it stuck.

The Silver Knights wanted to honor their franchise player and did it in a great way. Saturday night was deemed “Ryan Sullivan Bobblehead Night”. Besides his Bobblehead likeness handed out to the first 500 of a crowd of about 1,800 through the gates, he threw out the first pitch, saw a video tribute that included a couple clutch home run video clips from Nashua ETV broadcasts – including the dramtic game-tying home run in the 2016 FCBL Finals vs.Worcester. Oh, and he received his 2017 FCBL Championship ring and also signed autographs.

The only thing he didn’t do? Play in the darn game.

“It’s definitely different,” Sullivan said of not being in uniform for the night in his honor. “I knew this day was coming and couldn’t wait to get here. It’s definitely a cool experience.”

A lot of minor league baseball franchises will have their all-time hero, or a player whose name was synonomous with that team. For example, the Nashua Pride – known mainly for manager Butch Hobson – also had slugger Glenn Murray for several seasons, and he even made his home here.

But a college summer ball team? Just doesn’t happen.

Unless you’re the Silver Knights and Sullivan.

“Yeah, I know,” Sullivan said. “People always make the joke, ‘He was here five years, blah, blah blah.’ There was a reason I was here five years. I could’ve gone other places but I always wanted to come back here. Just because it’s a special place. The way these fans treat you and the organization supports you. This is as good as it gets for summer ball. So why leave?”

“He shined the best when we were in the big games,” Neverett said. “He really did. You go back to last year, that last game at Seacoast when we wouldn’t have even made the playoffs if we didn’t win, and he comes right out in the first inning, whack, three run bomb, we’re up 3-0 and off and running. He really had great moments at great times when we needed him. Very clutch.”

So Neverett then took his thought on Sullivan even further. “Ryan is to us what Ted Williams was to the Red Sox,” he said. “Only difference was, Ryan got a chance to win some championships. But as being an important player in the history of our franchise, I don’t know if there’s anyone higher on the list right now. If we had a Hall of Fame, he’d be the first one going in.”

Neverett knows the numbers almost by heart. Thirty-seven homers, 199 hits, over 140 RBIs. “Unbelievable numbers for summer ball,” he said. “And he kept coming back.”

Sullivan’s popularity among the college ranks was evident when he was warmly greeted by past Nashua teammates and others he either played with or against while at Southern New Hampshire University. There’s just as big a fraternity in college baseball circles as there are in other sports.

Holman always suited him. He said his last great weekend statistically as a college player was a couple of games here when SNHU played Saint Anselm. The place just brings out the best in him.

Sullivan always gets it, always – as many Silver Knights players do – embraced being a fan favorite. About 15 minutes after he arrived on Sunday, a little kid yelled out “I just saw Sully!”.

“Definitely,” Sullivan said. “These kids, they don’t understand that these guys are just college baseball players. Not saying they’re not special, but they’re not big leaguers. They’re just normal kids.”

You see, the players from New England schools aren’t used to playing in front of 1,000 to 2,000 people, and they get that experience in Nashua and other Futures League venues.

“Different from playing school ball when it’s 50 degrees and you’re at some complex and there’s no one there,” Sullivan said. “Just having the crowd here, the fans, just appreciated that and I always tried to let them know that.”

He had quite a year,beginning with winning his second FCBL title but only one in front of the Holman fans last August. Then in late May the Penmen went to the Division II College World Series. But when all tht ended it had to be strange not to be coming to Nashua to continue the baseball year, as his college eligibility was done.

“Definitely different,” he said. “But I was beaten up at the end.”

Ah, yes, the end. The real world now beckons Ryan Sullivan as he’s hoping to get into the food and beverage industry. But if Holman was a city unto itself, its Mayor would win re-election in a landslide.

“Great memories,” he said, “that I’ll be able to hold on to for a long time. Forever, really.”

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251,