Hall will always be a big part of local baseball history

Bring up the name Chris Hall around Futures Collegiate League circles, and you’ll always get an opinion.

That’s what commissioners do. They set the tone for their leagues, but they also make the tough decisions that normally won’t be popular.

Hall was never afraid to make those, and that’s what made him suited for the job as FCBL Commissioner, a job he’s leaving at the end of the month per Monday’s announcement.

At some point, per request of yours truly, he’ll sit down and give his opinions on the league and reflect on what he did right, what he feels he could have done over if given the chance. Some of you may remember that in the fall we took our shot at being FCBL commissioner for a day, and there was a lot we’d change. Most of the comments in response to that came from general managers around the league, and they were favorable. That shows there was a lot of unrest in the league last year.

And there should’ve been. Only seven teams, stuck with having to declare co-champions due to weather and a late schedule, quality of play and umpiring down, all signaled the need for change somewhere. The FCBL boasted record average attendance but when you cut the teams down to seven, the math kind of takes over.

Like we said, it’s easy to take shots at the Commish. Hall himself said on Monday that it was time for the owners to hear a different voice, and after this past year, he’s probably right.

But, it must also be remembered that Hall was one of the league’s creators. He worked hard to build up the product, and took a lot of pride in doing it.

Thanks to the work of Hall, the Futures League has cornered the market on the region’s minor league stadiums. There’s a lot that goes on behind closed doors, and Hall’s extensive connections certainly warrant him staying around as an advisor, as the league and he announced. As Silver Knights owner Drew Weber said a month or so ago when the subject of the Hall rumors came up, “Hypothetically, we’d likely have Chris working for us in some capacity, he has certain talents.”

Hall, who lives right down the road in Chelmsford, Mass., is part of Nashua’s sports history. He’s a former Nashua Pride general manager, where his baseball acumen brought the city and the franchise its second and final championship.

And he played a key role in Nashua getting the Silver Knights.

“Great job Chris Hall on the hard work and everything you did for the FCBL,” former Silver Knights vice president Jon Goode wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “Still fondly remember those meetings when we decided to create our own league. You did an amazing job and thank you for taking our idea and turning the FCBL into one of the best leagues in the country.”

Accolades well deserved. Hall took the owners desired for profit business model and protected it in his way, and that created some ownership/franchise casualties. The league tried to grow too quickly, settled for a couple of bad owners and bad venues in the name of that growth. That is something we’d be curious whether Hall agrees.

But make no mistake, the Futures League, and the Nashua Silver Knights, are in a state of change. Familiar faces now have come and gone – Tim Bawmann, Goode, Ronnie Wallace, Cheryl and now Hall. Who would have thought that when Weber had put both the Lowell Spinners and the Nashua Silver Knights up for sale over three years ago that he would outlast all of them in the FCBL?

The league owners say they will do an extensive search for Hall’s successor. It will be a hugely important decision because the Futures League is approaching a crossroads. It’s growth, in the name of fiscal responsibility (meaning good owners) and good venues has been stunted. Its flagship franchise, Worcester, faces a huge challenge in a couple of years when the Triple A WooSox and their spanking brand new ballpark become a reality. The shadow of the older, more established New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) still hovers over it in terms of where college coaches prefer to send some of their top talent.

We said at the end of this past season that the current off-season would be huge for the Futures League. Now, it becomes an even more important six months as it seeks new leadership.

Its soon-to-be former leader, Chris Hall, did the good, tough job that was required. He deserves a ton of credit.

Now it’s time to take things to the next level, if that’s indeed possible.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251,tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or@Telegraph _TomK.

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