Nashua, Lynn play it again

It seems like old times with a team from Nashua playing a team from Lynn, Mass., for some type of baseball championship.

The return to Fraser Field with the renovated Manning Bowl in the distance was an interesting setting for the Silver Knights to continue their quest for a second straight Futures Collegiate Baseball League championship on Tuesday.

There are a lot of fans in the Holman Stadium stands that religiously follow the Silver Knights who also did the same for the Nashua Pride. Certainly the visit to Fraser Field for Tuesday’s Game 1 of the FCBL Finals had to bring back some memories.

It was five years ago when the Nashua Pride won their last championship, and they did it right here in Lynn on an early September Friday night, with a high school football game being played in the background.

It was an emotional week. Both franchises, the Pride and the North Shore Spirit, were playing for the Can-Am League title, with their futures on life support. The Spirit played their last game that night and probably should have; the Pride the night before were given new hope as local owner John Stabile introduced a plan the previous night for fans in attendance to get complimentary or reduced season tickets, and those fans only paid a dollar to get in the park in the first place with a line all the way down the stadium parking lot to get in. Based on the playoff support Stabile gave it one more year. It was a wild and crazy night at Holman.

But the next night was special. Nashua fans outnumbered Spirit fans and were louder. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was the last hurrah for Butch Hobson as Pride manager. Chris Hall, the commissioner of the FCBL, was the Pride co-general manager at the time and the tension at Fraser Field was thick.

Hot hitting infielder Olmo Rosario’s two-run homer sparked a five-run Nashua first-inning, and the Nashua fans got louder. The popular former Red Sox reliever, Rich “El Guapo” Garces was needed to squelch the Lynn’s spirit in the ninth and Nashua had its last professional championship.

The scene afterward is etched in memory.

Hall, ever emotional, was in tears on the field. Hobson stood on the edge of the dugout, staring out at the celebration, and was quiet. He knew he had probably managed his last game for a franchise he truly enjoyed working for, one that brought his baseball passion back.

Fast forward five years, and Hall, who always was trying to convince Stabile and others that a college wooden bat league would be a more viable option, has done a masterful job for the Futures League. He was right after all. Lynn was first in opting to go the college route, and the Pride’s other co-GM, Robin Wallace, was in charge of that franchise for a brief time.

Then after a few years in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, new ownership made a stunning FCBL switch. Former major leaguer and Red Sox hitting coach Richie Hebner, who briefly was the Pride hitting coach the year after Nashua’s title, has skippered the Navigators to the league’s second best record.

Back in early July it was clear that North Shore and Nashua were clearly the two best teams in the league.

Now it’s Nashua, a thriving franchise, against a team called North Shore – again for the title.

And Nashua fans are hoping for the same result.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468 or
tking@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow
King on Twitter (@Telegraph_TomK).