Nashua Silver Knights, fans enjoy another Holman Stadium opener

A former minor league general manager in Nashua hit the nail on the head with one of his theories.

“You only get one Opening Night,” said Billy Johnson, who ran the independent Nashua Pride for the first five years of their 11-year existence. “So you better get it right.”

That’s what the Nashua Silver Knights set forth to do Friday night, with a large crowd beginning its march into Holman Stadium.

Opening Night. It’s extra special on Broadway and at ballparks. Two years ago the Silver Knights got washed out completely, postponing the game by mid-day thanks to a 24-hour torrential rain.

Last year, Holman was packed, and there was a healthy crowd of around 2,000 on Friday night. Maybe more was expected, but you’d never know it talking to team president Tim Bawmann, who a couple of days ago was outspoken at the challenges Holman presents servicing the fans.

“Hey, this is great,” Bawmann said.
“Great night, great weather. I don’t know this park as well as I’d like, but we’ve got a good crowd.”

On Opening Night – unless it rains – everyone is happy. Silver Knights Vice President of Marketing Jon Goode has been through so many of these with the sister Lowell Spinners and the Knights. He described the feeling in several ways.

“Nerve racking, exciting, nauseating,” he said.

Nauseating? Sure, the stomach gets unsettled to say the least.

“You work 10 months for this,” Goode said. “You want everything to go so great, because everyone on the staff has worked so hard.”

For the players? It’s just as big. The Silver Knights had several alumni back Friday, and they always loved the first game at Holman.

“Absolutely, it’s surreal,” former Silver Knight Jimmy Ricoy said. “It’s almost not even about baseball. It’s fun. It’s more than fun. You’re always looking in the stands, and you get to experience what it’s going to be like the next 50 games. Then it’s all baseball.”

Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau was nostalgic before she threw one of a few ceremonial pitches. Lozeau presided over the arrival, but also the lockout of the ill-fated Pride successors called the American Defenders.

Holman went without a major tenant for a summer until she talked with former Pride general manager Chris Hall and Lowell Spinners owner Drew Weber about a new college wooden bat league.

Would the city be interested?

Sure.

“I feel blessed that I got to be part of this,” Lozeau said. “This is a good fit.”

Indeed it is. The city is big on this. The Park-Recreation Department crew had Holman looking as good as ever. A quarter acre of sod was delivered on Monday. Park-Rec bigwigs Nick Caggiano and Scott Painter had people working tirelessly, as did the Silver Knights. Park-Rec interns Steve Maffee and Zach Husband helped paint the Knights logo behind home plate. The city guys love Opening Night too.

“Oh yes,” Caggiano said. “You should have been here this afternoon, when we were working on the logo. Scott had everybody out here. Everything looks great, doesn’t it?”

It certainly did. Holman had a great crowd, just filing in when Amherst’s Tracy Dell’era sang a smooth National Anthem.

By the sixth inning, after the beer and hot dogs were consumed, Max Burt singled in the Knights’ second run and the crowd roared.

Silver Knights Season Five had begun.

“I think we made it,” Bawmann told the crowd prior to the first pitch. “You guys are a testament to that.”

Opening Night is always a hit.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468, tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or @Telegraph_TomK.