FCBL loses team, Silver Knights start June 1

NASHUA – It’s official: The Futures Collegiate League will be down to nine teams for the 2017 season.

The Torrington Titans, for at least this summer, will go dark and as a result one team will be off each night during the seventh FCBL campaign as the schedule was released on Tuesday.

The Nashua Silver Knights will begin defense of their 2016 championship on the road, visiting the Bristol (Conn.) Blues on Thursday, June 1, but have their Holman Stadium home opener the following night, Friday, June 2, at 6:45 p.m. vs. the Pittsfield Suns. Before the game the team will hold a championship ring ceremony.

Nashua will play 29 home games, as the team actually purchased a game from the Leominster (Mass.)-based Wachusett Dirt Dawgs. The Silver Knights will be the only team in the league that plays each team seven times, which will add up the travel miles. Silver Knights GM Ronnie Wallace counted the total travel mileage for the season at 4,962 miles, “or the distance from Nashua to Las Vegas and back.”

“We’re pretty much centrally located,” Wallace said. “I like the schedule, except I don’t think the defending champions should open the season two-and-a-half hours on the road. But that’s what it is. Overall, it’s pretty much what we were looking for.”

Last year, the Knights ended the season with two straight Thursday through Saturday weekend homestands, but not this year. “That’s tough to get every year,” Wallace said. “We understand the conundrum the league was in.”

There are some new wrinkles. First, Wallace did an on-line poll for Saturday night home times and the winner was 6:05, a change from the usual 7:05 time.

“It wasn’t even close,” he said. “And when we polled season ticket holders at our annual Christmas party, it was 90 percent for 6:05. It gives fans something to do after the game, much easier for that at 9 p.m. than it would be when Saturday games were getting over around 10.”

The team will two 11:05 a.m. games, the first being the popular Education Day game on Tuesday, June 6. The second will be the revival of the Youth Camp Day game on Wednesday, July 26. It had been absent from the schedule the last couple of years due to poor attendance.

“We just hired Brian (ticket manager Anderson) full time now, so we should be better able to handle that (in terms of selling it),” Wallace said.

With nine teams, Mondays will not always be off as they were in the past with 10. There are eight days off in total, four of them Mondays, two Saturdays, a Thursday and a Friday.

As for the big ticket fireworks nights, the team will be home on Monday, July 3 and also have five Friday fireworks nights – June 2 and 30, July 14 and 28, and Aug. 4.

What Wallace likes the most about the schedule is six Thursdays, when the team has it’s beverage night special: June 15 and 29, July 6, 13, 20 and Aug. 3. The regular season winds down on Sunday, Aug. 6 at Seacoast and playoffs begin Aug. 7. The format is the same: divison winners get a bye, then two out of three semis and finals.

Also, what is now the annual Silver Knights Alumni Game will be played on Wednesday, May 31 at Holman. The FCBL All-Star Game will be July 18 at Bristol.

Finances certainly had to play a part with the demise of Torrington, whom Nashua defeated for the first FCBL title back in 2011. Nashua lost to Torrington in the 2014 first round. The Titans were near the bottom of the league in attendance. FCBL Commissioner Chris Hall said back in November he had hoped to find a 10th franchise site, but that obviously didn’t happen, and those efforts delayed the schedule release by about a month.

But now Wallace & Co. have something more concrete to sell. First, the Silver Knights offices will be closed beginning this Friday until Tuesday, Jan. 3.

“It’s great, now we’ll come back from our holiday break and hit the ground running,” Wallace said.