Nashua manager not sold on HR derby

NASHUA – Fans, players and managers love home runs.

But when it comes to having home runs solely deciding an extra-inning game, Nashua Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett would rather find a better way.

The Futures Collegiate League announced last month that it was instituting a new rule in which if games were tied after 10 innings, a home run derby, similar to hockey’s shootout format, would be used to determine outcomes and prevent marathon games. The idea is, according to the league, to save time and also pitchers’ arms.

Neverett was at the league meeting in the Holman Stadium suites in November when the idea was first brought up. He suggested instead the rule that is used in international competition and one that will be tested by Major League Baseball this year in two rookie leagues and used in the World Baseball Classic. That rule puts a runner at second base to start the 11th inning.

"It got shot down right away," Neverett said. "In our league, only 4 percent of the games went extra innings. I didn’t want (the new rule), but I’ll have to deal with it when it happens. It’s going to change my philosophy of how I manage in late innings. I’m going to be taking a lot more chances to avoid (the derby)."

Neverett also sees issues with the hockey-like point system that will be established. Once a game is tied after 10 innings, teams automatically get a point. Wins are worth two points, either in the derby or by the end of 10.

"If you don’t have a good home-run hitting team, you’re going to be playing for that (one) point," Neverett said.

Ballparks also come into play, with dimensions. For example, Leary Field in Portsmouth has such shallow dimensions, balls that are routine flyouts elsewhere turn into home runs at Leary.

"You go to a home run derby at Seacoast? The (entire) game’s a home run derby," Neverett said.

"I think the international tiebreaker is a safer thing. You put someone on second, and pitch your way out of it. It’s not a perfect system."

There are a lot of other logistical details Neverett wonders about. He wonders if batting practice balls will be used, and if they are fouled off in the stands, do they need to be returned back onto the field? He throws batting practice at 4, does he have to throw again for the Derby? Little things.

But here’s one big thing:

"They did leave the door open that if it’s not working, the league will drop it," Neverett said. "But what about the point system then? What happens to the points (for ties after 10 innings) that teams have? Then what happens?"

Either way, Neverett says the new rule won’t change the way he tries to build his roster. For example, he won’t be going out trying to load up on home run hitters.

"No, no," he said. "Not when, in 560 games, you have about 26 to 28 that go into extras. I’m not going to change the way I’m doing things for a home run derby."

Baseball begins

It may not feel like baseball out there with the recent snowstorm pattern, but Neverett says now is an important time as the college baseball season begins with teams starting their seasons down south.

"I’ll be watching a lot of the new guys," he said. "I sent the the whole team an email about that, saying I’d be looking at game box scores, etc. I’ll be excited, watching every weekend while teams just play on weekends before the spring. I’ll see what coaches told me the truth."

New Knight excited for Nashua

One of the new players Neverett will likely keep an eye on is Clark University middle infielder Kyle Bonicki, who says he is anxious to come to Nashua after he hit .403 last year with Wachussett, second in the league behind former (at least for now) Silver Knight and Merrimack native Mickey Gasper.

"I think we’ll give Nashua something to cheer about again this year," Bonicki said on the Silver Knights’ website. "As a visiting player last year, the first thing I noticed was how electric the atmosphere was at Holman. I’m really excited to be part of the Nashua community this year, and I’m also realy looking forward to getting to know my new coaches and teammates."

Bonicki said he has enjoyed playing for former Silver Knights manager J.P. Pyne, currently the head coach at Clark.

"Coach Pyne is a great coach because he establishes a level of trust with his players," Bonicki said. "Many coaches know the game very well but not everyone can communicate as effectively as he does."

Mavericks seek new home

The Mavericks ownership is continuing its efforts to find a new home for the future in the seacoast area.

Mavs owner David Hoyt, according to published reports, wants to build a $25 million multi-field baseball complex that includes a 2,000-seat stadium in Dover near the Spaulding Turnpike.

Hoyt, a former player in the Twins and Cardinals systems, owns a company called USA Training Centers that has a facility in Newington. According to published reports, his proposal calls for, among other things, five fields, a three-floor observation building and a training field with a seasonal dome. It’s reportedly received planning board approval, and is now before the Dover City Council with a public hearing/vote set for March 8.


? Neverett said the team has already lost one preliminary roster member. Reliever Connor Gavin, who went 0-2 with a 5.00 ERA, but was helpful in the playoffs, is shelved for 2017 after undergoing shoulder surgery. That includes this spring, too, at Southern New Hampshire University.

? The Silver Knights are a finalist for the annual Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year award.

? The Knights are looking for both interns and host families for the 2017 season. Check out the club’s website or call the team offices at 718-8883 for information.