At long last, Silver Knights Holman opener is here

Staff photo by TOM KING This is the championship ring that all the players from the 2017 Silver Knights will receive prior to Friday's Holman Opener, as at the top it says "Back to Back" to signify the 2016 and 2017 titles.

NASHUA – The unofficial kickoff of summer takes place on Friday night at Holman Stadium with the Nashua Silver Knights’ eighth home opener.

“I’m really excited,” new Silver Knights general manager Rick Muntean said. “It’s my 34th opener. I keep telling myself ‘Calm down, it’s your 34th one.’ But every every one is different.”

But what’s not different for Silver Knights fans is the Opening Night pre game festivities, as many players from the 2017 Futures Collegiate Baseball League championship team will be on hand to receive their championship rings in a lavish pre-game ceremony.

The ceremony may be a little different than in the past, as this year, according to Muntean, season ticket holders and their families will present the rings to the players who are able to attend. Only a handful of last year’s team are on this year’s roster and some are still playing with their college teams in the post season, including one of last year’s playoff heroes, Southern New Hampshire’s Tom Blandini.

“I think we’ll have a pretty good turnout,” said Muntean, who noted that team owner Drew Weber is slated to attend as well as former assistant general manager Cheryl Lindner. Former longtime Knights GM Ronnie Wallace will be out of town and unable to attend.

The ceremony should begin about 6:15 p.m., with a skydiver delivering a representative ring at around 6:10 p.m. If the weather cooperates, Muntean is expecting a crowd of well over 2,000 by the start of the game, and the luxury suites are all sold for the night. Nashua Mayor James Donchess is slated to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and there will be a post-game fireworks show, as there will be after every Friday home game during the rest of the season.

“If the weather can hold, I’m hoping it will be over 2,000,” Muntean said. “I’m anticipating a pretty good walkup.”

Both the right field and home plate (back concourse) concession stands will be operating, and a few new items have been added, Muntean said. The Kids Area down the left field line will also be open, and at some point – perhaps by Friday – a small basketball court beyond the left field picnic area may also be ready.

Nashua will send righty Luke Dawson, who will be a senior at Bentley University, to the mound. Dawson pitched for the Seacoast Mavericks last year, and was second in the FCBL in strikeouts. Dawson had a great spring at Bentley, going 6-4, 3.16.

One goal for the Silver Knights, who lost their opener at Worcester 13-2 on Wednesday and were at Brockton on Thursday night, is to play well at home. Last year they were 13-14 en route to a 26-27 regular season record. In the playoffs, though, they won three games, including the title clincher.

“We have to play better at home,” Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett said. “For some reason last year we didn’t do that.”

The biggest change for the franchise since that memorable mid-August night last summer when a crowd of about 2,500 remained in their seats to celebrate the franchise’s fourth title was in the front office. Muntean, a former FCBL Executive of the Year when he ran the Bristol Blues three years ago, was hired in January after both Wallace and Lindner amicably resigned in November – coincidentally at the same time – to pursue other careers outside of baseball. He has basically kept the things that were successful under Wallace and Lindner – the team drew a franchise best 1,460 per game last summer, third in the league – while saying he would make slow changes to things he felt needed to be improved/altered. As for overall advance ticket sales/sponsorships/advertising, “I’m OK with it, but I’m not jumping up and down about it,” Muntean said. “We have to do a lot better in groups and season ticket sales.”

The June schedule isn’t conducive to large crowds, with three Sundays, three Mondays, two Tuesdays, and two Wednesdays among the 15 dates, which is over half the home schedule. This will be the first of four straight home games for the Silver Knights, who have Saturday off but host Brockton Sunday at 5:05 p.m., Martha’s Vineyard at 7:05 p.m. Monday, and the Vineyard again at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the annual Education Day game. That game will likely have a large crowd of students from Nashua schools.

In any event, the long awaited home opener is here, and Muntean and his staff are thrilled.

“Are you kidding me?” he said. “Thank God, let’s go. It’s a quick season. It’s funny, it seems like it takes forever to get here, and then bing, bang, boom, you’ve got the playoffs.”