Holman has had a starring role in All-Star games
NASHUA – Jon Goode remembers sitting at a meeting in the spring of 2012, when Futures League Commissioner Chris Hall turned to him and said, “Goodie, we’ve got to get this All-Star Game off the ground, and you’re going to do it.
“I remember it was a hellish two months.”
Goode, then the Nashua Silver Knights Vice President, pulled it off along with team president Tim Bawmann, as it was the league’s inaugural All-Star event.
“It takes you out of your routine,” Goode said. “We were trying hard to get people to come to our games, let alone an All-Star Game. It was a big part of our year.
“But it helped us. I think it helped the league more, then it helped the franchise. At that point, the two went hand-in-hand.”
The one thing Goode requested when he accepted the job was that Nashua not “go to the back of the line just because we hosted the first one.”
But that’s exactly what happened, as the Futures League used the stadiums in Lynn, Brockton, Pittsfield, Bristol and Worcester before returning to Holman Stadium for this year’s game, which will have a different flavor as it is the key component in the city’s 80th birthday celebration of Holman Stadium.
That has helped new general manager Rick Muntean with all the preparations – he had the help of a city committee he was a member of in organizing the day’s activities – and the city bought up 2,000 tickets from the league to be available at the Holman box office to local residents.
This will be the third major All-Star event in Holman’s history. The most popular one had to be the independent Atlantic League All-Star Game in 2003, hosted by the Nashua Pride. The stands along the left field line were still there, and the event drew the capacity crowd of 4,300.
It was one of the landmark days in Holman history, with future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson the Most Valuable Player.
Holman had just been renovated, so as a reward the ALPB grudgingly gave Nashua the game.
It was a smash hit, the last time Holman was filled to that capacity (those extra stands are now gone). The Pride were sweating out the attendance, but, as then owner Chris English said, “People were paying attention, and they came out.” Ironically English owns the FCBL’s Brockton Rox and is expected to be on hand for Tuesday’s celebration, as he oversaw not one but two stadium renovations.
Rox general manager Todd Marlin was the GM of the Pride at the time, taking over in January. He had a little more time than Goode certainly did in 2012, but about the same time to prepare and sell the game as Muntean – without the help of a birthday celebration.
“It’s a huge chore,” Marlin said. “For me, the goal was to make it a great experience for the players, the staffs, and the fans. There are so many moving parts.”
Marlin also had to host the FCBL All-Star game in Brockton a few years ago when he had just taken the GM job in March. English had put a lot of money into Campanelli Stadium to renovate it, so that was part of the selling point.
Selling the game is key. “I think every ticket package in Nashua we gave out had an All-Star Game ticket in it,” Marlin said. “It’s a season long approach.”
Not only does the host franchise of such an event have to cater to fans and sponsors – the Pride had a local beverage distributorship play a major sponsorship role which helped – there are league staffs who are coming as well. With the Pride, Marlin organized a softball game at the stadium, plus there is a league party the night before.
At Brockton, he put one staff member in complete charge of the All-Star game.
“My goal was to bring an Atlantic League approach to the Futures League game,” Marlin said. “We had meetings and many, many brainstorming sessions. But it was tough. I started in March, and we didn’t have a real plan until the end of May, beginning of June.”
But for Marlin, the Atlantic League game at Holman will be forever entrenched in his memory. Henderson made it that special.
“That just made the whole week very cool,” he said. “Rickey at times, if you remember, didn’t have the best rep, but he came early – the night before – and earlier that day met with the Nashua High baseball kids, and he shook every one of those kids hands.”
Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett, who managed in the 2012 FCBL game, was the head coach at Nashua High School at the time, and remembers that day and that night vividly.
“We brought pizza for the kids and Henderson came down and had pizza with the kids,” Neverett said. “He talked about the things he wanted to do after baseball, he talked to the kids about how he really wanted to coach high school age kids. That was a great experience for the kids. That was really good, he was really nice. He signed all the kids stuff, whatever they wanted signed.
“It was great, and he was really good.”
In 2012, Goode and Bawmann used their experience from hosting the New York-Penn League All-Star Game a few years earlier, as Knights owner Drew Weber at the time also owned the Lowell Spinners.
“That was harder,” Goode said. “We had the whole New York-Penn League here and plan a lot of events.
“An All-Star Game is something unto itself. You have to pre-plan. It (the FCBL Game) was a big part of our year.”
And it was a success, given the infancy of the franchise and the league. The FCBL had a Scout Day for the players to be showcased in 2011 without an All-Star event; from 2012 on it’s been a prelude to the game earlier in the day.
In 2012, Silver Knight slugger Jon Minucci (Southern New Hampshire University) was named the MVP, going 2 for 4 win an RBI and two runs scored. The teams were broken up with the Original Four (from the FCBL first year in 2011) vs. the new five clubs added for 2012, and the attendance was 1,634. Minucci had guided SNHU to the Division II World Series that year as well.
“You have to be a kid to play this game, can’t be uptight,” Minucci told The Telegraph after the game. “You can’t be uptight. Tonight it was just a lot of fun to play with these guys. You have to have fun. See the ball, hit the ball, I guess.”
“That was a really good All-Star game, there was a lot of talent in that game,” Neverett said. “A lot of guys who got drafted. The atmosphere was good, people in town came. People from around the league, too. It was pretty well done for the first one.
“It’s a long day, though. The All-Star Game is what it is but there’s a lot of stuff that goes on before that.
“But it was like ‘Right before the season, we’re going to have an All-Star Game.’
“I’ve been to the other ones. Everybody has done a good job, they’ve all been good.”
Muntean is organizing his fourth All-Star Game, one in Triple A, one in independent league baseball, and one in another collegiate summer league.
“It’s a lot of details,” he said, “and you want to make it real special for everybody that’s involved, because it might be the last All-Star game (the players) participate in. Plus the city deserves it, you’ve got the All-Star Game. So we try to make it as big a deal as possible.”
Muntean had the Holman suites all sold for the event and once he found out the city wanted to settle on a day for a birthday celebration, he lobbied for the FCBL All-Star Game to be that day.
But without it? His job would have been much, much tougher.
“Very difficult,” he said. “You want it to be an event. An entertainment event. You have to take a look at what tools you’ve got and put it together.”
For one of his All-Star games in Kansas City, Muntean helped organize a Legends Game with former Royal greats such as George Brett, Willie Wilson, and even Vida Blue. “It made the whole thing,” he said.
The players were slated to be selected late this past week, and the teams were going to be the home and away Nashua Dodgers (one uniform saying “Nashua”, the other team wearing uniforms saying “Dodgers”).
“We think it’s going to be a great event,” Muntean said. “That’s why the city jumping in has been such a big deal for us. It’s really made the event.
“It is not an easy thing, because it’s not a league scheduled game. But I’m sure there are a lot of people pointing to that day that are coming out.”
It should be another five star All-Star event in Holman history, one that had a lot more lead time than six years ago.