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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Nashua Silver Knights get their wish with packed home opener

Tom King

Holman Stadium is open for more Nashua Silver Knights business this summer.

For the local baseball fan, that’s a good thing. It was a long winter, wasn’t it? ...

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Holman Stadium is open for more Nashua Silver Knights business this summer.

For the local baseball fan, that’s a good thing. It was a long winter, wasn’t it?

Finally, the Knights had a decent night on Friday to enjoy their home opener. And it showed, as the walk-up ticket line at game time was huge.

“The last three years, we had rain delays the first two years and a rainout last year,” Knights President Tim Bawmann said as fans lined up outside Holman about a half-hour before the gates opened. “I was here Thursday night, and between now and then, we sold 400 tickets. I was here all day, and the phone was ringing off the hook.

“There’s finally a buzz we haven’t had.”

It showed Friday night. Many in the crowd of more than 2,000 weren’t in their seats at game time. They were either down the left field line admiring the Boston Red Sox World Series championship trophies, in the long right field concession lines or still waiting to get into the ballpark.

Traffic on Main and Amherst Streets was backed up, and parking was tough to find.

This is the opener the Silver Knights wanted. And they got it.

“This is it,” team owner Drew Weber said. “We were due. This is great. And there’s a lot of excitement in the park. People are having a really good time.”

“Look at what they’ve done here,” Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said after she threw out the ceremonial first pitch. “Not only have they become a piece of our community really quickly, but I think this was the first opener that first, had good weather, and two, might be a sellout. It’s a great group.”

For the first time in three home openers, there were no FCBL championship rings to be given out. So, as Silver Knights general manager said earlier in the week, the team opted to celebrate other champions – the Red Sox, with their title trophies prominently on display.

“This is great,” said Karen Cullinane, of Nashua. “It’s great for the kids, great for the community.”

The Knights are still getting the word out. Cullinane, for one, hadn’t set foot inside Holman Stadium since attending a Nashua High School graduation in 1997.

“I found out about the team when the kids saw them come to their school,” she said.

Holman has its charm, which helps.

“It’s just a really cool place,” said first-year Silver Knights manager Ted Currle, who had come in with visiting teams in the past. “The atmosphere is always really good. They do a really good job with the promotions.

“But most of all, I love how the fans are so close to the players and the field. And it’s a phenomenal backdrop for a hitter.”

It’s basically a brand new Knights team this season, with only seven holdovers from a year ago. But word spreads quickly, and a lot of the newcomers were anxiously looking forward to their first Holman experience.

“I’ve actually never played in an environment like this,” said new Knights outfielder Carson Helms, a Farmington, Conn., native out of Southern New Hampshire University. “Everyone knows the Nashua Silver Knights around here, so I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The franchise had one wish: that late pitching coach Tom Bowles could have been present. Bowles died unexpectedly of a heart attack just over a week ago. He was honored with a moment of silence and his initials in the first base coach’s box, and his family was presented with his retired No. 45 jerseys.

“Tom would’ve loved this,” national anthem singer Al St.Louis said. “He would always say, ‘What are you singing tonight? You ought to change it up a bit.’ ”

The Silver Knights don’t need to change much, if anything. If Friday night is any indication, they’re doing just fine.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468 or tking@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow King on Twitter
(@Telegraph_TomK).