Wednesday November 23, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- The Pittsfield Park Commission has opted for experienced over local unproven ownership in choosing the next baseball team to call Wahconah Park its summer home.

By a 5-0 vote, the commission Tuesday night recommended the Goldklang Group negotiate a license agreement with Mayor James M. Ruberto to operate an expansion franchise at the historic ball yard starting in 2012. Ruberto was unavailable for comment about the decision.

The unnamed team would play a 54-game schedule -- 27 at home -- in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

Goldklang has offered to pay Pittsfield an annual fee of $13,500, plus $440 per game to field team at Wahconah Park, an offer matched in recent days by the proposed Pittsfield Panthers, who originally proposed a $2,500 annual fee and $400 per game.

The New Jersey-based organization won out over the backers of the Panthers of the New England Collegiate Baseball league led by city residents Richard Johansen and Tom Goggins. The NECBL previously had a local franchise in the Pittsfield Dukes, later renamed the American Defenders, from 2005 through 2009.

While the commission vote was officially unanimous for unity’s sake, the board was actually split over which ownership group should succeed the financially troubled Pittsfield Colonials. The Can-Am League team folded this fall after spending the past two seasons at Wahconah Park.

Commission members Anthony Simonelli, Simon Muil and Michele Matthews gave the edge to Goldklang while Clifford Nilan and chairman Dr.


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John Herman supported the Panthers.

"If a professional baseball group wants to come to Pittsfield, I vote for the Goldklang Group," said Matthews.

"Our history speaks for itself," said Jeff Goldklang, the group’s managing director, after the meeting. "We have four successful minor league teams."

The Goldklang Group -- chaired by Jeff’s father, New York Yankees limited partner Marvin Goldklang -- currently owns baseball franchises in New York, South Carolina, Florida and Minnesota.

Despite the lack of baseball ownership experience, Nilan felt the Pittsfield Panthers would provide a pair of local rivalries with two of the other 12 NECBL teams.

"With the league having teams in North Adams and Holyoke, it would help Pittsfield," he said.

The nearest Futures league team is in Torrington, Conn.

Johansen was gracious in defeat and is willing to help the city’s newest baseball franchise succeed.

"[Goldklang and I] had a little conversation about that after the meeting," he said. "We’ve offered to do what we can for them and the city."