Wednesday June 6, 2012

Do the Pittsfield Suns of the 2-year-old Futures League have a future in Pittsfield? Management enters tomorrow's home opener with sunny optimism, but the Suns are preceded by a long list of similarly hopeful baseball people who ended up waving the white flag of surrender after failing to persuade Pittsfield and Berkshire residents to enter Wahconah Park in significant numbers.

Pittsfield's baseball glory days ended 11 years ago when the New York-Penn League left in the wake of a failed attempt to build a new ballpark. A variety of low-level professional teams and amateur clubs have come and gone since then, all done in largely by brutally poor attendance. The combination of Wahconah Park, which has been spruced up but remains antiquated, and the accessibility to NESN in Red Sox Nation put these teams in deep holes they couldn't climb out of.

The Suns, however, do have a few things going for them. The Goldklang Group is experienced in running minor league teams. The Goldklang family owned a portion of the Pittsfield Cubs in the mid-1980s so there is presumably institutional knowledge about what the group is up against. The group's strength appears to be promotion, which is critical today when the "entertainment experience" is what draws families to games, not baseball alone. (The Goldklangs even have a "Director of Fun" in Bill Murray, who dropped in on Wahconah Park when the Cubs were there at the height of his post-"Ghost busters" fame.) With no player salaries, the amateur Suns will have a lower overhead than the independent pro teams that struggled here.

A baseball team enhances the fabric of a community, but the community has to want the team to become part of the fabric. Winning over the community, along with the weather, are twin challenges facing the Suns. They can't do anything about the latter and we'll see in the months ahead what they can do about the former.