Pittsfield Suns finish second in Futures League attendance
The results between the white lines might not have been what the owners of the Pittsfield Suns had hoped for in 2016, but they are more than willing to say the season that just ended was a successful one.
"I wish we were 31-22 and not 22-31," Suns co-owner Jeff Goldklang said. "But at the end of the day, the fact that Pittsfield supported us and the kids accomplished what they needed to accomplish is something we can fall back on."
Pittsfield has had only two field managers in its five-year history, and if four-year veteran Tom Conley wants to make it five years, Goldklang said he's good with that too.
"If you ask me right now," Goldklang said, "there's nobody else I'd want managing the Suns next year than Tom Conley."
The Suns failed to make the Futures League playoffs for the first time since their inaugural year in 2012. Ironically, 2012 was the year the team had its best on-field performance.
But for the second consecutive season, Pittsfield finished the season second in the Futures League in attendance. The Suns missed setting a club attendance record by 535 fans and missed breaking the average attendance record by 21.
"I can tell you from a corporate and a partnership standpoint, we also had our strongest year," Goldklang said in a phone interview with The Eagle. "Outside the lines, we were very happy with the support that Pittsfield continues to show us and we are very encouraged going forward."
The Suns drew 46,379 to Wahconah Park this summer, according to numbers on the Futures League website, and averaged 1,784 fans per game. There were 26 openings at the park this season.
In the five years that the Suns have called Wahconah Park home, they have not fallen below third in attendance. Pittsfield's best season was in 2014, when the Suns led the league with 46,913 fans coming to games and an average of 1,804. Both were record-setting numbers when they came up.
For the second consecutive season, Worcester led the league in attendance. The Bravehearts, who were playing Nashua for the Futures League championship, drew 62,434 fans and averaged 2,230. Bristol was third in the league. The Blues saw 41,013 fans come to Muzzy Field for an average of 1,577 per game.
"Obviously, it's been a build since we came here several years back," Goldklang said. "We're in a very comfortable stage right now with where the Suns are at from a community standpoint and a business standpoint."
On the field was a somewhat different tale.
"Obviously, it was not ideal. I think it's difficult in a short season when you have a couple of games that we lost early, those extra-inning games and some heartbreaking losses," the owner said. "I'll be the first to admit that we didn't play all that well in a couple of those games."
The Suns had a four-game winning streak at the end of the year and won five of their last six games. But Pittsfield was 6-8 in one-run games, and 3-7 in two-run games.
While there was no playoff in Pittsfield's 2016, the Suns did put their names all over the record books.
Eric Hamilton set Futures League single-season records with 18 doubles and 63 runs batted in. He also hit 12 home runs — a team record — and hit .319. Al Zachary, who hit .305, finished two shy of tying Will Toffey for the single-season runs scored record. Toffey, whose father Jack grew up in Great Barrington, scored 47 runs in 2014. Zachary scored 45 this year.
Suns pitcher Jamin McCann now holds the single-season strikeout record. McCann and Bristol's Izzy Fuentes both struck out 70 hitters. That broke the record of 65 set by Martha's Vineyard's Matt Quintana in 2014.
As to the manager, Goldklang couldn't be more effusive in his praise and desire to have him return.
"We're thrilled with Tom. We have some experience in the family dealing with the Steinbrenners," said Goldklang, whose father Marvin is a part-owner of the New York Yankees. "I'm not going to be a George. I joked with Tom about that one. If you go 22-31 under George, you're probably gone.
"Tom does a great job with the boys and with the community."
One thing Goldklang did say is that any discussion with Conley about 2016 may not come until this coming week, or even a bit later.
"One of the things I don't like to do is have that conversation two or three days after the season ends. Not that I don't want Tom back at all," said Goldklang. "It's been a long season for him. He's done a lot of travel.
"I do anticipate in the next seven to 10 days sitting down with him and hopefully working something out for next year."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.