Pittsfield Suns release schedule for upcoming season; Futures League down to seven teams

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PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Suns and the Futures League have released their respective schedules for the 2018 baseball season. Both the team, and the league schedules, will look different.

That's because the league will be down to seven teams this summer.

The Seacoast Mavericks are taking a season off as the ownership prepares to move into a facility in Portsmouth, N.H. The Wachusett Dirt Dawgs are not playing this coming summer as they look for a new home. With the losses, the league will have the Bristol Blues, Brockton Rox, Martha's Vineyard Sharks, Nashua Silver Knights, North Shore Navigators, the Suns and the Worcester Bravehearts.

"It's not a huge loss for us," FCBL commissioner Chris Hall said. "As a league we get better. We don't have to have 12, 13 or 14 teams. If we're at seven strong, we're seven strong. If we're eight strong, we're eight strong."

With the loss of both teams, there are seven teams that will play in the 2018 season. It is a season that opens at Wahconah Park on Wednesday, May 30, when the Suns play the Brockton Rox.

"From a comfort level in 2018, I am, as an owner in the league and as a lifetime baseball operator, I am very comfortable with where we are as a league right now," Suns owner Jeff Goldklang said in an interview with The Eagle.

Even with the seven teams, there will be a 56-game schedule that starts at the end of May and the regular season will conclude on Sunday, Aug. 5 — with the Suns at home against Bristol.

It is a one-division league this year, with six of the seven teams making the playoffs. The top two teams will earn a first-round bye, with teams three through six will play a one-game playoff.

For his part, Goldklang said that the seven-team league is more than solid, and he is looking forward to the coming season.

"Pound for pound, we are as strong or stronger than just about any collegiate league in America, in terms of our seven operations," Goldklang said. "I love our ownership groups. I love our ballparks."

The Suns are changing things up just a bit this year. The seventh season of baseball at Wahconah Park brings with it new start times.

Most weeknight games will begin at 6:30 p.m., Saturday games will start at 6, while Sunday games will begin at their traditional 5 p.m. start time.

Goldklang said the start times are up to each team, and that Pittsfield's changes were made after consulting ticket holders.

"On nights when we have fireworks or youth groups out, we don't really want games ending at 10:30, if we can control that," Goldklang said. "We did move up the start time a half hour. That was a situation where we canvassed our fans and asked them if we moved up to 6:30, would it be something they would embrace.

"Overwhelmingly, they voted yes in that respect."

There are three exceptions to the regular start times. The game against Bristol on Tuesday, June 5, will start at 10:30 a.m., as it is the annual School Day Game. Two weekend fireworks games, on Saturday, June 22, and Sunday, Aug. 5, will start at 6:30 p.m.

The Suns will play 28 home games.

The 56-game schedule does not provide equal team distribution. Worcester and Bristol, two of the Suns' West Division rivals, will play Pittsfield 12 times.

There are also a number of home-and-home series against Futures League teams. The Suns have no homestand longer than two games, and will play three consecutive road games once — July 9-11.

The All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, July 17, in Nashua, N.H.

The league is getting started a couple of days earlier. The first games are on May 30, instead of June 1, where the start had been for the two previous seasons. In Pittsfield's first four seasons, the league had started play no earlier than June 4.

"We're starting on Wednesday [May 30], because of the schedule with seven teams, you have to start earlier," Hall said, "to get it all laid out where everyone gets a day off. To get to the 56-game schedule, we had to start earlier."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.


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