Pittsfield baseball changes owners

Posted
Saturday April 10, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- The Pittsfield Colonials have yet to play a game, but the independent baseball league team has undergone an ownership change that has left former Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette out of the group.

Leslie "Buddy" Lewis, the executive director of the Nokona Athletic Goods Co., now owns the team with Robert E. Seaman III, a New York City attorney and businessman who has been a limited partner of the National Football League's Oakland Raiders for more than 20 years.

Lewis, a part-time Richmond resident, chaired Boston Baseball All-Stars LLC, the group that brought the Canadian American League franchise from Nashua, N.H., to Pittsfield in February. Lewis and Seaman's group will be known as Pittsfield Colonials Baseball Club LLC, Lewis said.

Duquette, Terry Allvord and Jerry O'Connor, the three other principals in Boston Baseball All-Stars LLC, are no longer involved with the club.

"Terry, Dan, and Jerry didn't want to be part of it because they didn't want to take the risk," Lewis said, referring to the financial problems Boston Baseball All-Stars experienced last year in Nashua. The city of Nashua locked the Can-Am League team out of its stadium in late August for failing to pay a $45,000 debt.

Seaman is the founder of the Pro Advisory Group, an economic development firm based in New York. He has also owned professional cycling teams, and competed as a professional race car driver. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Duquette, a Dalton native, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. He was the original owner of Pittsfield's New England Collegiate Baseball League franchise, which he brought to Wahconah Park in 2006 from his Sports Academy in Hinsdale. Boston Baseball All-Stars purchased Pittsfield's NECBL team two years ago, but sold the franchise in December to a group from Bristol, Conn., partly to pay a $24,700 debt it owed to the city of Pittsfield for the use of Wahconah Park last summer.

Lewis declined to reveal the sale price of the Can-Am League team, but said the funds would be used to pay the old group's debt in Nashua, and any remaining outstanding debts that it has with private entities in Pittsfield. According to Lewis, Boston Baseball All-Stars LLC had agreed to settle its debt with the city of Nashua for $34,000. He said 90 percent of the group's remaining debt is owed to interests in Nashua.

The Can-Am League team is playing in Pittsfield under the terms of the three-year lease that the NECBL squad signed with the city last year to play at Wahconah Park. Lewis said he believes the ownership change will not affect the status of the lease, which expires on Sept. 10, 2011.

If Pittsfield Colonials Baseball Club LLC is deemed a brand-new company, it would have to obtain a new lease to play in Wahconah Park this summer. But if the firm is considered to be the same company with some new shareholders, the current license agreement would not be affected.

"It's my understanding that he brought in new partners," Mayor James M. Ruberto said on Friday, referring to Lewis.

"Buddy had indicated that he was bringing in new partners and I'm happy to see that he finally was able to get that accomplished," he added.

In a meeting with The Eagle's editorial board in January, Lewis and O'Connor said they were planning to bring in additional investors to provide the ownership group with more capital. Lewis said he met Seaman through a third party last year, while Can-Am League Commissioner Miles Wolff said he believed negotiations between the two men began last October.

Wolff was unaware the sale of the team had been finalized, and said the transaction still has to be approved by the league's five other owners.

"It does need final league approval, but I don't expect that to be a problem," he said. "It will happen within a couple of weeks by conference call."

Wolff said it is unusual for a team to be sold so close to the regular season, which begins at the end of May.

"It usually happens in the fall," Wolff said. "But this guy has been speaking with him since the fall, so he's been involved in Buddy's decision making."

The Colonials will play three home games in Canada this summer, a mid-July series with the Quebec Capitales that will take place in Ottawa and Trois Rivieres, Quebec. The team considered moving to Ottawa from Nashua before it came to Pittsfield, but Wolff said that decision had no bearing on the Canadian series. The league is interested in placing another team in Ottawa, Wolff said, possibly by 2011.

"Buddy did the league a favor," Wolff said. "I asked him if he could transfer three games before he had anything going on in Pittsfield."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6224.


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