English returns to Holman with Brockton
A familiar face has been hanging out at Holman Stadium from time to time.
But, unlike the days when he was the owner of the area’s professional baseball team, former Nashua Pride money man Chris English is now, well, the enemy.
Just two years ago English was at Holman when the Nashua Silver Knights honored the Nashua Pride as part of the stadium’s 75 year birthday celebration.
A few months later, after what was an extended time studying the league, he bought the FCBL’s Brockton Rox. Brockton currently is 18-13, second in the East Division, three games ahead of fourth place Nashua.
"I’m pretty impressed with how far it’s come," English said of the FCBL. "It’s pretty ambitious. You start with four teams, and just try to build it in a hotbed of college baseball.
"So I was watching. I was kind of watching from the sidelines. I knew Chris Hall from the Pride, he’s very ambitious. I looked at the ownership groups, they’re all people involved in professional teams, affiliated teams, independent league teams, and I watched a couple of games."
Then English examined what was going on in Brockton. The team’s ownership was struggling. But there was a stable, smart city government in his mind, some developments downtown, and the facility, Campanelli Stadium, was magnificent but needed upgrades after some recent neglect. English’s group put a half a million dollars into it, redoing the field and revamping the luxury suites.
There were other attractive factors. Included in the franchise was the small adjacent convention center called the Shaw Center. Also, there’s plans for a possible casino in the vicinity.
"If we locked up that piece of real estate," English said, "then we felt we could make something of it."
The operating budget is $500,000 for the Rox in the FCBL, not the $3 million it was in independent league baseball, which is the same business theory that makes Nashua a success after all the indy league financial struggles that English, and other Pride owners, endured. Plus, as he said, his group has made something of the real estate. They hosted the MIAA Super Eight high school baseball tourney. They also had a Brazilian concert, and made more in concessions that one night than they did all last season with Rox baseball.
And, as English said, he went to local businesses who wanted to keep baseball in Brockton in some shape or form and said, "We’re you’re last shot. And they responded."
Similar to Nashua, for certain.
That, he says, was the business side. The fun side? He’s back in baseball. English does all the player procurement for the Rox, which for him has to be heaven.
"You know me," he said. "I love it. I’m having a blast. I get to talk (to college coaches)."
And, if he has his way, he’ll have more conversations with major college coaches.
"There’s a hierarchy and our goal is to get to the top of the hierarchy," English said. "We’re getting biggers schools every year, and we’re still committed to New England players."
You need at least 13 players from New England or New England schools. Some around the league feel certain teams aren’t adhering to the policy, but English feels that’s not the case.
"Think of the players from New England – Rhett Wiseman, Chris Shaw, Vanderbilt and players from the University of Virginia. We also want to branch out. We want to get the guys from Florida Atlantic. We want to get the guys from Miami next year.
"The players go home to Kentucky and Miami and say ‘You wouldn’t believe it, we’re playing in front of 2,000 people in stadiums that are professional and the league is run well.’ "
The battle rages on for players and franchises with the rival New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). But it’s a battle English wants to help the FCBL win.
"We want to be the second best league in New England," he said. We’re not going to challenge the Cape (Cod League). Nor do we want to."
English feels that the league has the best facilities (seven teams have stadiums) and "We have the best management, too. It’s a real family."
The league helped the Old Orchard Beach ownership get out from under management woes to sell the team to the ownership group in Bristol, Conn. There are struggles in non-stadium venues such as the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs of Leominster, Mass.
"They have a committed owner that makes it work with what he can do," English said.
But the facilities set the league apart in his mind, and stadiums are the FCBL’s ultimate complete direction.
"No question," he said. "Even nationally. You just don’t have (stadiums in other collegiate leagues). Sure, they were built for professional baseball.
"We’re not going to go expand to something like a high school field."
English re-iterated that the FCBL will want to get into New Britain. "We’re absolutely looking at New Britain," he said. "Beautiful ball park. It would be very difficult for, say, a Can-Am team to go in there with that type of budget. But with our type of budget, there’s a very loyal fan base that won’t go to Hartford. They’re New Britain people."
English is baseball people. When he took over the Rox, he had no guidance, so he sent out 900 emails to 900 Division I coaches.
"You remember in spring training of the Atlantic League how I was talking about all the wheeling and dealing and how much fun it is," he said.
English, who has former Pride general manager Todd Marlin as his GM in Brockton, says that the other former Pride GM he knows has helped the league’s talent base.
"Chris Hall does a huge amount of that," he said. "He makes sure teams get good players. Chris Hall has done an amazing job."
English hopes to do the same in Brockton. The league is one of the longest running college leagues in the country, ending in mid-August. That suits English, who stopped by Holman a month ago when he was on his way home and saw on Twitter that Nashua was in what ended up being a 19-inning affair with Martha’s Vineyard, just fine.
"We play 56 games," he said, "and I could watch 120."
The annual FCBL All-Star Game will be held next Tuesday at Lynn’s (North Shore’s) Frasier Field, and last word was there will be a live internet announcement of the rosters some time on Friday.
Who could represent Nashua? You might think the team’s top two run producers, outfielder/DH Ryan Sullivan and outfielder Tyler Schwanz, each with 15 RBIs and six and five homers, respectively. Or maybe it will be catcher Eric Ostberg (.368 in 23 games) and middle infielder Manny Cruz (.300)?
On the mound, you’d have to start with reliever Kevin Connor (Boston College), who has a 0.00 ERA in 10 appearances. Bedford’s Lucas Olen (2-1, 1.90) has a shot, too, as do Knights wins leaders Kevin Magee and Ryan Moloney, both 3-2.
The Silver Knights have their first Thursday $1 drink night this Thursday (beer and fountain drinks), and will couple that with a NASCAR Night promotion, with NASCAR race ticket giveaways. According to the team’s advance promotion, a driver or two may also be on hand.