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College Players Gather As Pittsfield Suns Kick Off Season

Josh Landes
The Pittsfield Suns at practice.

Tonight, the Pittsfield Suns take on the Brockton Rox at Wahconah Park in their first game of the season. College baseball players from all over New England are in town for the summer.

Earlier this month, North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard told WAMC that his city offered the best baseball experience in the Berkshires.

“There are not too many better places to watch a baseball game in the summer than Joe Wolfe Field, sitting there with the sun and the hills behind, watching some really good amateur baseball," said Bernard. "It can’t be beat, it really can’t.”

“Yeah, it’s totally not," disagreed Pittsfield Suns Assistant General Manager Brian Flagg. “I mean, this is one of the most historic parks in the whole United States of America, right here at Wahconah Park. They’ve been playing ball since 1892. Not to say that’s not a great field, Joe Wolfe Field is fantastic, but this is a whole different experience down here. We’re only one of two parks in the whole country who face west, which is a great story because they never used to play night games so they didn’t have to worry about the sun setting in batters’ eyes, but every night we have a sun delay here, so it’s a very unique experience.”

Flagg was busy Tuesday, one day before opening night, bustling around the park concourse.

“The last final moments right now are pretty much fine-tuning stuff," he told WAMC. "All the major stuff is done. We’re just making sure we have all our ducks in a row, putting away the little stuff, making sure all the small signs are up and all the menus are done, and basically just ready to open the gates tomorrow night at 5:30.”

“Everything’s going really well, we’ve been getting the stadium ready all week, we gave a lot of things a fresh paint job. We have a lot of local boys playing on the team this year, which we’re all pretty excited about," said Courtney Lewis, the Suns’ Director of Marketing and Ticket Sales. “So, it’s nice, we’ve been reaching out to the community a lot. We’ve been reaching out to a lot more local little leagues, we’re trying to get a lot more youth sports involved. We have some local music camps coming to do national anthem singing, we have a local elementary school that’s going to be singing the national anthem next week, so we’re really trying to reach out and get the community completely involved.”

“The Pittsfield Suns are a summer collegiate baseball team. We’re a member of the Futures League. We have players from all over the country. We have someone from Hawaii, from Texas, from the Northeast. We have 11 guys on our roster. Part of the Futures League rule is you need 11 guys from either a New England college or a New England hometown. We have three guys on our team from Pittsfield," said General Manager Kristen Huss. “Pittsfield’s claim to fame is that baseball was invented here, and the community really embraces the teams that play at Wahconah Park.”

It’s her third season with the Suns, who have playing been at Wahconah Park since 2012. Every summer, families in the Berkshires’ largest city host the team’s visiting players in their homes. Huss says the season — with 55 games scheduled through the first week of August — demands a lot of the team.

“I mean, this summer is rough on them," she told WAMC. "There’s only a handful of days off, and they’re either at this park or another park every day. There’s only one overnight, so they’re constantly on the bus, they’re constantly travelling. They’re leaving here at noon and not coming back until 1 or 2 in the morning.”

Huss says home games at Wahconah Park bring out roughly 1,500 fans.

“So this community really gets behind them, and this community come out all these games and supports them, so it’s a great relationship we have with the area. And the guys understand that, and that’s one of the reasons guys want to play here, is because they know of the fan base, and they know of the area, and they guys are great, they’ll visit camps over the summer, they’ll visit schools, they’ll go to field days, so they do a lot in the community,” said Huss.

“This is more of a baseball town than Westfield or Leominster was. More fans, a lot more people behind the team as a whole," said Suns southpaw pitcher Jonathan Gegetskas. Gegetskas, of Leominster, goes to Westfield State. He says he feels the love on the field at Wahconah: “It brings a lot — it helps you focus more on the game, and really wants you to win games for the fans here.”

The gates of Wahconah Park open at 5:30, with the game scheduled to start at 6:30. The Suns will be offering a magnet giveaway to all attendees.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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