Worcester, Massachusetts, is about 30 miles from my house.
The city has a team, the Bravehearts, that plays summers in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League … a league that, assuming it gets the official sign-off, will not only have games this summer, but games fans can attend.
Can you see what I’m getting at?
However, I’d still want to see what the rules are before I think about thinking about it. They’d better have a plan to require and enforce social distancing, for starters, and I’d be OK with masks, too,
If everything … and I mean, everything … goes right, it wouldn’t be the first Futures League game I attended.
A day with the Brockton Rox
Originally posted July 6, 2014.
“Do you know where you’re going?”
That’s what the parking lot attendant at Brockton High School asked as he took my $5 when I pulled in for a recent Brockton Rox game. I think he was a little taken aback when I pointed to Campanelli Stadium, which was just a couple hundred yards to the left, because he said something like “Well if it’s your first time … .“
It actually wasn’t my first time. A few years ago, my wife and I went with a friend to a Rox game and parked in some tiny lot near the ballpark, so the high school parking lot was already an improvement.
Tickets are the Rox are $5, $8 and $12, and I know the park is small enough so there aren’t really any bad seats, so I decided to take my chance with a $5 ticket. I confess that I didn’t expect to be right behind third base.
According to Wikipedia (grains of salt being tossed), Campanelli Stadium has a capacity of 4,750, and the box score for the Rox game against the Seacoast Mavericks listed the attendance as 1,268. It seemed like the ballpark was less than a quarter full (when the family in front of me left partway though the game, I had four rows to myself), but maybe it was.
It’s a nice little ballpark, all seats and no bleachers. On a hot day, I was hoping there were some seats under cover, but one advantage of a small crowd was that I was able to move into some seats that had been covered by shadows toward the end of the game, and I watched the last couple innings from the concourse area, which has a roof over it.
Even though it’s a baseball stadium, there are plenty of nods to Brockton’s most-famous sons, Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler, from the team name, the boxing mural on the wall of one of the men’s rooms, to the mascot being named K-O. Beyond the right field fence was the high school football field, for the Brockton Boxers.
After having been an independent minor league team for several years, the Rox are now members of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. By league rules, at least 13 players on each team must be from New England or be attending a New England college.
The league tries to provide a “family friendly, affordable and fun experience for the communities that we play in, in a minor league style setting,” and that was one thing I noticed at the Rox. As summer collegiate leagues go, the FCBL doesn’t have nearly the history or reputation of the Cape Cod Baseball League, but as opposed to Cape Cod, where they basically just play the games, the Rox definintely provided summer-league ball with a minor-league flair.
There were minor-league stables like the dizzy bat race and having children race the mascot around the bases, but the big promotion was that it was K-O’s birthday. Other local mascots came to join the party, and the celebration culminated with the mascots dancing on top of the dugout, a cake and a T-shirt gun as a present.
The Mavericks rode a five-run sixth inning to an 8-5 win, and there were a few calls —- a balk, a pitch or two that could have been called a strike, the Rox first baseman pulling his foot off the bag — that left Rox manager Bryan Stark a little unhappy. At one point, he got into it with home plate umpire Matt Le Mear and I was convinced he would get thrown out.
But he wasn’t, and when a Rox player struck out looking to end an inning, Stark began marching toward home plate, I’m assuming to give Le Mear another piece of his mind, but the umpire very subtly walked about 10 feet up the line toward first base and stood there, and Stark made the right-hand turn into the third-base dugout.
I don’t know if Le Mear did that to avoid a confrontation (he also did the same thing during a mid-inning pitching change), but it was a nice piece of umpiring.
An inning or two later, Le Mear took a foul ball off his collarbone, chin or something else that wasn’t covered by padding, and was clearly in pain. Who was the first person on the scene to tend to him?
Bryan Stark was. (After a few minutes, Le Mear wound up being OK, by the way.)
It’s pretty silly that I’ve only gone to a couple games in Brockton. It’s hard to beat the price, and it’s only about 10 miles from where I live. I’ll have to get there more often. (Note from 2020: I never did.)