Professional baseball in Fall River? That's the pitch that Fall River Community is delivering.
At first I thought this was a far fetched idea. How many local baseball teams can one area support? But, the more I think about it the more I see the potential.
Fall River has a baseball history and one that goes back to the infancy of the game itself. The city once boasted its own team, the Fall River Indians of the New England League. The Indians dominated the New England League in the mid-1890's winning 4 consecutive championships. Their most famous alumnus, Nap Lajoie, would go on to become one of the legends of the game and a member of Baseball's Hall of Fame. Fall River native, Charlie Buffinton, was a 7 time 20 game winner in his 11 year career. Pitching from 1882-1892 some historians believe is was Buffington who invented the curveball. Russ Gibson, Dick Siebert, Luke Urban, Greg Gagne, Jerry Remy, and even "Moonlight" Graham have ties to the Fall River area.
Building a 3,000-6,000 seat ballpark at the former Quaker Fabric site on Ferry St. would tie this in with our waterfront development and the proposed trolley loop. The ball club would now become another 'waterfront attraction' but would also be located in an area where it could best serve as a catalyst for economic growth. A ballpark at this site could also be used as a venue for outdoor concerts and possibly soccer. The ballpark could also house a small museum showcasing this area's baseball history. FRC also points out that creating a 3,000 seat facility at the new Nokona bat factory would be very doable, and an excellent tie in!*
What team would come to Fall River? Just over a decade ago Fall River made the pitch to bring the Pawtucket Red Sox here. It was an idea that met with a lot of favor, including from our current mayor. In the end, the Pawsox decided to stay in Pawtucket. Today it would seem that the best options for establishing baseball in Fall River are with the Can-Am League or the Atlantic League.
The Canadian-American League, which is made up of 8 teams, already has 2 teams in Massachusetts and adding a third team could make for some good competition. Several of the teams use small ballparks. Worcester's Fitton field has the smallest capacity at just 3,000. This should mean that a Fall River team might be able to share facilities with one of the local high schools or make use of a small facility at Nokona.
The Atlantic League is also an 8 team league. It requires a 4,000-7,500 seat facility and is already considering expansion to Massachusetts! The downside is the requirement of a larger ballpark means more financial commitment.
This is an idea that could be a real boost to the area both economically and socially. Bringing professional baseball back to Fall River requires careful planning and research to ensure that this area can and will support a team. At the very least the idea of exhibition baseball at Nokona's field should seriously be considered. It's a great tie and if we can't bring in a new Fall River Indians team, maybe we can bring back the Indians from the 19th century!
*To clarify, FRC is actually suggesting that to better maximize the economic benefit that Nokona could perhaps relocate to the location of the new ballpark, preferably on the waterfront or along I-195