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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Road Trip - Pittsfield Colonials With the Folks

My parents were in town a couple weeks ago and I always have to take them to a baseball game. I know this is father's day, but dad's never been the one into baseball. The baseball one's been my mom.

She's been a Cubs fan as long as I've been a Cubs fan. And she watches the games whenever they're on. And for her, they're on almost all the time. For me, out here in Upstate NY, they're not, so I don't.

So, anyway, we always try and take mom to a game. I had designs on going to Newark, to see the Newark Bears and CMC man Willie Banks. Nick over at Baseball Happenings alerted me that he's still playing. Banks is the only set member who I know is confirmed still playing. But that will have to wait. Banks, it seems, gets in games infrequently and it's difficult timing it right.

So we settled on the new Can-Am League team in Pittsfield, Mass. The Pittsfield Colonials are the old American Defenders of New Hampshire. You might recall them as the team that got locked out of their own stadium last year for not being able to pay their bills. They're also the former Nashua Pride.

So, needless to say, they moved from Nashua and landed in Pittsfield, once home to the AA Pittsfield Cubs. But Pittsfield has been without a team since shortly after the old short-season Pittsifled Astros left for Troy, NY after the 2001 season.

So Pittsfield has a team again, in the second version of the old Can-Am League. Pittsfield is actually now one of two of the six current cities to have had teams in the original Can-Am League of the 1940s. Quebec is the other. Quebec also happened to be the team we saw Pittsfield play.

And the cool thing is, the park the Colonials play in is the very same that the old 1940s Pittsfield team played in, Wahconah Park. Wahconah Park was built in 1919 and is credited as one of the last remaining ballparks with a wooden grandstand.
The park itself is simple, but in a cool way. You walk up the walkway and you're standing behind home plate. There's a cool bust of an Indian. I'm sure there was a plaque there, but with the parents, I didn't get a chance to identify who the bust was. The park itself is named for the Mahican maiden Wahconah, central to a Berkshires legend. has the full Wahconah story.

The park is also unique, in that its home plate faces west, causing a 20-minute sun delay in the summer. We didn't experience this in our visit. But we do plan to go back.

It's nice that Pittsfield has a team back. The city itself claims the oldest reference to the game. In 1791, the city council passed a by-law prohibiting playing the game of baseball within 80 yards of a new meeting house. The discovery was made in 2004, after Pittsfield lost the Berkshire Black Bears of the Can-Am's predecessor league the Northeast League.

With that history, and the history of the field itself, the Colonials have tried to tap into that through their uniforms themselves. Players wear uniforms in the style of the late 19th century. The Colonials' Web site refers to it as a "Turn Back the Century" season. While initially interesting, the uniforms actually turned distracting. And they didn't look easy to play in.

One other thing. In case anyone was wondering, there's no spitting, cursing or gambling at Wahconah Park. The sign near the Pittsfield dugout says so. Odd to have the folks there. I seem to recall similar rules growing up, with them.

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