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Blue Sox welcomed to HolyokeBy Debbie Gardner,PRIME Editor
HOLYOKE Two hundred sponsors and supporters joined Holyoke Blue Sox team owners Barry Wadsworth, Karen Wadsworth Rella and James Ferrara at the Delaney House Thursday evening to celebrate the arrival of the starting lineup for the newest team in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL).
Clad in blue, white and red uniform shirts provided by team sponsor Bank of America, Holyoke's own boys of summer, led by team mascot Big Red, jogged into the room to welcoming applause.
Holyoke Mayor Michael Sullivan welcomed the team and thanked the Blue Sox owners for "believing in Holyoke" enough to make his city their team's new home.
"This is going to be the best kind of baseball," Sullivan said about the Blue Sox' inaugural season. "It's not about egos, or superstars. It's going to be real baseball, and I hope you all go home and tell people about how great this is going to be."
Sullivan extended his thanks to the many city departments that had a hand in making this year's partnership with the Blue Sox a reality, including the members of the City Council, Park Department head Terry Shepard and the members of the city's Park and Recreation staff.
"We did a walk-through and a checklist and there are some things we need to do," Sullivan said of the new home of the Blue Sox, the city's Mackenzie Field.
Of the upcoming season, Sullivan said, "It's going to be just great."
Blue Sox co-owner Barry Wadsworth followed Sullivan's thanks with his own salute to the many city departments that helped he and the other owners bring the Blue Sox to Holyoke.
"I'm living my dream, and these guys here are living their dream," Wadsworth said, gesturing to the lineup of young men standing alongside the podium.
He singled out the efforts of NECBL commissioner Mario Tiani and other board members who made the trip to Holyoke for the team's inaugural dinner.
"For [the] 15 years that it has been here, they have made this the top [collegiate baseball] league in the country, and we want to help it continue to grow," he said.
Wadsworth also publicly thanked many of the team sponsors in the room, including the management of the Holyoke Holiday Inn, the owners of Skip's Outdoor Accents, Bank of America, Chaffee-Helliwell Insurance and the Delaney House.
He also extended his gratitude to Shelley and Mark Moynihan and their host families, who take in the team members for the season, as well as to the many volunteers who give their time to bring NECBL baseball to Mackenzie Stadium every season.
"The volunteers were here even before we were here," Wadsworth said. "We got into town, called them up . they told us what went on [last season] and where we can improve."
Among the improvements Wadsworth announced were the addition of three exhibition games against Team USA, the Chinese National Baseball Team and a team from the Dominican Republic to the Blue Sox schedule. He also introduced the members of the Blue Sox Dance Team who will be entertaining the fans throughout home games.
"It's something they've never seen before with this team, and something we've never done before," dance team coach Amy Ruelle-Leigner told Reminder Publications following the remarks. "We'll perform during the seventh inning stretch, be holding up signs to encourage fan involvement . everything to interact with the crowd and have no dead spot in all the [home] games."
Ruelle-Leigner said the cheer and dance squad, comprised of current and former college cheerleaders, has performed as the Lady Warriors in support of the Western Mass Warriors semi-pro summer football team for the past five years.
Wadsworth's sister and partner Karen Wadsworth Rella reiterated the gratitude of the team's owners during her turn at the podium, telling the audience, "We could not have done this without all of you in this room."
"The amount of effort that it has taken to get to this point from where we were in a conference room talking about this is tremendous," said John Ferrara, owner of the investment firm Capstone Partners LLC of Boston and third partner in the Holyoke Blue Sox.
"This is all about players chasing a dream and the community spirit giving it to them," he said. "But the one thing that brings us all together is the love of the game."
The Holyoke Blue Sox host their home opener against the Keene Swamp Bats June 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Mackenzie Field.