Blue Sox embrace ‘Golden’ opportunity with new GM

Dec. 18, 2013
Hunter Golden, left, shakes hands with Holyoke Blue Sox owner Clark Eckhoff at an event officially introducing Golden as the team’s new general manager on Dec. 4.

Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza

By Chris Maza

SPRINGFIELD – For the Holyoke Blue Sox, 2014 could be a “Golden” opportunity for the franchise to begin flourishing.

New General Manager Hunter Golden, who was introduced formally on Dec. 4 at the franchise’s headquarters at the LaQuinta Inn & Suites on Congress Street, made it clear he has big plans for the Blue Sox and Pioneer Valley baseball fans for this season and well beyond.

“We’re very serious and we’re here for the long haul,” he said. “We want to bring baseball back to the region not just as something to do, but as part of what summers mean in the Pioneer Valley.”

Golden’s hiring is the latest big change for the organization, which was also purchased by Clark Eckhoff earlier this year.

Golden, a Connecticut native, has a unique background that includes marketing experience as well as advanced knowledge of baseball scouting and metrics. He has served as a baseball analyst for ESPN’s Sweet Spot Network and appeared regularly on Boston-based sports talk radio programs on The Sports Hub and WEEI and was part of ESPN’s weekly Major League Baseball power rankings.

He graduated from Springfield College with a degree in communications and currently lives in Longmeadow with his wife and two daughters. Golden said his roots in the community made the opportunity a special one and further solidified his interest in making the Blue Sox a first-rate form of entertainment and community partner.

“It’s kind of surreal for me in a lot of ways. I’ve been such a baseball person for so long, so to finally be able to be working in baseball is a real treat,” he said. “What makes it even better is I’m able to do this in my backyard. I think everybody has that dream career, but to be able to do it and have a big impact on your community makes it really special for me.”

His role, he said, was all encompassing, as he would oversee player operations, including player identification, roster management and scouting, while also running the business side of things by fostering corporate sponsorships, implementing marketing solutions and spearheading community relations efforts.

“I literally change the hat I’m wearing by the hour,” he said.

An aspect of the operation Golden said he was especially excited about was the implementation of a “bon a fide baseball operations department,” something he said has not been done anywhere in the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

“We have people who work together everyday to not only focus and concentrate on the players that we have, but also other team’s players as well,” he said. “How we make decisions is really born more out of process and that process includes objective data, such as sabermetrics and other advances metrics and subjective information like scouting reports and our own internal know how and opinions.”

That process, he said, would also help him and his staff assess the roster during the season and identify necessary adjustments.

The team will begin its scouting as early as January 2014.

Winning without community support would be an empty victory, Golden added.

“We don’t want to just be a winning team on the field; we really want to be a sustainable off of it as well,” he said. “That includes getting out in the community. We’re going to be making a huge push to reach out into communities like Springfield and Holyoke and to engage them.”

One part of the potential fan base he hoped to connect with, was the area’s large Hispanic and Latino community, which he termed “baseball crazy.”

“There are so many different opportunities in the area and we need to capitalize on that,”?he said.

He added that a strong baseball history in the area, which includes the Holyoke Millers and Springfield Giants, was a strong foundation on which to build.

“When you think of some of the great players who played in this market – the Alou brothers [Juan and Matty] and [Baseball Hall of Famer] Juan Marichal – and the legacy that the Millers left behind – half of that 1982 [Milwaukee] Brewers was made up of Holyoke Millers – the Pioneer Valley has such a great historical heritage,” he said.

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