By Zachary Baru
Thirty-one years after the Holyoke Millers played AA baseball in the Paper City, professional baseball may be long gone, but top talent continues to play at Mackenzie Stadium.
So first, let's get one thing straight about the Holyoke Blue Sox. This is not minor league baseball, it is "collegiate summer baseball". Members of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, the league is funded in part by Major League Baseball, and sanctioned by the NCAA. It is also one of nine leagues to be part of the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball. The bottom line is that top college talent is passing through Holyoke this summer, and Mackenzie Stadium is as good as anywhere for a baseball fan to be.
Tickets to the 4,100-seat stadium built in 1933 start at $6 for general admission, and $4 for kids ages 6-12. Children 5 years and younger are free. Don't bother looking for a better value than that, you won't find it. It is the benefit of having a local baseball team, and one that more sports fans in the Valley should take advantage of.
The Blue Sox have been playing in the 13-team NECBL since 2008, after moving from Concord, New Hampshire. Holyoke is one of two NECBL teams in Western Massachusetts, with the other playing in North Adams. Blue Sox attendance has fluctuated over the last few seasons, finishing at an average of 974 in 2012, down from 2,510 in 2011.
At a time when it is hard to take a family of four out for an evening, the Holyoke Blue Sox give local fans a chance to see top talent at an affordable price, and from a vantage point that doesn't require the use of binoculars to see the players' faces. Furthermore, the Blue Sox represent a city which is continually progressing, moving toward hopes of increased economic development. The Blue Sox are just one example of the many positive stories Holyoke has to share, at a time when it seems so many of the negatives are focused on. Holyoke has a long and rich history, and the Blue Sox hope to add to that, entertaining baseball fans and families alike for years to come.
Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.