Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blue Sox change name to broaden fan base, but will it work?

By Zachary Baru

The Holyoke Blue Sox wanted all of the region to know that they are the valley's team, and this came with a price.  Hopefully that price won't cost them their core fans: those who live in Holyoke.

Blue Sox management announced last month that the name would be changed to the Valley Blue Sox, dropping Holyoke, a name the team has had since 2008.  Prior to 2008, the team was based in Concord, New Hampshire.

Holyoke has a proud and rich history, and losing the baseball team which carries the city's name is unquestionably a loss for the Paper City.  The attempt to extend the team's appeal beyond Holyoke is an understandable one, but will Holyoke fans be turned off?

The fan reaction in Holyoke will be an interesting one.  While the Blue Sox are clearly extending their reach into most of Western Massachusetts, is it worth the risk of turning off the local base?

The Blue Sox are members of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, a collegiate summer baseball league funded in part by Major League Baseball.

As important as the name is, simply having NECBL baseball in Holyoke is ultimately what is more important.  Having the league play at 4,100-seat Mackenzie Stadium contributes to the Holyoke economy, bringing in fans buying anything from tickets to dinner.  Between the additional tax revenue generated from fans coming into the city and the extra traffic given to local businesses, the Blue Sox continue to contribute to Holyoke's economy year after year.  Whether the team's name is the Valley Blue Sox, the Holyoke Blue Sox, or for that matter Western Mass. Blue Sox, the important thing to remember is just how valuable this team is to the city of Holyoke.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.