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Thursday, January 15, 2004

More Days in First Place? Western Mass. Baseball Bonanza

According to the AP and the Berkshire Eagle, Dan Duquette's Sports Academy has received approval to buy the New England Collegiate Baseball League
(NECBL) Thread City Tides of Willimantic, Conn., and move them to Duquette's Sports Academy in Pittsfield, MA. The Willimantic (Conn.) Chronicle reported last week that Duquette purchased the Tides, who have been in Willimantic for 10 years. The team will apparently be called, ah,........the Dukes.

The Berkshires and surrounding areas are setting up to be a strong base for collegiate-level ball as the NECBL's Middletown (CT) Giants, recently moved to Holyoke, and the NECBL's North Adams SteepleCats were an expansion team in the league last summer, drawing an average of 850 fans per game. While the moves are too bad for Connecticut fans, they already enjoy an abundance of AA franchises, Independents from the Atlantic League and now a NE League team - heisted from Pittsfield. Turnabout is fair play?

Perhaps we will see the development of some good local Berkshire rivalries this coming summer, and great baseball for Western Massachusetts fans in the wake of the loss of the NE League Black Bears to New Haven. The franchise purchase by Duquette is a positive development for the NECBL: it will generate publicity for the MLB-supported league, especially in the influential Boston media, and add further credibility to the decade-old league by the addition of yet another veteran major league executive to its management ranks. Good Luck to Dan and the fans of Western Massachusetts - let's hope the Dukes spend some days in first place.