Can-Am League (2010-2011)
Born: 2010 – The American Defenders of New Hampshire relocate to Pittsfield, MA.
Died: October 4, 2011 – The Can-Am League terminates the Colonials franchise.
Stadium: Wahconah Park (3,500)
Owner: Buddy Lewis
The Pittsfield Colonials were an independent pro baseball franchise that toiled for two summers at historic Wahconah Park. The Colonials failed to find an audience in Western Massachusetts’ Berkshires region, but they did make a fashion statement with their collared, old-timey uniforms.
Colonials owner Buddy Lewis was an executive at Nocona Athletic Goods, a domestic manufacturer of baseball gloves. In 2009, Lewis was part of the investor group responsible for the American Defenders of New Hampshire and the Pittsfield American Defenders, a disastrous duo of military-themed ball clubs. The Pittsfield American Defenders were an amateur team, competing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Their season was a washout thanks to poor weather and general lack of interest.
Up in New Hampshire, where Lewis’ group operated a professional team in the independent Can-Am League, things got real weird, real quick. The Nashua Pride (1998-2008) played independent ball at Holman Stadium for over a decade, but in 2008 Pride owner John Stabile, exhausted by years of heavy financial losses, sold the club to Buddy Lewis’ group. Lewis’ partners included Terry Allvord, a naval veteran and promoter of barnstorming U.S. Military All-Star baseball teams. Allvord’s group re-branded the Pride as the “American Defenders of New Hampshire”, cloaking the team in desert-style camouflage uniforms.
The Defenders’ patriotic/military theme quickly crossed into morbid tastelessness. The team’s mascot, a plush figure in fatigues and war paint, was named “Ground Zero” and wore the jersey number 9-11, for instance. The Defenders were an epic flop, evicted from Holman Stadium before their only season ended for failing to pay their bills. Among the unpaid invoices at issue were the overtime details for local police and fire personnel who provided game day security at Holman Stadium. It was the ultimate irony for an organization that built its brand around reverence for military personnel and public safety officers.
Allvord quickly vanished and took the military concept with him. The Pittsfield-based collegiate team was sold off and packed off to Bristol, Connecticut. Buddy Lewis still owned the carcass of the New Hampshire ball club, as well as the lease at Pittsfield. In December 2009, he decided to give the Can-Am League a second try and moved the former American Defenders of New Hampshire 150 miles west to Pittsfield. The re-branded Pittsfield Colonials would be the city’s first professional baseball team since the departure of the Berkshire Black Bears after the summer of 2003.
Former Boston Red Sox slugger Brian Daubach (above left), who endured the 2009 debacle in Nashua as the Defenders’ camo-clad field manager, relocated with the team to Pittsfield. Daubach took the Colonials to a third place finish at 48-45 and then onto the Can-Am League championship series, in 2010 where they lost to the Quebec Capitales.
At the box office, however, the Colonials were a flop, finishing last in the league with 29,485 fans for 42 home dates. By comparison, the six other Can-Am League clubs drew between 70,000 and 150,000 fans each.
Nevertheless, the Colonials returned for a second season in 2011. Daubach departed, but the team didn’t miss a beat under new skipper Jamie Keefe, improving to 53-39. The Colonials made the playoffs again, but lost in the semi-finals. Attendance ticked up marginally to 37,154 for 44 dates, but was still worst in the league. At league meetings in October 2011, the Colonials ownership either wouldn’t or couldn’t replenish the team’s $200,000 line of credit and the Can-Am League voted to terminate Pittsfield’s membership.
The Colonials were replaced at Wahconah Park for the amateur Pittsfield Suns of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League in 2012.
Berkshires resident and Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer James Taylor performed the National Anthem at the Colonials’ first home game in 2010.