This is my story and I'm sticking to it for all times, against all comers and at least until the obligatory contradictory and scandalous video tape emerges on TMZ and then I'll be retreating faster than you can say "The Maginot Line."
But for now, this is the story of record:
Last Friday, I was off from work. It doesn't matter why. Just know that our human resources department is collecting witnesses. Anyway, it was about 4:30 p.m. and, finding myself in need of hydration to bolster my (unsuccessful) efforts to fend off an oncoming bout of flu, I wandered in where all wanders wander on a late Friday afternoon, Stones, and sat my bad self down between Catherine Schlichte and Shawn Henry.
Five-Tool was manning the helm behind the bar. The world seemed in order.
Shawn Henry is a major league minor league baseball fan, having made several pilgrimages to minor league parks of note, so we started chatting about minor league baseball, of which I too am an aficionado. I suggested he check out the ballpark in Myrtle Beach sometime, home of the Pelicans, and a right cool spot to catch a Carolina League game. Especially on Thirsty Thursdays.
I was talking about why that franchise works so well, how there's great ownership and a real dedicated local constituency that is supplemented by the touristas that pour onto the Grand Strand every summer to watch games at the little jewel of a ballpark, when it struck me:
Why not here?
Why doesn't somebody (way smarter than me) figure out a way to build a minor league baseball ballpark _ my locale of preference is Stage Fort Park _ here in Gloucester? Why doesn't someone (way more wealthy than me . . . that's right Jim Davis, I'm talking to you, big daddy) figure out a way to build a 6,000-seat ballpark with the spectacular harbor views that would draw locals, summer visitors and baseball nuts from all over to New England (and beyond, if you do it right) right here, about 70 dates per summer.?
Huh? Huh? Hmmmmm.
And then I actually said it aloud and not one soul _ sober or otherwise _ that heard the idea could come up with one legitimate reason why it's a bad one.
Think of the benefits:
First of all, more and more-affordable professional baseball literally within walking, boating and sea kayaking distance of just about everybody in town. How could that be a bad thing?
More tourists. OK, that could be a bad thing, at least for those of us who don't own tourist-related businesses and might have to make a left-hand turn into traffic at least once a summer.
But at least these would be tourists who are baseball fans. So really, how insufferable could they be? It's not like they're going to want to watch soccer.
The facility, depending on how you structure it (whether it remains a public entity or the franchise owners buy the land and own the ballpark), could generate substantial tax revenues on everything from property taxes (again, depending on its structure) to tickets, concessions, souvenirs, parking, et al.
Plus, we could add a tiny surcharge (say 10 cents) to each ticket, with proceeds going to a revolving lineup of charitable or not-for-profit Gloucester-based advocacy groups, such as The Fishermen's Wives Association, The Fishing Partnership Support Services, The Open Door, Pathways for Children or the Human Fund (Money for People!).
You have solid access to the city from Routes 127 and 128, not to mention the MBTA Commuter Rail (assuming it will still be up and running by summer).
You could run shuttles from the train station to the ballpark. You could run shuttles from the new Beauport Hotel Gloucester (Jimbo, again, looking right at ya) right to the park. Boats could tie up and tail gate.
But the beauty of this location is that it will be highly walkable, with folks sauntering along The Boulevard, which could be turned into our own little Lansdowne Street, with food and artisan stalls all along the way.
The ballpark could be used for other events, such as high school and college games _ especially as a host for post-season tournaments. Gloucester High School could play some games there, as could our Cape Ann neighbors (assuming they're being nice to us, which pretty much leaves out Manchester . . .kidding, just kidding).
How about the annual Gloucester Blues Festival or other concerts or festival events? The ballpark would be a pretty cool venue, assuming that our Fishmongers (that's right, I already named them) are done for the season.
Now, this would really be a whizz-bang idea if we could somehow finagle one of the Red Sox minor league affiliates.
The Sox already are moving their Triple A franchise out of Pawtucket for Providence and they own their franchise and stadium in Greenville S.C. where The Drive play in the lower Class A South Atlantic League (and, truth be told, they've already established a fantastic venue in a very cool town.)
No, our sights should be set on stealing either Salem (Va.) or Lowell.
The Sox own the high Class A affiliate in Salem, but the city of Salem owns the ballpark, which frankly is no great shakes.
The Salem Sox play in the Carolina League, which is a terrific development league with lots and lots of prospects rolling through. Come on, wouldn't you like to see Yoan Moncada in a Fishmongers uniform? And before you pooh-pooh the idea of the Carolina League on geographic grounds, know that Wilmington, Del. has had a team in the league forever.
Now for Lowell. The Spinners play in the New York-Penn League, which is a short-season league that plays a 76-game schedule. So, there will be fewer dates. But the Spinners A) play in Lowell and B) play in Lowell.
Quick question: where would you rather got to watch a game, Lowell or Gloucester?
No, this is a good idea. Somebody should run with it and keep on running until it happens.
Last Song out the Door: The Doobie Brothers' "It Keeps You Runnin' " off their 1976 release "Takin' It to the Streets"