2015-03-05 / Front Page

Ballpark, once again, has team to call its own

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – It’s official: The Ballpark once again has a hometown baseball team, this time a franchise of the professional East Coast Baseball League. Resident Lisa MacNeill hit a dinger when she won a contest held to name the team with her entry, The Surge. The team will claim the hill in its first game, June 2, against the Niagara Wild.

MacNeill said the name has several meanings.

“When you think of a surge, you think of energy and (something) powerful,” MacNeill said, “and in baseball, there’s a power surge.”

The name also evokes the surge of coastal waters during storms, she added.

In baseball lingo, a power surge happens when a hitter has a higher performing streak or when a team experiences increased scoring during an inning.

“I’m 100 percent a baseball fan,” MacNeill said, “but what I’m looking forward to is the children that will be able to be a part of The Ballpark, too.”

MacNeill, who has two sons – 10-year-old Holden Brown and 13-year-old Ruben Brown, said she is impressed that the franchise is interested in holding children’s activities.

MacNeill, whose family will receive season tickets to Surge games, said she and Holden will throw the first pitch at the June 2 game.

“The first pitch represents the connection we have together,” MacNeill said. “Our family is very important.”

Ballpark Operations Manager Guy Fontaine said the owner of the East Coast Baseball League, Colin Cummins, saw an opportunity when the Raging Tide was sold last year and stopped playing in Old Orchard Beach. The Raging Tide was a Futures Collegiate Baseball League that played at The Ballpark from 2012 to 2014.

Fontaine said Cummins negotiated a two-year contract with the town, with an option for a third year.

Although the East Coast Baseball League is an independent league not associated with Major League Baseball teams or their minor league affiliates, Fontaine said many of the league’s players come from Major League teams.

“They’re players that don’t make the cut, but they don’t want to sit idle, so they go and try to get on (independent) leagues to showcase their skills and a chance to get another shot at professional leagues,” Fontaine said.

Unlike the collegiate leagues, which consist of players who play for free, players in the East Coast Baseball League are paid. According to the league’s website, a roster of 22 players earn $500 to $850 a month each and live with host families during the season.

The league was formed last year, and 2015 will be its first season. Fontaine said the season is fairly short, from June to August, but will coincide with the peak period for tourism in Old Orchard Beach.

“Teams like this are great for guys in limbo,” said Fontaine. “It’s very valuable to them because it’s another chance to break into professional playing.”

The league also includes two New York teams – the Newburgh Newts and Watertown Bucks – and two teams in Ontario, Canada – the Niagara Wild and Waterloo Whiskey Jacks. The Old Orchard Beach Surge is the only New England team in the league to date.

Fontaine said the league is a natural fit for Old Orchard Beach because of the town’s attraction as a vacation spot for Canadians.

“This will strengthen our fame as a playground of two nations,” Fontaine said.

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