Daily News

Valley Blue Sox Break into Top 10 in Collegiate Baseball Attendance

HOLYOKE — The Valley Blue Sox have officially broken into the top 10 for average attendance among summer collegiate baseball teams nationally, according to BallparkDigest.com. In addition, the 2,121 average attendance at 2017 Blue Sox games also placed first in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the second consecutive year.

The 10th-place ranking — following an 11th-place ranking in 2016 — comes on the heels of a challenging 2017 season where weather wasn’t kind to the Blue Sox, as they ended up having six games postponed due to rain.

“We had some challenges this year with weather, so being able to crack the top 10 in spite of that is quite an accomplishment, but also a pretty good harbinger of things to come,” said Blue Sox President Clark Eckhoff. “Just to be where we were five years ago to now is something else, and it’s been a lot of hard work and heavy lifting from a lot of good people that’s made this all happen.”

This past summer saw not only the team’s first championship in franchise history, but also several upgrades to Mackenzie Stadium, including a new playing surface and bullpens. A new concessions and restroom facility is on track for completion by the 2018 season.

In addition to its national standing among collegiate-level teams, the Blue Sox also topped several professional, affiliated teams as well, finishing ahead of teams in Staten Island, N.Y., Modesto, Calif., and Daytona Beach, Fla.

“Some of the teams we finished ahead of are from major markets, some of which have major-league teams in them in certain sports,” Eckhoff said. “The trajectory is great in terms of where we’re headed, and we owe a deep debt of gratitude to the fans who keep showing up. Many of which have become familiar faces to us who we see there game after game. They’re a big part of the reason we do what we do and make it so much fun to show up at the ballpark day in and day out.”

In addition to the success off the field, the team posted its second-best record in team history and capped it off with a run to the championship in which the Blue Sox swept every team in their path.

“It’s a mixture of everything,” said Blue Sox General Manager Hunter Golden. “When you put a winning product on the field with a great promotional calendar and provide a fun, family environment, it’s a pretty great recipe for success. Thanks to the fans and to the city and community  — and our great staff — for helping make this season what it was.”