When it opened in late 2014, the New England Baseball Complex didn't have much fanfare. There wasn't a ticker tape parade or a large facilities announcement. There wasn't a grandiose scheme to place a professional team in its ranks, and it wasn't a blip on the sport's local radar. If you lived east of the dreaded Mass Pike-Route 128 interchange, you probably couldn't find Northborough on a map.
But two springs later, it's one of the centerpiece possessions of the entire New England baseball scene. After a disastrous 2015 in which teams had to move to its three turf fields, the 2016 Beanpot moves to the complex today to crown its latest champion. It's a watershed moment for the facility, its staff, and all those who have made this possible.
We had an opportunity to sit down with Jason Kosow, CEO of the New England Baseball Complex and himself a former baseball player from Babson College who spent time in the Chicago Cubs organization. In our talk, we had a great chance to talk about the facility, its short explosion onto the baseball scene, and how exciting both the Beanpot and the future holds for the three-field facility.
BC Interruption: Nobody really knew what the complex was until we had all of those issues last year with the weather, and now it's really becoming a centerpiece of New England college baseball. How have you seen the awareness grow from last year into this year?
Jason Kosow: What last year's weather did to New England baseball was pretty devastating with its unprecedented amounts of snow. We literally had five feet of snow on all of our fields last year on March 1st. We were able to work with the crews that cleared Gillette Stadium, and they did a heck of a job clearing the fields.
Then we had our games and then we had the piece in the Boston Globe. It really brought awareness to New England and really all of the colleges that this existed. We were happy to help people last year and get people on the field, really experience it for the first time. You don't see a lot of turf fields yet up in New England, and we have three of them here.
It really wasn't the intent when we built this facility to be the host to so many different teams and colleges, but it's been really interesting and fun for us to adapt from our original plans to be able to host all divisions. Obviously BC-NC State started us off last year, and we've continued to host all division games, one through three, high school games, and the spring has taken on a whole new role for us. It's been really exciting.
BCI: With the Beanpot in particular this year being held at the facility, how did that come about and to be that we're going to crown a trophy in 2016?
Jason Kosow: It was fairly organic. The sports complex here hosts a lot of baseball travel programs, and we run our own program. That's let us get to know a lot of college coaches in the area just from our kids in our programs, in the recruiting process, so that's helped us to know Coach Gambino and develop a relationship with him.
That relationship took on a new role and a new meaning with BC baseball being able to play here last year. We actually had them out here for a practice on January 31st this year, and we've been able to maintain a running relationship with Coach Gambino.
The Beanpot was held at Fenway last year, so we're honored to be able to host it at our complex this year. You look at its longevity with hockey and baseball and what it means for the schools, so it's really an honor.
The baseball's the easy part! We're going to host two really cool games (today), but I don't know what to expect for people or festivities, so we're really preparing for anything. But to be able to host such an event here, one that was at Fenway last year, it's really exciting for us at the complex to chip in, rally, and really have a team effort to get it together.
It's really been a team effort, and even though there are those unknowns, we're going to have two really great baseball games and the field is ready to go.
BCI: Everyone mentions the three fields - all turf - but what are the details of the facility when people arrive for the Beanpot?
Jason Kosow: People are going to pull into the facility and be introduced to the area. As people know the area, for better or for worse, our baseball fields are across the street from Wegman's.
But when people pull in, they'll see Field 1 so they won't really see Field 2 or Field 3 until they start walking around. I think it'll be kind of cool for everyone since we'll be on Field 2. That's what Coach Gambino had wanted when BC played here against NC State. It's our largest field; it's about 400 feet to straightaway center where Field 1 is about 390 to dead center and Field 3 is a little smaller at about 380 to straightaway center. So Field 2 is where we've played some of our bigger games with the bigger division teams.
So everyone arriving are going to have the chance to see Field 1. We have our strength and practice center, which will hopefully be ready in the next couple of months.
They'll also be able to see Field 3, which is where the players for the second game will be able to warm up and take BP during the first game. So when the first game ends, we'll be able to clean up and do a little maintenance to Field 2, but Field 3 will be open for the Beanpot for a warmup or practice field for the two teams waiting to get on for the second game.
So hopefully the fans get to enjoy everything. Field 2 is where we can accommodate more people with different viewing angles, but Field 3 is clear and open for practice. So hopefully everyone will be able to have a great day watching the games.
BCI: In terms of location, a lot of people aren't aware of Northborough as a central location. How much of an advantage is your location being in Central Mass versus being, say, in Eastern Mass where the bus trips may be longer for those teams located further away from the Boston area?
Jason Kosow: When we built this complex, we did it strategically and picked this place not just to be centrally located for Massachusetts but centrally located to all of New England. We're located a crossroads for the Mass Pike and I-495, more specifically at Route 9 and Route 20, which is a growing area for commercial business and population.
I'm sure UMass-Amherst coming from Western Mass. will appreciate the shorter ride, and teams from the east have to make the ride out of the city, but being centrally located in New England is really where we were hoping. We host a lot of tournaments out here in the summer, and we get a lot of people from Providence, Rhode Island or Connecticut and even out the Pike out into Albany, New York and then northern New England into New Hampshire, Vermont, and even Maine.
BCI: Depending on how things play out for the Beanpot, is this something that you'd like to keep at the complex and is this something could open up more opportunities as a jumping off point?
Jason Kosow: We've certainly stayed on our toes with regards to the outside demands. We've had some interesting requests.
We started pretty much out of the gate with BC-NC State. We opened in August, 2014, ran fall baseball in 2014 and then right out of the chute in 2015, we have the BC-NC State series moved out here. And we were absolutely happy to accommodate that, get the field cleaned, and stay pretty nimble.
We really try to stay nimble as a staff, as an organization, and as a, quite frankly, multi-sport facility at this point. If we're able to help the game at any level, even down to town little leagues and some places in the area with Northborough, Southborough, the towns out here, we're happy to do stuff with them. And with baseball and some of the higher profile events - the Beanpot, which is really cool for us - we're always up for receiving a call to receive this or receive that.
And I will add, working with BC and Coach Gambino, with the Frates Foundation, with our gate fee going 100% to the foundation, we're happy to be associated and do whatever we can for that. It's really exciting to be hosting the event, to be helping out in our way, and to be hosting high profile events, whether it's a regional or a tournament, we'll do everything in our power to make that happen. It's great for us, but it's great for the baseball community and hopefully the surrounding towns can jump aboard and everyone can enjoy some good baseball or whatever we can do for them.