The Emerson baseball team has found its first home field.
Campanelli Stadium in Brockton, Massachusetts will be the location of all the Lions home games starting this upcoming season.
Head coach Nick Vennochi and the school’s athletic director Patricia Nicol reached a deal with the Brockton Rox, a Futures Collegiate Baseball League team that owns the venue and plays its home games there from June to August, to give Emerson access to their facilities.
Hired to lead the Lions in August, Vennochi said his first task in the position was to find a home for his team, and said he believes only Fenway Park and LeLacheur Park are better than the one he acquired.
“It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s positive—it shows that our program is legit,” Vennochi said. “We’re obviously in the middle of a couple down years here but this is something to stand on top of and use as a building block. Now we can cross this off the list.”
The Lions baseball program has never had an official home field. Instead, they have had to play at either Victory Field in Watertown, Massachusetts, their opponent's field in which they bat second, or other neutral locations.
Vennochi, a former Emerson baseball player and 2011 graduate, had that experience. As an alumnus, he said he hopes the new venue will draw past players to its bleachers.
“We all battled on a million different fields but now we have a place where we can centralize everything,” Vennochi said. “Alumni can come and know where we’re going to play.”
Vennochi said he first received word in September that the Rox had an opening after their former partner, University of Massachusetts Boston, left after building their own ballpark.
Vennochi made the phone call, and said the Rox accepted them right away.
“The fact that Coach Vennochi came in here and already started making moves, it really gives us confidence that he’s out there trying to make this program legit,” junior infielder Danny Johnson said.
The coach then went to Nicol and the two began negotiations with the Rox. According to Vennochi, a month passed before they finally reached an agreement.
“[The players] have something where they feel the school’s on their side,” Vennochi said. “It’s something where maybe in the past we had the feeling they weren’t on our side. True or not I think it’s obvious now that they are.”
Vennochi said Nicol’s support was invaluable.
“She could have said it was too expensive or that it was too far away,” Vennochi said. “She could have said a million things, but it was yes from the go.”
Junior shortstop Mitch Moormann said the athletic department’s determination in getting the park inspires his team to succeed next spring.
“Having that home field symbolizes that we have support this year and having that support means we have something to play for,” Moormann said. “That motivates us to win games for our own program.”
The 13-year-old ballpark features all natural grass, a batting tunnel, and outfield bullpens, among other attributes.
“Having a field that’s a stadium is huge,” Mormann, a visual and media arts major, said. “It’s breathtaking being out there.”
Johnson added that despite the field’s appearance and its characteristics, the team needs to prove they deserve it.
“[Vennochi] has been stressing that we have to earn this stadium, and it’s true because it’s a beautiful park and just saying you’re an Emerson baseball player is not a justification,” Johnson, a journalism major, said. “We have to go out there, we have to play our best ball, and we need to win some games. Otherwise we don’t deserve this stadium.”
The Lions, who finished 2-27 last season, will host 14 games at their new field in 2016 out of 34 total contests.
“I feel confident in saying that the two-win total will be well surpassed,” Johnson said. “If it’s not it’s a disappointing season.”
Campanelli Stadium is located about 25 miles south of the campus. Its 6,000-person capacity can fit almost double Emerson’s population.
“A lot of people want to go to our games because they don’t want to go other team’s fields,” Moormann said. “Having people who are rooting for us in our own place is really going to boost our morale when we’re out there.”
The distance doesn’t matter, according to Vennochi, whose team will take passenger vans to the field. He said the fact that opponents and spectators can come to field and see banners that read Emerson College Baseballposted around the stadium and on its video board, is good enough for him.
“To have a place for us to now call home even though it is 25 miles from campus is a step in the right direction,” Vennochi said. “Does it mean we’re going to win? No. But it’s sure as hell going to help us.”