2017-08-17 / Front Page

Surge threatened by lack of housing

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


Surgio the Wolf found a new home at the BallPark in Old Orchard Beach this July. (Courtesy photo) Surgio the Wolf found a new home at the BallPark in Old Orchard Beach this July. (Courtesy photo) OLD ORCHARD BEACH – The Surge Baseball Team has rescheduled its remaining home games due to a lack of housing availability for players. Eddie Gonzalez, CEO of Empire Professional Baseball League, said he’s not looking to move the team from Old Orchard Beach, but if suitable housing arrangements can’t be made for next season, players may not return.

The team will play all of its remaining games scheduled for the season at Generals Park in Loch Sheldrake, New York and Chip Cummings Field in Plattsburgh, New York. If the Surge makes the Empire League playoffs, which begin Tuesday, Aug. 22, team members could return to Old Orchard Beach for a final home game. The playoff schedule is to be determined until final scores for the season are tallied. The Surge is currently tied in the lead with the Plattsburgh RedBirds 25 wins to 18 losses.

Gonzalez said housing has been a problem the past three years the Surge has played in Old Orchard Beach. Gonzalez enjoys the town, but said tourism is so prominent that few hotels are willing to rent a large number of rooms at a discounted group rate. He said it’s a problem even Triple-A Baseball teams contend with.

“We would love more than anything to play at The Ballpark tomorrow, but it costs a lot of money,” Gonzalez said.

Renting apartments is typically out of the question because few, if any, offer three-to-four-month leases. Players stay with host families as well as at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, a 45-minute drive from The Ballpark. Gonzalez hopes he can find enough families in case the Surge make it to the playoffs.

“We’ve had tremendous support, around 30 people calling us offering their homes,” he said. “We’ll have no problem if there are enough host families.”

The weather this summer hasn’t helped the team either. Gonzalez said an average season will see three or four games cancelled due to rain. This year there have been 12, which caused more changes in the game schedule.

Surge General Manager Sean Getchell said he’s worked closely with community members to set up housing in the event the team makes it to the playoffs. Teams in the Empire League playoffs must win three of five games to be crowned champion.

Getchell, however, is happy with how the season has progressed.

“The local community has done really well this year,” he said. “Overall I’m very happy with how the team played. We had great interns and great workers. I couldn’t have asked for much better of a season.”

This was the first year for the team’s new mascot, Surgio the Wolf, which Getchell said was a big hit with young fans. The Ballpark also hosted its first Cub Scout night Thursday, July 20. Scouts watched the game in uniform and were able to interact with players on the field. Getchell said a steady crowd of regulars and newcomers attended games throughout the season. He hopes to keep the fan base growing into next year.

“We saw a lot of new faces, which is good for the team and everyone else as well,” he said.

Ballpark Operations Manager Guy Fontaine hopes to keep bringing new events to The Ballpark too. Fontaine said he’s spoken with the Maine chapter of Patriot Riders of America to potentially hold a barbecue for military members and veterans next year. Fontaine wants to bring more music to the park, but is waiting to see how this year’s Blues and Jazz Festival goes. The festival will be held noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16. This was also the inaugural season of the Greater Northeast Collegiate Baseball League, which Fontaine said worked really well.

“We are thinking outside the box for events we could bring to southern Maine to help put us on the map,” Fontaine said. “But we will always want to continue with baseball.”

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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