Professional baseball gets a second chance in Watertown
The sun refuses to set on professional baseball in Watertown. After the North Country Baseball League folded late last year, a new corporate-sponsored league is taking its place. The Watertown Bucks will open another season throwing their first pitch at the city fairgrounds this summer.
Eddie Gonzalez is a professional baseball player who coached one of the Watertown Bucks' biggest rivals — Road City. As he watched his team take the field every day, he remembered his own struggles trying to make it big in baseball.
When playing professionally, Gonzalez says all his time and money went into trying out for teams.
“I had to sleep in my car. I had to beg for help just so I could get a happy meal at McDonald's,” he said.
It was discouraging.
“They didn’t have a league like this for guys that were right out of college that needed a good league to help develop and help get ready and be instructed with coaching. You either were good enough to be in those big elite leagues or you weren’t.”
So, his heart sank when the owner of the North Country Baseball League, Bruce Zicari, announced last year he couldn’t finance another season of baseball in Watertown. That's when Gonzalez decided to take the helm.
Over the winter, Gonzalez arranged a deal to save the league. He says it will be funded largely by corporate sponsorship.
“We want tickets to be sold, yes, but we don’t have to rely on that to make the league survive,” said Gonzalez.
According to him, the Watertown Bucks have made a name for themselves as a stepping stone to bigger and better teams, noting that last year more than 30 players in the league were traded onto higher-level teams. Just take outfielder Nick Ferdinand’s first game with the minor league team, the York Revolution. Gonzalez was thrilled when “he hit the walk off home run that night at, like, 9:30 pm and the team won. The York Revolution. It’s all over YouTube. It was such a remarkable thing. It was very special.”
The Watertown Bucks will keep its name and so will Old Orchard Surge in Maine. New teams include the New Hampshire Wilds and the Sullivan Explores based in Sullivan County, New York.
Gonzalez says it was a fight to get towns to open their arms again to what was seen as a flailing league. He admits that the League’s finances last year were on shaky footing, but also says their players were not.
“I’m just so happy for the kids who made it and its for them why we want to keep doing this,” said Gonzalez.
The Watertown Bucks will host the New Hampshire Wilds in their first home game in Watertown on June 13.