Having a Ball
Win or Lose, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats Might be the Best Show Around
Throughout the spring and summer, a family of four can spend less than $50 in downtown Manchester to see what might best be described as a 2 1/2-hour outdoor variety show.
Each show is different, but mainstay acts include clashes between over-padded medieval knights, T-shirts being shot from moving vehicles, and fireworks. Theme events include a poutine festival in June and Star Wars Night in July.
At the center of it all is the New Hampshire Fisher Cats baseball team, which happens to deliver an exciting brand of professional baseball. Mike Ramshaw, the franchise’s president since 2016 and the person behind the entertainment extravaganza, wants fans to go home smiling, win or lose.
“It’s a fun job,” he says. “People are most important to me. What better place to go to work than a place where I can get in front of 400,000 people a year?”
It’s been an interesting journey for Ramshaw, a native of southern New Hampshire. It began 12 years ago, when he stopped selling Poland Spring water in order to run the Fisher Cats’ ticket office. In 2007, his first full season with the team, home attendance spiked by 70,000 fans.
“It was a leap of faith, but I’m not someone who lives life through regrets, and look where I am now,” he says.
The Fisher Cats are the Double-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, whose management has total control over the team’s roster. The Double-A level is a key testing ground for an organization’s brightest young talent.
Last year, the team finished in last place in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division with a record of 59-80. As of June 5 this year, they were in first place in the division and outfitted with what Ramshaw calls a “once in a lifetime” roster, thanks to three heralded prospects who happen to be sons of former major league stars.
Shortstop Bo Bichette is the son of Dante Bichette, a four-time MLB All-Star, and second baseman Cavan Biggio is the son of former Houston Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. The team’s brightest star is 19-year-old third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., whose father was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in January.
Fisher Cats manager John Schneider played for the team in 2006 and 2007, long before Northeast Delta Dental Stadium received $1 million in upgrades in 2017. He says the combination of team success and fan experience has made it a special year.
“There’s definitely a buzz this year at home,” Schneider says. “They put on an entertaining show, and there’s a lot of talent on the field.”
As May came to a close, Guerrero’s batting average was a mind-blowing .425, and he seemed destined for a promotion to the majors.
In spite of this year’s excitement, it can be difficult for fans and players to form a connection. Biggio admits that he has been so focused on training that he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to experience Manchester, or even to visit family down the road in Nashua.
With a roster in flux, Ramshaw focuses on building community relations through family activities. And all of the stars don’t come and go. Tyler Zickel, the team’s energetic on-field emcee, is always there to fire up the crowd with games and entertainment between innings.
“You have to constantly think outside the box and raise the bar,” Ramshaw says. “The day that we become complacent and think we have it right is the beginning of the end. When fans come out, I want them to say, ‘What are they going to do next?’ ”