Keene SwampBats set to kick off 25th anniversary season June 8

·5 min read

May 28—This summer will be extra special at Alumni Field, as the Keene SwampBats will be celebrating their 25th anniversary season, looking for their sixth New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) championship.

"It's a yard-marker, and not necessarily what we envisioned when we started," said SwampBats general manager Kevin Watterson. "But we are as excited as can be to start this year's season. Number 25, chasing our sixth title."

The SwampBats will be celebrating the mile marker by highlight the "local touch" that has helped the SwampBats get to where they are now.

"We're really going to focus on honoring those in this community who have made the SwampBats what they are," Watterson said. "They're the glue that allowed this to happen."

He added that the team will regularly highlight long-term volunteers during the games to get them extra recognition.

The SwampBats will also be recognizing the four local head coaches that have led the team throughout the years: Marty Testo, Mike Sweeney, Dan Moylan and Paul Swingle.

Here's what you need to know before heading to Alumni Field this summer:

Opening Day

June 8 vs. Upper Valley Nighthawks, 6:30 p.m. at Alumni Field

Admission

Adults: $5

Seniors: $3

Family pass (two adults, kids): $10

Coaching staff

Head coach: Shaun McKenna

Assistant coaches: Matt Padeway (assistant head coach), Nick Lepore (pitching coach)

McKenna returns for his second year at the helm with the SwampBats, optimistic about the talent coming to Keene this summer.

"I'm excited. I'm always excited," McKenna said. "It's the best show in town. It's the best place to be. I love Keene. I love the atmosphere, the community. It's phenomenal. And [Kevin has] done an outstanding job, like usual, putting together this roster."

He will be assisted this year by Padeway and Lepore.

McKenna already has some championship history with Padeway, as the two of them won the 2017 Tidewater Summer League championship together with the Virginia Beach Waves. The Tidewater Summer League is a wood bat collegiate league out of Virginia Beach, VA. McKenna was the Waves' head coach in 2017 and Padeway was in the starting lineup.

"We know each other pretty well," McKenna said. "We won the whole thing then, so it'd be cool if we could do it again."

Padeway also has national championship experience, winning the NCAA Division III title with Salisbury University last year.

Lepore went to UMass-Boston and played baseball for the Beacons before spending last year as a student assistant coach.

"I'm excited to coach with those guys and learn stuff from them," McKenna said. "And hopefully they get to learn stuff from me. Happy to have both of them. That's definitely a bonus."

McKenna's history with the SwampBats goes all the way back to the summer of 2004, which he spent as the team's hitting coach, and now he has the opportunity to be part of this special 25th anniversary year.

"It's definitely an honor for me to be the manager of the SwampBats," McKenna said. "And for this being the 25th anniversary and having people that are still working every day. It's pretty admirable. To be part of it, I'm honored.

"The Keene SwampBats have a huge place in my baseball heart," McKenna added. "I don't sugarcoat it: It's my favorite place to be in the summer. I love the community and there's a reason [the organization] has been around and done so well is because of the people that they surround themselves with."

And team management is happy to have McKenna back at the helm.

"Just a baseball guy," Watterson said. "Gets it done. We think the world of Shaun.

"It's a young coaching staff," Watterson added. "Having a coaching staff with this much experience but youthful is the right formula. ... The expectation is that Keene is always going to be highly competitive on the baseball front, and I think the proof will be in the pudding."

Special Nights

The SwampBats will host various special nights thorough the season to help celebrate the 25th anniversary and the local community that has helped make that happen.

Watterson said ballgames will be "more entertaining than ever" and fans can expect ramped up giveaways and games at the ballpark.

Here are a few of the themed nights that will highlight the summer:

June 23: Mascot night (Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox mascot, will make an appearance)

July 3: Independence eve fireworks show

July 16: Bikers & Baseball (fireworks night)

July 17: First responders' night

There will also be a Star Wars night and a Mardi Gras night during the summer.

"We're working with our sponsors to ramp up giveaways at every game," Watterson said. "We think it's important to recognize that our fans come, not only for the great, great baseball, but also for the entertainment. The games are going to me more entertaining than ever."

A call for host families

The SwampBats are still looking for potential host families to house SwampBats team members during the summer. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a host family, contact Pauline Dionne, the SwampBats' host family coordinator, at 603-357-1761.

Chris Detwiler can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1411, or cdetwiler@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Detwiler.