On Sunday afternoon just prior to the first pitch of the Binghamton Mets (B-Mets) game against the Akron RubberDucks, Lou Ferraro, the current B-Mets director of scholastic programs, turned to another employee and said, “This press box is unlike any other one you’ll see. We’re like a family.” For much of last year, that family was under threat of being broken apart.
“It’s a very tight-knit group since we’ve been together for such a long time,” said Ferraro, who has been with the B-Mets since 1992. He added, “It would have been a hard thing to take … it would not have been the same [if the B-Mets left].”
Rumors swirled about the B-Mets’ affiliate moving out of Binghamton and one report indicated that the team had already been sold. The B-Mets were expected to move to Wilmington, Delaware by the start of the 2017 season, potentially leaving the Binghamton area without a professional baseball team for the first time since 1991.
But that deal fell through and in stepped John Hughes of the Evans Street Baseball Inc., who officially purchased the team on Dec. 28, 2015. Following the sale, Hughes announced that he would be keeping the B-Mets in Binghamton for the foreseeable future.
“When I look at Binghamton, I think it’s an up-and-coming community,” Hughes said. “To me, it checked all the boxes of things that I would want.”
Prior to the change in ownership, B-Mets games were sparsely attended by Binghamton University students. Despite being one of the best teams in their division, the B-Mets ranked last among AA Eastern League squads in attendance in 2015, averaging only 2,676 per game. However, Hughes hopes to change this trend by drawing students to games and making them feel welcome at the ballpark.
“[Students] have the atmosphere that we want to have,” Hughes said. “They’re energetic, fun and they’re here to have a good time. I would love to create a place where students can relax, hangout, enjoy the beautiful weather, enjoy the scenery, get to talk to friends and family and see a few goofy things that make you just forget about the pressures for awhile.”
In his short time as owner, Hughes has made an impression on the local community, including Binghamton’s mayor, Rich David.
“[Hughes] is committed to making the necessary improvements and investments to improve that fan experience,” David said. “He’s not an individual who’s just looking to squeeze as much money out of the organization as possible. He’s in it for the long term and has a very ambitious and aggressive plan to do just that.”
Hughes has already begun to upgrade NYSEG Stadium, the home of the B-Mets. His investments have gone toward diversifying food options, renovating the team store and adding big-screen TVs across the stadium. Hughes has also made a concerted effort to add to the team’s promotional schedule.
Live music performances have been added prior to every Thursday, Friday and Saturday home game along with multiple fireworks nights, 500 pounds of candy being dropped on the field following the game on July 31 and a visit to the stadium by Syracuse University head men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim. But, Hughes says there’s even more for fans to look forward to in the future.
“When I bought the team, a lot of the things were already in place because you have to schedule that in the October, November, December time frame,” Hughes said. “[The schedule] had one show on a day … If you do multiple activities on a night, you’re going to draw from a more diverse crowd, more people with various interests.”
The biggest alteration in store for the B-Mets, however, may be a change in name. Hughes opened up to the public suggestions for a new team name and fans will be able to vote for their favorite, with a new name set to be announced following the 2016 season. Hughes views the rebranding as a way to further ingratiate the team into the local community.
“The Mets is a name that belongs to Queens,” Hughes said. “I want a name that ties this team to Binghamton, is reflective of the culture … With over 1,000 submissions, it shows that there’s a passion for it and I’m excited about that.”