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Westfield Starfires Enter Fifth Collegiate Season

Owner Chris Thompson Talks Journey, New Developments

Article by Abigail Taylor

Photography by Kat Kattler Photography and David Hosmer

Originally published in Westfield City Lifestyle

When Chris Thompson, owner of the Westfield Starfires, founded the city’s summer collegiate baseball team in 2019, there was no blueprint to follow. In just five years, the team has made a significant impact on the community and has achieved numerous milestones, on and off the field. The Starfires, who play in the Futures League (a wooden bat summer collegiate baseball league in New England), have propelled athletes to the pros, all while becoming a beloved fixture of the Westfield community.

Last summer, the Starfires saw two standouts taken in the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft. Alumnus Reggie Crawford was drafted in the 1st round (30th overall) by the San Francisco Giants and Pat Gallagher was drafted in the 11th round (338th overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays. “I think it’s a great opportunity for players in the Futures League to compete at this level for 64 games in front of MLB scouts.”

The 5th anniversary season, presented by Westfield Bank, will kick off with two “Kids Opening Days” on Wednesday, May 24th, and Thursday, May 25th, both at 10:30am. These will be annual field trips for local elementary and middle schools. Each school will be able to paint an unfinished bat in a school spirit or baseball theme. The players will use that bat during the game with the keepsake given back to the school after the game. Opening Night will take place on Saturday, May 27th, at 6:30pm.

There are many theme nights to take place at the ballpark this season. The fan favorite will again be the WG&E Post-Game Fireworks Show on Friday, June 9th. Last summer, 2,000 fans attended to make it one of the largest crowds in the history of Bullens Field. “It was standing room only. We were packed like sardines,” Thompson said.

A new partnership with the North Elm Butcher Block will significantly upgrade the Starfires concession operation. “Dan Puza has taken his business to a new level, so we plan to offer all the Butcher Block favorites. He’s got a smoker - so brisket, pulled pork sandwiches, bases-loaded fries, mac and cheese bowls and sausage dogs, to name a few. It was imperative to take the fan experience to the next level, especially concessions. This is a game changer.” 

The best-selling beer at the ballpark, the Starfires IPA, will also be back. On Saturday, July 29th, fans will be able to sample the IPA, as well as local craft brews, at “Get Drafted,” a pre-game Bullens Brewfest in the beer garden.

Making a comeback is the Starfires Summer Camp for two weeks in July for boys and girls ages 6-12. The Starfires themselves will have 10 returning players, as well as manager Kyle Dembrowski and Vice President of Baseball Operations Hunter Golden. Seth Dussault will return to the mic as the “Voice of the Starfires” on the Futures League Network.

The Starfires will continue to offer fan experiences to youth sports organizations, among other groups, including on-field recognition and in-between inning promotions. Thompson said that over the years, he has continued his appreciation for the marketing partnerships that have kept the team running. “We have a very strong corporate base here in Western Massachusetts. I think from the outset, the goal was to be connected with the community, the city of Westfield, and beyond. I think franchises like ours around the country are only successful if you have community support.”

In recognition of the team’s ties with Barnes Air National Guard Base, the Starfires earned the FCBL Community Relations Award last year for its Military Appreciation Game to support the 104th Fighter Wing. The team itself was named after the Lockheed F-94 Starfire. Mascot Stanley Starfire, a lovable black squirrel character, is the namesake of Stanley Park. “It was important from inception to pay homage to the local community to help tell our story.”