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Nighthawks president says he’ll trust in the process

  • Noah Crane

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/6/2020 10:19:07 PM
Modified: 2/6/2020 10:31:03 PM

The Upper Valley Nighthawks are still without a manager for the 2020 season, but president Noah Crane isn’t flustered.

The Nighthawks, who enter their fifth New England Collegiate Baseball League season in June, have been through four mangers since their inception. Crane tabbed a new bench boss, Braxton Martinez, in mid-October, but he was signed to a professional contract with the Los Angeles Angels in December, leaving the position vacant.

Before Crane started the Nighthawks, he helped bring the Winnipesaukee Muskrats to Laconia, N.H., and served as general manager for six years, where he had to make a handful of coaching hires.

“We’ve kind of paused on our search,” Crane said last Friday at Starbucks in Hanover. “We probably got 50 resumes when we put the job posting back out. We’ve had a number of conversations with some people but just don’t love our options at this point.”

Summer baseball is different than any other brand in the sport.

At the college level, the sole focus is to win and groom talent.

And while the minor-league model has business similarities to summer ball, the purpose is getting players ready to play in the majors.

In the NECBL and other summer organizations, the end goal on the baseball diamond is to maintain the talent level — to let players develop while making sure they are staying healthy and getting in the repetitions that their college coaches sent them to take.

This heavily impacts what Crane looks for in his manager. He needs to hire a coach who can interact with the entire team on a day-to-day basis and make sure that a player enjoys his summer in the Upper Valley, all while making sure winning games isn’t completely lost in the mix.

That’s why Crane asks every candidate the same opening question: What’s the difference between coaching the spring and coaching in the summer?

“And their answer to that gives me an ability to see whether or not they grasp what we’re about in the summer,” he said. “If their answer is win, win, win, then that gives me a lot of pause. Because, generally speaking, they’re going to maybe put kids in bad positions to try and win a game.

“I’m competitive. I played; I coached. I’d like to go 44-0, but I’m not gonna freak out if we lose on June 13 because our closer was unavailable and we had to go to the second option.”

Crane reopened the job shortly after Martinez’s departure and had the position posted on Skipper’s Dugout, a popular Twitter account that sends out information for coaching jobs throughout the baseball.

The reasons why he is taking his time with this process is because he’ll possibly be making his first hire without truly knowing the candidate. Martinez played for Crane in Laconia, and last season’s manager, Keller Bradford, was a pitcher for Upper Valley in 2017. Bradford couldn’t continue with Nighthawks because of commitments tied to his job as a junior college assistant coach in Mississippi.

Bradford’s manager that season, Jason Szafarski, wasn’t hired until after the season was two games in.

When all is said and done, Crane needs someone who can sign autographs, hop on a radio show and make sure players are doing that, too. He will continue to accept applications and see what happens for now. He knows that the college season is right around the corner and that assistant coaches apply as the season goes on.

Crane is planning on having a manger on place, though, by June 3 when the Nighthawks open the season at the Vermont Mountaineers.

“If you create a culture where it’s fun, they enjoy this, then they’ll want to be here,” said Crane, whose team has struggled to make the postseason the last two seasons due to players wanting to get home. “It helps them push through the homesickness, helps push through the looking at the calendar and say, ‘If I go home now, I’ve got X amount of time before I gotta be back to school.’

“They will stay. If they care about your organization, if they care about their manager, they’re going to stick around. And if you’ve got a guy who doesn’t resonate and doesn’t connect, and it’s kind of a difficult personality, right, kids are going to disappear.”

Pete Nakos can be reached at 

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