Brockton Houses Independent Baseball's Hidden Gem

Mark ChiarelliContributor IMay 28, 2010

From Bill Murray to Keith Brachold, the Brockton Rox offer many a story to the casual baseball fan.

Since 2002, the Brockton Rox are been a member of the Canadian-American Professional Baseball Association, an independent league with no affiliation to Major League Baseball.

This did not hold back Bill Murray, who took a keen interest with the team. And for those who are staring at this wondering if I’m yanking your chain, you can rest assure this is no joke.

This is the Bill Murray who has shined on every comedic stage presented to him such as Caddyshack as well as Saturday Night Live

When the Rox were founded in 2002, Murray immediately jumped on the possibility of co-owning this team.

The “director of fun”, Murray makes the most of his visits to the park entertaining the masses and coordinating such efforts as fireworks night.

Despite the boost of “A List” advertising, the Brockton Rox offer much more as you delve deeper into the team.

Campanelli Stadium may be one of Massachusetts best untold secrets. Engulfed in a sea of red upon stepping foot on the field, this sight only lasts for a short time before the buzz grows.

Campanelli keeps a vintage feel with a “olde time scoreboard”, but also offers state of the art concourse areas and brand new suites. This great baseball atmosphere fits the bill well because the Can-Am league does not situate their stadiums in the area of Major or Minor league teams.

Peel back yet another of the aforementioned layer and you start to take a look at the interesting stories on the roster.

One family that takes a keen interest to this team is the Papelbon family.

Just a straight shot up the Massachusetts Turnpike, big brother Jonathan is the last arm out of the pen for the Boston Red Sox.

Travel back down the “Pike” and little brother Josh assumes the same title with the Rox. “I’m the closer, I’m the stopper, the last guy out”, said Josh Papelbon.

Entering his first season with the Rox, little brother Josh is no stranger to the Red Sox either.

Drafted in the 48th round by Boston, Josh pitched for Lowell, Greenville, and Lancaster, all minor league affiliates.

He was released in April by the big club, and was left in search of a team.

Although he put up solid numbers for the Sox’ minor league system, he did not warrant a lot of attention when entering the free agent market.

One of those reasons could be Papelbon's quirky release.

When asked on how he acquired his submarine delivery Papelbon replied, “In high school I started out over the top. My college coach recommended moving down to side arm and I kept on dropping down until my knuckles were scraping the mound. Then I couldn’t go any lower.”

Despite a non convention delivery, the Brockton Rox defined on the dot, contacting Papelbon.

“Within an hour of being released the Rox contacted me,” said Papelbon. “It came down to a few teams and the Rox were definitely one of them. A few weeks later after looking at all my options I decided the Rox would be the best fit for me. It would give me a chance to see Jonathan more as well as his wife and two children.”

While the name recognition in Brockton is off the charts for the Can-Am league(did I mention the team is named after famed boxer Rocky Marciano), there are also lesser known players with just as interesting stories.

Centerfielder Chris Valencia is one of the younger players on the team, only 23 years old. Valencia took a different route to Brockton.

Drafted out of high school, Valencia went to the New York Yankees but failed to sign with the team.

From there it was time to start over. “I tried the whole college thing,” said Valencia. “It actually went quite well. We won a NAIA title at Lewis and Clark and I enjoyed my time there.”

However, Valencia did not find a Major League franchise out of school and has since caught on with the Brockton Rox. Entering his second season, Valencia is a well known fan favorite and has numbers to back up the love.

No matter how they got there, all players in Brockton share one thing, a love for the game.

The passion left out on the field is the largest reason why they are one of the most successful franchises in the Can-Am league.

Although Massachusetts is more commonly associated with the Boston Red Sox and their two minor league affiliates in the state, Pawtucket and Lowell, many will soon find out about this hidden gem in baseball.

The Brockton Rox, member of the Can-Am league, will soon be more than a blip on the radar.