Elmira Pioneers Baseball Team Under New Ownership

Posted January 19, 2012

Local Pair Purchases Elmira Pioneers
By Joe Mink, The Star-Gazette

ELMIRA - The Elmira Pioneers are now under local ownership.

Donald Lewis and Nellie Franco Nichols have purchased the baseball team from Jeff Kunion, and all three were at the Hill Top Inn for the announcement Wednesday (1/18).

Lewis is an Edison High graduate who most recently has been assistant general manager of the Elmira Jackals. Franco Nichols is the wife of Robbie Nichols, the Jackals' general manager.

The Pioneers will continue to compete in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League and play their home contests at Dunn Field.

Lewis said part of taking over the Pioneers includes refurbishing the ballpark, and the home locker room has already been updated with new walls and paint. The visiting locker room also will be improved, he said.

Negotiations are taking place with Dan Shwam to return to return as manager, though Lewis added he's also spoken with other candidates.

Lewis said the manager will also handle the role of general manager and be responsible for bringing in the players. Some players have already been signed, Lewis noted.

He also said he spoke to Kunion two years ago about acquiring the team, but that Kunion wasn't interested in selling at the time.

"We stayed in touch, and finally everything fell together," Lewis said.

Lewis said he approached Franco Nichols about coming in as a partner.

"Nellie has always loved baseball," he said.

Franco Nichols will oversee daily operations of the team, including the interns and volunteers.

On Jan. 1, Kunion was named president of the PGCBL. He said the Pioneers will thrive under the new ownership.

"I live on Long Island. There was too much stress on travel, so I decided to sell the team," Kunion said.

He believes Elmira will continue to lead the league in attendance, something the Pioneers accomplished last season with a total of 35,453 and an average of 1,477. Amsterdam was second at 28,604 and 1,192, respectively.

Besides baseball, Dunn Field will also offer other events such as concerts, Lewis said.

There's also the possibility of the Pioneers and Jackals organizations helping each other out.

"We'd like to do co-promotions. It makes a lot of sense for us to work together," Lewis said.

June 8 will be opening day at Dunn Field, though the league schedule has not been released, so Elmira's opponent is not yet known.

The Pioneers compete in the PGCBL West with the Cooperstown Hawkeyes, Newark (N.Y.) Pilots and the Watertown Wizards. In the East division are the Albany Dutchmen, Amsterdam Mohawks, Glens Falls Golden Eagles and the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs of Little Falls, N.Y.

(For original story, visit http://www.stargazette.com/article/20120118/SPORTS/201180368/Local-pair-purchases-Elmira-Pioneers?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE%7Cp.)

Featured Events

View All Events

Site Sponsors

Become a Site Sponsor

Current Publication

Chemung County Chamber of Commerce

Mark Twain Country