Well before the New York Penn League started its 2016 season, I had already made a mental note that the Connecticut Tigers would be hosting the Tri-City Valley Cats (Houston Astros affiliate) the last day of the season.
Why did I care? Because we figured out three or four years ago that the players would some times give away bats, batting gloves and even hats after their last game of the season.
We attended two or three season finales of local teams (Rock Cats and Bridgeport Bluefish) without getting anything (although we saw others get hats and bats) before hitting pay dirt two years ago when Kate and Sean each received a game-used hat from New Hampshire Fisher Cat players after their 2014 season finale against the Rock Cats.
As you can already tell from the headline, we got a hat yesterday, too. How we got the hat was interesting.
The Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the first and coasted to a 10-1 victory over the Valley Cats.
There were still several hundred people at the game as it was ending. Sean, wearing an Astros hat, decided to hang out by the Tri-City bullpen at the end of the game. He had scored his Fisher Cat hat from a bullpen player two years ago, and decided to stick with that game plan.
Kate decided to try the Connecticut dugout even though it was more crowded. I was going for the Valley Cats lineup card.
I easily got the lineup card. I could see that Sean had struck out at the bullpen (the players told them they needed to keep their hats) and had now come over to the far end of the Valley Cat dugout, where he also was unsuccessful except for a baseball that had been thrown to him.
Kate also got a baseball but nothing else. As far as we could tell, no players gave away any hats, although they did give away several baseballs, a few bats and at least one kid got someone’s batting gloves.
We hung out for two or three minutes but the players had all cleared out by that point. I was about ready to call it a day when Sean pointed to a Tiger coach talking to someone near the dugout and asked me if he could ask the coach for his hat. I said sure, why not, but wait until the coach finishes his conversation and then ask politely.
So Sean hung around near the coach, and when the coach had finished his conversation, asked him for his hat. Sure enough the coach, Tigers pitching coach Ace Adams, handed Sean his hat! Sean thanked him, of course.
To the best of my knowledge, Sean was the only fan to walk away with a hat. I’m not sure why none of the players gave away any hats. Perhaps they were told not to, or maybe they wanted to keep them for themselves, which would be understandable.
Here are Kate and Sean outside the stadium after the game, with Sean wearing the Tigers hat, which fit him almost perfectly, and Kate holding the lineup card.
Here’s a closer look at the hat and lineup card.
For what it’s worth, the lineup card was printed on regular paper rather than the sturdier paper typically used for dugout lineup cards. However, it’s much nicer looking that the lineup card we got from the Valley Cats last season (along with a beat up 2014 MLB Postseason ball we found behind the OF wall at Dodd Stadium last year).
Finally, below are the two Fisher Cats hats we got in 2014, along with the Connecticut hat Sean got yesterday.
2016: 53 lineup cards (38 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 116 lineup cards (85 dugout/bullpen; 29 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)