The New Britain Bees, looking for a much-needed spark both on and off the field (namely, more people in the seats), hired Wally Backman as manager in the off-season.
Backman is best known for his playing days, including winning a World Series with the Mets in 1986. He was also the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks for all of four days in 2004. His short stay was due to some alleged legal and financial items that came up in a couple media reports immediately following his hiring.
Backman is fiery without a doubt. One only needs to search his name on YouTube to find some entertaining antics.
The Bees played a couple pre-season scrimmages over the weekend. Sean and I headed over on Sunday afternoon to see New Britain host a team made up of all stars from a Connecticut amateur baseball league.
The hope is that Backman will help put some more fannies in the seats at New Britain Stadium. I’ve noted in this blog on several occasions how disappointing the crowds have been the first two seasons.
Sunday was no different, despite it being a nice spring day in Connecticut, and no admission to watch the game.
Sparse crowd in New Britain
The Bees won easily, 11-1.
Sean and I watched the last half of the game. He managed to snag three balls, and we found another outside the stadium. The Bees were offering a ticket voucher for a free ticket to a regular season game for each ball returned to the concession stand, so we opted for that, thinking there will be more balls to come this season.
Sean with a snagged ball; the amateur team was using generic Rawlings balls when they were in the field
The Bees are under new ownership, and the baseballs they use are slightly different, namely, with the signature of new owner Anthony Iacovone.
2018 Atlantic League baseball used by the New Britain Bees
After the game, we headed to the New Britain dugout to ask Backman for his lineup card. Not only did he give it to Sean, but he also signed it!
Here’s to hoping for a good year for the Bees both on the field and at the gate!
2018: 4 lineup cards (3 dugout/bullpen; 1 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 161 lineup cards (110 dugout/bullpen; 48 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)
Leagues: MLB: American League; National League; 2017 ALDS. MiLB: International League (AAA); Pacific Coast League (AAA); Eastern League (AA); Southern League (AA); Carolina League (A); New York-Penn League (A), including 2017 NYPL ASG. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; Frontier League. Colleges: NCAA – America East Conference; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; NCAA – Northeast Conference; Cape Cod League; NJCAA – Region XXI; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL); Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League. International: World Baseball Classic (qualifying round, 2016).
I wondered if Long Island Ducks manager Kevin Baez didn’t give me the lineup card after Friday’s game because they lost in heart-breaking fashion.
I got my answer two days later.
I made it to the last few innings of the Ducks game at New Britain, the first game of a double-header. The Ducks won 3-1.
I had decided to take another shot at getting Long Island’s lineup card despite Baez telling me no on Friday.
Sure enough, Baez handed me his lineup card this time.
The prize was getting 2003 Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne’s name on the Long Island dugout lineup card.
Unfortunately, Gagne did not pitch in the game. He didn’t pitch in any of the three games in New Britain. Gagne, 41, ended his comeback attempt a week after this game having allowed nine runs in 3 2/3 innings.
I did get to see former Major Leaguer David Aardsma close out the win for Long Island. Ardsma pitched in 331 MLB games in nine big league seasons.
Aside from being happy to get a dugout lineup card with Gagne on it, I love it when managers/coaches have notes on lineup cards. The Ducks wrote several stats next to the New Britain players including batting average against lefties and righties for both hitters and pitchers. It is no wonder New Britain is last in the Atlantic League the way they are hitting.
2017: 11 lineup cards (4 dugout/bullpen; 7 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 132 lineup cards (91 dugout/bullpen; 39 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
Part of the fun of collecting lineup cards is to try and get lineup cards with guys who go on to become MLB players, if not stars. As an example, our first MiLB lineup cards are from a Class A game that Trey Mancini played in. Two years later, Mancini’s playing regularly for the Baltimore Orioles.
The independent Atlantic League offers the opportunity to get lineup cards of players who are usually on their way out of professional baseball. Typically, none of the MLB organizations are willing to offer them a contract. The Atlantic League is often their last chance to catch someone’s eye and get back to an MLB organization, perhaps even make it back to the big league.
Most former MLB players in the Atlantic League were journeymen-type players, if that. So it caught my interest when I saw that 2003 Cy Young winner Eric Gagne, 41, had joined the Long Island Ducks in an attempt to make it back to MLB.
For three years, Gagne was the best closer in MLB, including posting 55 saves in 2003 in winning the Cy Young Award.
So I went to see the Ducks play the Bees in New Britain earlier this week, hoping to get a chance to see Gagne pitch.
Unfortunately, he didn’t play in a 4-3 Bees walk-off win, but I hoped to at least get the Ducks’ lineup card with his name on it. I asked manager Kevin Baez for the lineup card, but he said no. He gave me his card last season after a Long Island win, so I’m guessing the reason he didn’t give it to me was because his team on a walk-off.
New Britain manager Stan Cliburn did give me his dugout lineup card, but unfortunately, it did not include the Long Island relief pitchers.
But he also gave me the official lineup cards, without me asking. Long Island’s card had Gagne on it.
Long Island’s card is the yellow one. Here is a close-up. Gagne is #30.
Not the most aesthetically pleasing lineup card we have ever gotten, but cool to have a lineup card with the 2003 Cy Young Award winner nonetheless.
2017: 10 lineup cards (3 dugout/bullpen; 7 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 131 lineup cards (90 dugout/bullpen; 39 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
We got off to a slower start this year as compared with the previous two years. Sean is still recovering from a concussion he suffered four-plus months ago, and Kate has been busy with her robotics team.
Still, we made the most of the opportunities we had in March/April:
- Getting lineup cards from both teams (Quinnipiac and U Hartford) in the first-ever game played at Dunkin’ Donuts Park)
- Getting the Baltimore bullpen line-up card after a game against the Red Sox at Fenway
- Getting the first of hopefully many Atlantic League 20th Anniversary baseballs at a New Britain Bees’ exhibition game
The lone disappointment was not being able to get a lineup card from a Syracuse Chiefs at Pawtucket Red Sox Game.
May will likely also be a fairly quiet month as Sean continues to recover and Kate wraps up robotics. Hopefully, we’ll be back in the swing of things by June!
I wandered over to the New Britain Bees pre-season exhibition game against players from a local amateur league given that there was a chance the Bees might be using some of the Atlantic League’s 20th Anniversary baseballs that it had been announced would be used during this upcoming season.
Still, I figured it was more likely that the Bees would use balls from last season. When the Atlantic League switched from red-laced balls to red-and-blue-laced balls a couple years ago, it took a while before the red-and-blue laced balls started to appear regularly.
So I was surprised when I found a a foul ball that left the stadium and sure enough it was a 20th Anniversary ball.
It’s a nice looking ball, and kudos to the Atlantic League 1) for making it to their 20th season, and 2) doing something fun/different with their baseballs.
I ended up getting four balls on the night, and since I stayed until the end, I also got the lineup card from New Britain Manager Stan Cliborn.
The game itself was more interesting than I would have expected. The amateurs looked alright to start, I assume because the better players played early in the game. As the game went on, things started to get out of hand. The amateurs committed six errors, and I think the scorer was generous. But they seemed to have a good time regardless and I enjoyed watching them give it a go.
2017: 7 lineup cards (2 dugout/bullpen; 5 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 128 lineup cards (89 dugout/bullpen; 37 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
Lineup card from the New Britain Bees first ever victory? Check.
Sean and I made it to New Britain’s second-ever game on Friday, April 22nd. The Bees are a new team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, playing in New Britain Stadium, formerly home to the AA Eastern League New Britain Rock Cats. The Rock Cat organization bolted for a new stadium in Hartford after last season, opening the door for the formation of the New Britain Bees.
The Bees lost their first-ever game to the York Revolution, 4-3, the night before. Sean had a Little League game and it was a school night, so we didn’t make it to the Bees first game.
We did make it to Friday night’s game. Despite the threat of thunderstorms, the game went off without a hitch. The Bees scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, and that single run held up for a 1-0 victory, the franchise’s first-ever win.
Nick Greenwood, who had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Cardinals on a couple of occasions earning a pair of victories, went six innings to get the win.
With two outs and no one on in the top of the ninth, things got a little hairy for the Bees. After a double and a walk, a Revolution player hit a hard grounder down the third base line. The third baseman got his glove on the ball, but in doing so, knocked it into foul territory.
The Revolution player on second tried to score on the play, running through a stop sign from the third base coach. He was thrown out at the plate to end the game.
Sean and I were already sitting near the Bees dugout, and quickly asked Bees manager Stan Cliburn for the lineup card after the bang-bang play at the plate. Cliburn pulled the lineup card off the wall and handed it to Sean.
Assuming Cliburn filled in his own lineup card, he’s got some nice handwriting. He also kept score for the New Britain batters. The baseball in the picture is a foul ball I caught on the fly.
Lineup Card Stats
2016: 11 lineup cards (9 dugout/bullpen; 2 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 74 lineup cards (56 dugout/bullpen; 16 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
Leagues: MLB: American League; National League. MiLB: International League; Eastern League; Carolina League; New York-Penn League. Independent Leagues: Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association. Colleges: NCAA – American Athletic Conference; NCAA – Ivy League; Cape Cod League; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL)