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”)
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”)
Sean and I made it to the final game of the New Britain Bees’ inaugural season against the Somerset Patriots. The Bees had been knocked out of playoff contention Friday night, and Somerset had already clinched a playoff spot, so it was a meaningless game.
The Bees jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but the Patriots stormed back for a 13-6 win in front of a few hundred fans.
Sean really wanted a game-used Bees hat. His initial plan was to ask someone in the bullpen for a hat, but giving up 13 runs, the only player left in the New Britain bullpen by the top of the 9th inning was the bullpen catcher, and it didn’t look like he had a hat. Plan B was to stand by the OF side of the New Britain dugout.
The first two players Sean asked said no, and he got a little discouraged but I told him that he had no right to get discouraged as the Bees players had no obligation to give him a hat, but if he really wanted one, he should keep trying as some players were still milling around. I then went to get Somerset’s lineup card.
When I came back, sure enough Sean had a hat from New Britain infielder John Dziomba, which was very nice of him and made Sean’s day. It was humid Sunday and Dziomba had been playing, so the hat was accordingly sweaty. Sean actually washed the hat at home, which he wouldn’t have done unless he really liked it and wanted to wear it.
He then dried it using a balloon to help the hat keep its shape.
The hat came out great!
The best moment at the game, and perhaps the season, for me was mid-way through. We were sitting at the top of a section. No balls had come our way yet. I had just walked down and out of the section when, of course, a ball heads near where Sean still is sitting. I watch as he easily goes over and gets it. A younger kid was also going after it but Sean easily beat him to it. But after Sean picks it up, he immediately turns around and hands the ball to the boy. There were only a few hundred people there, but they all started cheering for Sean. That was awesome to watch!
An inning later, a guy comes up to us, tells Sean he thought what he did was awesome, and gives Sean a Bees’ mini-bat, which was really, really nice of him!
We walked by a small pile of snow/melting ice at one point, and of course had a quick snowball fight. I lost.
I knew from past experience that Somerset manager Brett Jodie keeps his dugout lineup card, but he did give me the official batting order cards.
It was great having the New Britain Bees in our backyard this season, especially with the Hartford Yard Goat stadium fiasco resulting in the Yard Goats not playing any games in Hartford. My only disappointment with the Bees was the attendance. Aside from the two school day games I made it to, there were never more than a few hundred people (and in a couple cases, much, much less than that) at the games we went to. The Bees chalked up the lower-than-hoped-for attendance to the fact that they were a new team and got a late start to marketing. There’s some validity to that excuse, but regardless, they missed out on a great opportunity with no other professional baseball played within 50 miles of New Britain in 2016. I hope they are able to draw more fans in 2017!
2016: 57 lineup cards (40 dugout/bullpen; 17 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 120 lineup cards (87 dugout/bullpen; 31 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
Kate had a service project to help some retire military Veterans raise money at the beginning of Friday night’s New Britain Bees game, so I tagged along and we stayed for the rest of the game against the Long Island Ducks.
The Bees are fighting the Ducks for an Atlantic League playoff spot, so New Britain’s 3-1 victory was a big one for the first year organization.
It was a beautiful night for baseball, as evidenced by this picture:
A pet peeve: The picture immediately above was taken around the 4th or 5th inning, so before most people would’ve left, especially since there were fireworks after the game. New Britain Stadium holds about 6,100. The attendance listed in the box score indicated a crowd of 4,678. Does the picture above make it look like there were nearly 4,700 at the game?
I said to Kate during the game that I thought I was being generous in estimating the crowd at 1,000. So how did they come up with 4,678 in the box score? Did New Britain sell that many tickets and 3,678+ didn’t show up? I highly, highly doubt it. Perhaps New Britain gave away that many tickets. I know there were people in line at the box office with vouchers for free tickets.
While I am sympathetic of how difficult it must be to run an independent baseball team in the black, exaggerating the crowd by roughly 5-times what it really was is disingenuous. Let’s be honest. The Bees have struggled to draw this season, which is especially disappointing considering the Yard Goats have yet to play a single game in Hartford. I hope New Britain is successful, but it will have to seriously ramp up its efforts to draw enough fans, along with more advertising around the stadium, to be profitable.
Back to the game itself. Kate and I easily got the New Britain lineup card from manager Stan Cliburn, who also handed us the two official lineup cards. We watched the very short (5 minutes) fireworks show. It was a good night.
2016: 52 lineup cards (37 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 115 lineup cards (84 dugout/bullpen; 29 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
Sean and I headed to New Britain Stadium earlier this week to see the York Revolution play a the New Britain Bees in Atlantic League action.
It was a beautiful summer night in New Britain, but sadly, the Bees continue to struggle to draw decent numbers. The box score attendance said 2,800, but I find it hard to believe there was even one-third of that actually at the game, and I’m being generous.
That said, Sean and I had a great time. We got six game balls including two of the three home run balls hit. Sean gave two of them away.
In the eighth inning, we moved down to the front row with a clear view into Revolution dugout. Sean had his glove on and was holding a ball he had gotten an inning or two earlier. Revolution pitcher Scott Rice, a former MLB 1st round draft pick who pitched sparingly in the Majors, came to the end of the dugout and asked Sean for the ball. Sean hesitated then gave it to him and Rice walked to the other end of the dugout, in no rush. I knew Rice would give him the ball back, but he sold it really well. He eventually comes back to Sean and holds the ball in one hand and a fist full of bubble gum in the other, and asks Sean if he’s wants to trade the ball for the gum. We have plenty of baseballs so Sean of course picks the gum. Rice gives him the gum and the baseball back. It was a small gesture, but it made Sean’s night, and mine too!
After the game, a 9-2 Revolution win, we easily got the lineup card from manager Mark Mason. We have now gotten a dugout lineup card from every Atlantic League team save for the Somerset Patriots, who don’t give theirs out. We have gotten an official lineup card from the Patriots.
The Bees lineup card was still on the wall when we walked over there, so we got that as well.
Here is Sean posing after the game outside the stadium with his fist full of bubble gum and Bees lineup card.
2016: 44 lineup cards (33 dugout/bullpen; 11 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 107 lineup cards (80 dugout/bullpen; 25 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
The Bees dropped their final game before the Atlantic League All Star break, but I was able to get four lineup cards from the afternoon game.
Trailing 2-0, New Britain pulled within 2-1 late. But with runners at first and second with no outs in the top of the 9th, the Bees first baseman fielded a bunt and tried to get the lead runner. Instead, he threw wildly into left field. Bridgeport scored three runs in the inning and won 5-2.
The announced crowd was 4,547, but the number was either exaggerated, the vast majority of fans invisible and/or they had left by the time I snapped this picture in the top of the 9th inning.
Bees manager Stan Cliburn not only gave me his dugout lineup card, but also the two official batting order carbon copies.
I was also able to get Bridgeport’s lineup card.
Of note for the Bluefish was former MLB journeyman Endy Chavez playing center field and batting second for the Bluefish.
2016: 36 lineup cards (27 dugout/bullpen; 9 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 99 lineup cards (74 dugout/bullpen; 23 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)