In early April, I went to the first-ever game at Hartford’s new Dunkin’ Donuts Park between Quinnipiac and the University of Hartford.
Last night, I made it to my first Hartford Yard Goats game at the stadium to see the home team play the Richmond Flying Squirrels in a match-up of AA Eastern League teams.
I had avoided Yard Goat games at Dunkin’ Donuts Park so far this season because they typically have been crowded with people wanting to see the new stadium.
Last night was the perfect combination of us not having anything going on, an early weekday game after a holiday, the kids are still in school and the weather, while not awful, was poor enough that it would keep some folks away.
As expected, it was a small crowd which gave me the opportunity to move around a bit.
Hartford scored five runs in the third and three more in the fourth to break it open en route to a 12-2 victory.
It’s not often that you see the team on the good side of a 12-2 margin get outhit, but that’s what happened last night, with the Flying Squirrels out-hitting Hartford nine-to-seven. But the Yard Goats took advantage of 12 Richmond walks.
Hartford hit one home run late in the game, which meant that steam erupted from the large Dunkin’ Donuts cup atop the Left Field scoreboard. I was a little late in taking the picture, but you can still see a little steam left over.
For whatever reason, I decided to try and get Richmond’s lineup card, which I knew was risky given the lopsided loss. I am not sure what I was thinking because we already have a Richmond dugout lineup card from 2015. Richmond manager Kyle Haines did respond to my request, but told me he had promised it to someone else.
I was very fortunate to at least get the official batting order cards from the home plate umpire.
Neither team has any elite prospects. Andrew Suarez was a second round pick for the Giants, but didn’t pitch in this game. The same goes for Rockies’ 2nd round pick Ryan Castellani. Yard Goat first baseman Ryan McMahon was also a 2nd round pick back in 2013 and is hitting .326 for the Goats.
2017: 15 lineup cards (5 dugout/bullpen; 9 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 136 lineup cards (92 dugout/bullpen; 41 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)
The world was supposed to be at the finger tips of the Hartford Yard Goats in 2016. A brand new stadium, paid for by the city of Hartford, and a new nickname (the Yard Goats were formerly the New Britain Rock Cats). Oh the opportunities to bring on new sponsors, sell more tickets, merchandise, etc.
Take this past Saturday, for example. The Yard Goats were to host the Erie Sea Wolves at their brand spanking new stadium in Hartford on a great summer day for baseball in Connecticut.
But there was one minor problem: the new stadium isn’t ready yet.
It should have been. The Yard Goats were to have hosted the Richmond Flying Squirrels at the new stadium way back on Thursday, April 7.
But here we are nearly three months later, and the gates at Dunkin Donuts Parks as it will be known are still locked.
Why? As was first written in Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” In this case, the “dogs” are the politicians of the city of Hartford, and the Yard Goats are the ones infested with fleas for having gotten into bed with the Hartford politicians.
You can google “yard goats stadium” if you care to read about the details, but the bottom line is that a construction company that had never built a sports stadium and was the only bidder, was hired to build the stadium that now may not be done in time for the Yard Goats to step foot in the new stadium this season.
Why aren’t the Yard Goats playing in their old stadium while the new stadium is being finished? TheYard Goat organization didn’t exactly leave New Britain Stadium on the best of terms with its landlord, the city of New Britain. Reportedly, the Yard Goats were telling the city of New Britain that they were happy playing in New Britain Stadium while secretly doing the deal with Hartford to make the move, completely blindsiding the New Britain folks. New Britain then brought in the New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League as a new tenant for this season.
Back to Saturday. The Yard Goats were playing their “home” game at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, CT, normally home to the New York Penn League’s Connecticut Tigers. Dodd Stadium is some 45 minutes southeast of Hartford. It was a double-header because the Connecticut Tigers needed the stadium the night before.
Sean and I made the almost one-hour drive to Norwich for the first game of the double header. We were hoping to score our first Erie Sea Wolves lineup card, but I wasn’t optimistic as Sea Wolves manager and former MLB’er Lance Parrish had blown me off last year.
The Yard Goats won 2-1 in a tidy, 1:46 7-inning game. Sean and I had a bet to see who could come up with the most game balls. Being 10 is a decided advantage as he could ask players to throw him balls, while I had to go for hit balls. I scored a foul ball and a ground-rule double, both hit out of the stadium, but Sean won it when Sea Wolves catcher Greyson Greiner tossed him a third out ball after the bottom of the sixth inning for Sean’s third gamer. We also found several balls beyond the outfield wall, most presumably BP balls, include a few ROMLBs in fair shape at best.
In this picture…
…if you look closely, you can see the Erie lineup card pinned to the bulletin board on the far end of the dugout. (You can also get an idea as to how empty the stadium was; the announced crowd was 624.)
We decided that Sean may have a better shot at getting the Erie lineup card than me so that is how we played it. It ended up not mattering as Sean was told that Parrish keeps his lineup cards. Oh well.
I had better luck at the Yard Goat dugout where I was the only one who asked Hartford manager Darin Everson for his lineup card.
We met the father of Sean Wolves relief pitcher Adam Ravenelle during the game. It was Ravenelle’s first game in uniform for the Sea Wolves as he had just been called up. He didn’t play in the game, but did play in the nightcap, a 6-4 Erie victory.
2016: 28 lineup cards (23 dugout/bullpen; 5 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 91 lineup cards (70 dugout/bullpen; 19 “official batting order”; and 2 “relief pitcher usage”)
Our second full season of collecting lineup cards started with a bang in April.
Our first game of 2016 was a college game, Tulane at the University of Connecticut. It was the first time we asked for a lineup card at a college game, and we got a surprisingly nice Tulane lineup card.
A trip to Reading, PA netted our first Portland Sea Dogs’ lineup card. We had unsuccessfully tried to get a Sea Dog lineup card in 2015.
Another goal was to get a lineup card for the new Hartford Yard Goats, which we did at a Yard Goats “home game” in Manchester, NH. The Yard Goats are playing on the road until their new stadium is completed, likely in mid-May.
Later that night, we scored our first Baltimore Orioles’ lineup card out of the bullpen after the O’s beat the Red Sox 9-5. David Ortiz hit his 506th career home run in the game to make the lineup card even a little more special.
The next day, we added a Scranton/Wilkes Barre Railrider lineup card to our collection. It was also our first International League card, another goal for this season.
A trip to the famous Yale Field, where the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and many other notables have played, netted a beautiful Harvard University lineup card. We also got arguably the least interesting looking lineup card yet from Yale.
We walked away with the New Britain Bees lineup card in the franchise’s first-ever victory. The next day, we got “official batting order cards from Manhattan College and Quinnipiac University.
A mid-week day game resulted in another Bees lineup card along with our first Long Island Ducks lineup card to wrap up the month.
We went to nine games in April, yielding 15 lineup cards total and at least one in every game we went to. Fifteen is the most we have ever gotten in one month.
Of course there were some failures, as there always are. Most notably, we struck out on the Reading Fightin’ Phils and Pawtucket Red Sox, both of which would have been new teams for us. In both cases, we were the only ones asking for the card, so that stung a bit, but both teams lost, so that probably had something to do with us not getting either card. But we were able to get the other team’s card in both cases, so all was good.
It will be difficult to repeat those numbers in May based on our schedule, college baseball wrapping up, the short-season New York-Penn League not starting until June, and the Cam-Am League not starting until late May and the Hartford Yard Goats still playing on the road while their new stadium is finished. But we’ll give it a shot.
2016 Lineup Card Goals revisited:
- More/new MLB lineup cards [BULLPEN LINEUP CARD FROM ORIOLES AT RED SOX GAME]
- New MiLB leagues/teams
- Leagues: South Atlantic League; Midwest League; International League
- Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox, Hartford Yard Goats (new team in 2016), Reading Fightin Phils, Binghamton Mets, Portland Sea Dogs, Altoona Curve, Eerie Sea Wolves, Hagerstown Suns, Brooklyn Cyclones, Lowell Spinners, Hagerstown Suns, Lakewood BlueClaws, Potomac Nationals, Wilmington Blue Rocks, Staten Island Yankees, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders West Virginia Black Bears, Williamsport Crosscutters, Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Batavia Muckdogs, etc.
- New Indy Leagues/teams
- Leagues: The Empire League (new league in 2016), Frontier League
- Teams: New Britain Bees (new team in 2016), York Revolution, Long Island Ducks, Quebec Capitales,
- NCAA: We don’t have any NCAA lineup cards yet, so any conferences/teams would be great [TULANE, HARVARD, YALE, QUINNIPIAC, MANHATTAN]
- International Teams: Our only international lineup card at the moment is from the Ottawa Champions. We should have an opportunity to try and get at least one lineup card from a team from another country
It’s rare, but sometimes, everything works in your favor.
First, schedules set up for us to potentially catch a AA Eastern League Yard Goats at Fisher Cats afternoon game on a Tuesday, travel one-hour south to see the Orioles play the Red Sox at Fenway that evening, stay in a hotel and then see a 12 noon Scranton/Wilkes Barre at Pawtucket Red Sox AAA International League Wednesday matinee game.
But we needed the weather to work out, and right up until game time Tuesday afternoon, it didn’t look good. The forecast called for off-and-on rain through Tuesday afternoon, and it rained almost the entire 2-hour drive to Manchester, NH. I wondered almost all of the drive up why we were bothering.
But the baseball gods were with us. A few minutes before we got to the Fisher Cat stadium, the rain stopped. We pulled into the parking lot as the game was supposed to be starting. The start ended up being delayed for about half-an-hour due to the rain, but it never rained again that day.
This game was supposed to have been a Yard Goats’ home game, but due to delays in building Hartford’s new stadium, the game was moved to New Hampshire. Between the fact that that the game was not part of the Fisher Cat season ticket package and that it was being played on a weekday afternoon with a poor weather forecast, the stadium was almost empty. The box score listed an attendance of 1,003, but I counted about 35.
There were three other kids at the game, I am pretty sure all sons of the Yard Goats’ radio announcer. Sean and those boys had plenty of room to ballhawk, and all came away with plenty of balls. Sean ended up with 14 altogether, including 11 gamers, one post-game toss-up and two balls we found outside the stadium that were in great condition except for being wet. The Fisher Cats weren’t due to play their official home opener until Thursday, but had hosted the Yard Goats the day before, so we’re pretty certain the two balls were from that game.
[Pic of Sean with 12 of the 14 balls]
After the game, a 4-0 Fisher Cat victory, I headed to the Yard Goats’ dugout, and Sean to the Fisher Cats’ dugout. I walked away with the Yard Goats’ lineup card. Getting a Yard Goat lineup card was one of our main goals this season, given the Yard Goats are essentially a new team after moving to Hartford from New Britain, and changing their name from the Rock Cats to the Yard Goats.
Sean got the Fisher Cats’ lineup card and his 14th and final ball, then joined me at the Yards Goats dugout where a bat boy gave him a broken bat from an unknown Yard Goat player.
It was then time to make the one-hour trip to Fenway. Unfortunately, due to the delayed start of the Fisher Cat game, we didn’t make it to Fenway until right after batting practice ended. We did make in time to get the David Ortiz commemorative 500 Home Run bling the Red Sox were giving away that night.
[Sean and his bling]
Ortiz fittingly hit his 506th home run, but the Orioles came from behind to beat the Red Sox, 9-5.
We’re not sure if either the Red Sox or Orioles would give away their respective dugout lineup cards, most Major League teams sell them at this point, and we could see an Orioles lineup card in their bullpen, so that was what we targeted. We spent the last couple of innings in Right Field Box Section 1, which is right next to the visitors’ bullpen. We were even able to get two seats right up against the bullpen wall. The field view isn’t great, but it’s cool to have a front row view of the goings-on in the bullpen.
Additionally, we knew that the Orioles’ bullpen lineup card was in the wall right next to where we were seated.
In the bottom of the ninth, a middle-aged woman and a few kids came into the seats right near us. She and the kids were pretty aggressively asking for a ball while the game was going on. Apparently, it was one of the boys’ birthday. Of course, the Orioles ignored her. When the game ended, it got a little hectic with so many people asking for baseballs. We were the only ones asking for the lineup card, but were ignored by the Orioles’ bullpen coach as he made a mad dash out of the bullpen. A Red Sox security guard then took the line-up card off the wall, and started to hand it to one of the boys with the woman, despite our asking for it. I made one last-ditch request to get the card, pointing at Sean, and luckily the security person changed direction and handed it to us.
The MLB bullpen lineup cards we have gotten so far are nowhere near as nice as the MLB dugout lineup cards, and this one followed suit. Of course, the teams typically sell the nice dugout cards for $100 or more, and this one was free. Additionally, there were 30,000-something people at the game, so to walk away with ANY lineup card was a huge victory. It was also our first Orioles’ lineup card and came from a game in which Big Papi hit his 50th homerun, so it is a pretty neat souvenir. I am not an Ortiz fan, but he’s a great hitter and it would seem a safe assumption that he will end up in the Hall of Fame.
After the game, we drove down to Rhode Island where we checked into our hotel for the night.
The final stop on our whirlwind tour was the noon Railrider-Pawsox game on Wednesday. The gates were to open at 10:30am, so we got there at 10:15am hoping that there would be batting practice.
There was no BP, so we immediately headed over to the Pawsox bullpen where a couple pitchers were wrapping up a throwing session. We were the only ones there, so it was easy for Sean to score Wesley Wright’s warm-up ball a few minutes later.
With no BP, and the area around the Railrider bullpen closed off, we killed time walking around the rest of McCoy Stadium, both inside and out.
One interesting thing about McCoy stadium is the way people get autographs there. Unlike most stadiums, the field and dugouts at McCoy Stadium are set about 10 feet below the lowest stadium seating. Because you can’t easily hand a player a ball and pen for an autograph, people hang things from one of the railings down in front of the dugout. So if you want a ball, baseball card or something like that signed, people put them in kids’ sand castle-type buckets, lower them down and leave them there hopefully for players to sign. It is interesting to see.
Around 11:20, players and coaches slowly started to re-appear. Unlike lower levels of Minor League Baseball, we noticed that the Railriders, the Yankees’ AAA team, had a bullpen coach (the Pawsox did not). I recognized him and as he headed out toward the bullpen, I asked him if we could get his bullpen lineup card after the game. He said that he kept them. At least we knew not to waste time trying to get it after the game.
Sean got a warm-up ball from Red Sox shortstop prospect Marco Dawson shortly before the game began.
Being a mid-day, mid-week tilt, there weren’t many fans at the game, especially after the school groups left by the middle innings. We were able to get a couple of game balls that flew out of the stadium. It was a relatively quick game, with the Railriders blanking the Pawsox, 1-0.
We had run into a couple kids we recognized from Rock Cat games in line to get into the stadium. One in particular also goes after lineup cards. They were by the Railrider dugout, so we went to the Pawsox dugout. We were the only ones asking for the lineup card, but got ignored. It’s hard to see into the dugouts, but eventually were able to see that the Pawsox had taken their lineup card with them.
I was keeping an eye on the Railrider dugout. The boys we knew were over there along with a few other people looking for autographs. I never saw the lineup card handed out, so after we knew we weren’t getting the Pawsox card, we headed to the Railrider dugout. We went to a spot where we could see a little bit into the dugout. I took a quick look, didn’t see the lineup card, and was ready to go.
But Sean went to a different spot with a slightly better view, and said the lineup card was still there. I thought he probably saw a roster or something like that on the wall, but went back and took a better look, and sure enough, he was right!
There was no one in the Railrider dugout at this point. After 2-3 minutes, we were able to get someone to pull it down for us.
I have seen pictures online of other International League dugout lineup cards that really look nice, similar to MLB dugout lineup cards with watermarks. This one was dull by comparison, but it was our first AAA/International League lineup card, and given that I had already given up, the fact that we walked away from this game with a lineup card was fantastic!
The Railriders have some top Yankee prospects, including outfielder Aaron Judge. Henry Owens, one of Boston’s best young arms, started the game for the PawSox.
On our way out of the stadium, a worker handed Sean his 5th ball of the day along with a mini-Pawsox football.
[Leaving McCoy Stadium]
So in less than 26 hours, we saw 27 innings of baseball, got 19 baseballs, four lineup cards, a bat, a mini-football and some bling. I’m not sure that our trip could’ve worked out any better!
Lineup Card Stats
2016: 10 lineup cards (8 dugout/bullpen; 2 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 73 lineup cards (55 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)
There’s Frozen the movie, and then there’s Frozen the baseball game.
Frozen the baseball game took place on Saturday, April 9 in Reading, PA. The Reading Fightin Phils of the AA Eastern League were hosting the Portland Sea Dogs.
Other games in the area — including those hosted by the Baltimore Orioles, Wilmington Blue Rocks and Trenton Thunder — were all canceled due to the rain/snow/cold. Sean and I were on our way to Washington DC to see the Capitals’ season finale Sunday night. We had originally planned to go to the blue Rocks game, but changed our plans when that game was canceled and the Fightin Phils game was still on.
It was both of our first times at FirstEnergy Stadium. It looked like it would be a fun stadium to be at on a warm summer evening, but this night didn’t quite fall into that category.
The box score says the 6:04pm game time temperature was 35 degrees with 13 mph winds. It also said that the attendance was 5,273. I can guarantee that the temperature wasn’t 35 by the end of the game, and that there probably weren’t 273 fans left, never mind 5,273.
We kept warm by running around chasing foul balls, getting six without trying too hard.
At the end of the game, a 6-2 Portland victory, Sean headed to the Portland dugout while I tried to hit up the Fightin Phils for a lineup card. Reading coaches blew me off but Sea Dog manager Bobby Meacham Sean hooked up Sean with the Portland lineup card.
As you can see from the above picture, we decided to wait until we got to the hotel room to take pictures, rather than in the cold.
The Sea Dog lineup card isn’t anything special. But since we had failed to get a Sea Dog lineup card in 2015 — we were told that then-manager Billy McMillon didn’t give them out — it was a good score to get one.
Here’s a better picture of the lineup card, as well as the gold Cole Hamels bobblehead giveaway from the game.
Lineup Card Stats
2016: 3 lineup cards (2 dugout; 1 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 66 lineup cards (49 dugout; 15 “official batting order”; and two “relief pitcher usage”)
Leagues: American League; National League; Eastern League; Carolina League; New York-Penn League; Atlantic League; Can-Am League; American Association; NCAA – American Athletic Conference; Cape Cod League; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); and Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL)
The Richmond Flying Squirrels came to New Britain the first weekend in May and it worked out well.
I was able to get the Squirrels lineup card after the Friday night game. It’s one of the nicer cards we got all season, with watermarks including the Eastern League (EL) logo, Rock Cat and Flying Squirrel logos.
It was also a great game, a 1-0 Rock Cats win. The Squirrels were in the midst of a 15-game losing streak at the time, yet would still end up finishing the season with a winning record (72-68), just missing out on the EL playoffs.
Sean and I went to the May 3rd Squirrels @ Rock Cats game. We did not get a lineup card from this game, but Sean did score a broken bat from San Francisco Giants’ prospect Mac Williamson, which we were able to get signed by Williamson after he came out of the locker room. Williamson got called up to play for the Giants for a few games when Major League rosters expanded in September.
Other May lineup cards of note:
- One of the least attractive lineup cards that we got all season was from the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League. While it is a nice, big card (11” x “17) on solid cardboard stock, it is just a photo copy of the original card. It became somewhat of a collector’s item recently when it was announced that the Riversharks organization folded.
- We went to three Atlantic League games in May. Given that Atlantic League teams typically operate on a shoestring budget, the lineup cards are generally pretty dull. Somerset Patriots manager Brett Jodie said they keep their dugout lineup card, but was nice enough to offer us the “official” lineup cards. The Atlantic League official lineup cards, one for each team, are of the carbon copy variety and not nearly as nice as dugout lineup cards. One upside is that the official lineup cards are signed by the manager. Given that Atlantic League managers include former MLB players such as Gary Gaetti and Butch Hobson, the signatures are kind of cool.
- Speaking of Gaetti, Sean was able to get the Sugarland Skeeters lineup card from him (along with the much plainer Bridgeport Bluefish lineup card). Because of the dugout setup at the Bridgeport Bluefish stadium, Sean didn’t know that Gaett had heard him and asked again, and I guess Gaetti got a little annoyed with him. But he did give him the lineup card, and also signed it, which was cool. I got another lineup card from Gaetti in September, and he seems like a real nice guy from my short interaction with him.
Arguably one of the the nicest and most interesting lineup cards we got in 2015 was from the Harrisburg Senators (we got three Senators cards in total).
There’s a nice ‘Curly W’ watermark as the Senators are a Nationals farm team. It is also a large 11″ x 17″ (for comparison, the Rock Cats lineup card I got at the same game is 9″ x 14″) and has a glossy finish.
Also neat is the fact that one of the Senators coaches was keeping notes on the masking tape at the top of the card, tracking pitchers’ time to home plate, time to the base on a pickoff move, etc.