Sean and I checked into New Britain Stadium Friday night for the Long Island Ducks at the New Britain Bees.
It was a gorgeous night for baseball, just enough of a chill in the air to warrant a jacket for some.
There were a few hundred people at the game, perhaps 500 if we are generous, despite the box score claiming 3,329. Frankly, if the Bees can’t pull in more than a few hundred people on a great night weather-wise with no other baseball games within 50 miles and most people back from vacation, it makes me wonder if this marriage with New Britain is going to last.
On the field, the Bees jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the 6th inning. But the Ducks had battled back to within one run, 4-3, through the top of the 8th.
New Britain, with the worst record in the Atlantic League, tacked on a key insurance run in the bottom of the 8th, then escaped with the tying run on first in the 9th for the 5-3 win.
I went to two Ducks @ Bees games earlier this season. Ducks manager Kevin Baez gave me his lineup card when they won, but not when they lost. So, we decided to just try for the Bees lineup card. Manager Stan Cliburn has been great about giving his card away win or lose in his nearly two seasons as Bees manager.
Sean got in position by the home plate side of the dugout with a few other kids after the game ended.
Sean to the left, and Bees manager Stan Cliburn in the black jacket to the left after the game
Sean was the only one asking for a lineup card, and Cliburn gave him his dugout lineup card as well as the two official batting order cards.
The three cards in total Friday night raised our lifetime total to 151 in a little less than three years of chasing lineup cards.
A Bees win, a couple more Atlantic League 20th season commemorative balls and three lineup cards. It was a good night all around!
2017: 29 lineup cards (16 dugout/bullpen; 13 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 151 lineup cards (103 dugout/bullpen; 45 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)
Considering we only made it to five games in May, we did very well to get eight lineup cards.
The highlight was the lineup card from the Boston Red Sox bullpen in a May 27 shutout victory over the Seattle Mariners.
In the four previous games at Fenway in which we had tried for a lineup card, we had always tried the visitors bullpen. The only reason we tried the Boston bullpen in this case was because Mariner bullpen coach Mike Hampton had told me before the game that he keeps his bullpen lineup card.
We also got this interesting “Today’s Lineup” card at the same game.
I was happy to add this Long Island Ducks lineup card with 2003 Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne on it.
The biggest misses of the month? It would have been nice to get Seattle’s bullpen lineup card, but we probably would not have gotten Boston’s in that case, so it’s hard to get upset over that. We had hoped to score a Mariners’ 40th anniversary ball during that game, but never saw any.
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”)
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”)
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
The Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks and New Britain Bees wrapped up a three game set with a 10:35am mid-week start. I was able to catch the last three innings during my lunch break.
The stadium was still mostly full of school children. I don’t understand how these “baseball in education” days work. Yes, I get it that many of the tools kids learn in math, for example, have applications in baseball. But from what I can see at the stadium, the kids aren’t learning anything at the games, they are just stressing out their teachers. Maybe there are things done in the classroom before and/or after the games. Or maybe I am just jealous that I never got to skip school to go to a baseball game. But I digress.
The Bees were already up 5-1 when I got there, but got out of a bases loaded jam when former Major Leaguer Sean Burroughs flied out to end the inning.
That turned out to be Long Island’s last good chance. The Ducks scored a meaningless run in the top of the ninth for the final margin of 5-2.
At this point, most of the school kids had either left or were leaving. There was no competition at either dugout and I was able to get both team’s lineup cards.
It was our first Long Island Ducks lineup card, so that was nice. A couple things of note: 1) Every dollar counts in the Atlantic League, so the Ducks’ lineup card is just a black-and-white copy of the original lineup card, which I imagine had color in the logo; 2) There are a few MLB players on the Long Island roster, including Burroughs, Lew Ford and Todd Coffey, who all had solid Major League careers. Not on the lineup card but on the field as the Ducks first base coach is Bud Harrelson, a star with the New York Mets and now a part-owner of the Long Island franchise. Good stuff.
This was our second New Britain Bees lineup card. I imagine at some point, the Bees will also photocopy one of these original color lineup cards, but for now, it’s a nice looking lineup card. We have lineup cards for two of New Britain’s three wins in the early stages of the franchise.
Lineup Card Stats
2016: 15 lineup cards (11 dugout/bullpen; 4 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 78 lineup cards (58 dugout/bullpen; 18 “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; NCAA – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; Cape Cod League; New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL); Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL)