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”)
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”)
We are going to recap 2016 in three parts: lineup cards, baseballs and miscellaneous. We will start with some of the miscellaneous souvenirs we got at games this year.
Kate, Sean and/or I went to 39 games in 2016 (not counting LL and HS games): three MLB, six college, three college summer league and the rest (27) minor league games.
We don’t specifically go to games for giveaways, but it worked out that we walked away with a few such items aalong with some other interesting souvenirs.
In April, Sean and I went to our first ever game at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Reading Phillies. It was as cold a baseball game as I can ever remember being at. Along with the visiting Portland Sea Dogs lineup card, we also got a “gold” Cole Hamels bobblehead.
We went to a double-header of sorts the next week: a Hartford Yard Goats @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats game in the afternoon, and a Baltimore Orioles @ Boston Red Sox game that night. Sean got a bat from a Yard Goats player in the afternoon (we were never able to figure out whose bat it was) and a Big Papi “bling” giveaway that night.
We have to fast-forward to July for our next giveaway a Tim Collins bobblehead from the Futures Collegiate Baseball League All Star Game. Collins is a relief pitcher for the Kansas City Royals who grew up in Worcester, MA, which is where the FCBL ASG took place, so they decided to give away a bobblehead. The bobblehead is pictured below along with a State College Spikes lineup card we got from a game against the Connecticut Tigers earlier in the day, a FCBL ASG ball, NYPL ball and MLB Florida Spring Training ball we found at the Spikes-Tigers game.
In August, Sean was given some bubblegum by York Revolution pitcher and former MLB first round draft pick Scott Rice, which was really cool.
The real fun came in September, when Sean scored a pair of minor league hats. The first came from Connecticut Tigers pitching Coach Ace Adams after Connecticut’s season finale. Sean is wearing the CT Tigers hat below.
The second hat came from New Britain Bees infielder John Dziomba after New Britain’s season finale against the Somerset Patriots. Sean decided to wash the hat after we got home.
We were far luckier than we deserved to be in 2016!
Our last month of going to games for the 2016 season ended with a bang.
Not only did we get 10 more lineup cards, but we also got a couple of game-used hats and another ball for our baseball collection.
Kate and I started off the month with a New Britain Bees game, her first ever.
Later that weekend, we went to the final Connecticut Tigers game of the season, against the Tri-City Valley Cats. Sean got a Tigers hat from pitching coach Ace Adams and I got the Tri-City lineup card, which Kate is holding below.
I saw the Orioles play the Red Sox at Fenway Park a week later, and was fortunate to get the Orioles bullpen lineup card.
Sean and I went to the final New Britain Bees game of the season in mid-September. Sean’s goal was to try and get a hat from a New Britain player. He had to ask a few players before Jon Dziomba was nice enough to hook Sean up with his hat.
In September, we were sent a Pensacola Blue Wahoos lineup card, our first lineup card from the Southern League and first lineup card via mail.
Saving the best for last, I went to the first day of the World Baseball Classic qualifier at MCU Park in Brooklyn, NY (home of the Brooklyn Cyclones) with the goal of getting a 2016 WBC qualifier baseball and lineup card.
I got a few baseballs and the Pakistan batting order card that day.
To get one of the dugout lineup cards, I had to contact Major League Baseball, which runs the WBC. It took two-plus weeks, but it was well worth it as I was sent Brazil’s dugout lineup card, signed by manager Barry Larkin.
September turned out to be a great ending to our 2016 season of going to baseball games!
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”)