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).
Kate was given free tickets and food vouchers for Sunday’s New Britain Bees’ home finale, so it was a no-brainer to go. And it would get better while we were at the game itself.
It was a beautiful day for baseball and New Britain drew the biggest crowd I’ve seen at a Bees game this season. Not the 3,625 listed in the box score, but maybe 1,200 people at the game.
After getting our free lunch and watching a few innings of the game, Sean and I took our usual walk around New Britain Stadium, as we almost always find one or more balls beyond the outfield fence.
We found one pretty quickly, in a wet area behind the right field wall. Sean immediately noticed it had just red laces, which is unusual at Bees games as they have almost always used red-blue-laced Atlantic League balls.
I picked it up, and it was an Arizona League baseball!
That probably wouldn’t be overly exciting to just about anyone other than Kate, Sean and I. It so happens that for at least a year, we have needed just one ball complete our collection of current MiLB league baseball, and that ball was an Arizona League ball!
The good news/bad news is that the ball was wet, but not saturated. It dried out fairly quickly, but the ink on the ball has become fainter now that it is dry: You have to look real close to see that it is an Arizona League ball. But we will take it.
As an aside, never knowing what you might find when ballhawking is a major part of the fun. Here are some of the unique baseballs we have found in surprising places:
- 2011 MLB ASG ball at a Brown @ Central Connecticut State baseball game two years ago. Brown had a bucket of them as practice balls.
- Blue Jays’ 40th Anniversary baseball at a Junior College baseball game in Connecticut in 2017. The ball, pretty beat up, was beyond one of the chain link outfield fences all by itself
- Pecos League baseballs: The University of Hartford’s baseball team uses them as practice balls.
Back to the game, the Skeeters broke a 3-3 tie with three runs in the 7th and added 1 in the 9th for a 7-3 win.
Sean wanted to try for Sugar Land’s lineup card. We tried twice two weeks ago: he got shut down once and the second time, he got the card but the Skeeters were using a Bees’ card since they had run out on a longer-than-expected road trip.
Sean waiting to ask for Sugar Land’s lineup card
Sugar Land’s acting manager Raffy Montalvo initially told Sean “no” because he had some notes on the card, but when I explained the situation, Montalvo was nice enough to copy his notes (pitch counts for his 5 pitchers) and give Sean the card.
Sean was also thrown a ball by a Sugar Land player while waiting at the dugout. It will likely be our last “Atlantic League 20th Season ball.” It’s been a lot of fun having a commemorative ball being used in our backyard.
Meanwhile, Kate had planned to ask New Britain manager Stan Cliburn for his lineup card, but another boy got there first. That’s fine, we have gotten more than our share of Bees’ lineup cards the last two seasons.
2017: 35 lineup cards (20 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 157 lineup cards (107 dugout/bullpen; 47 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)
Sean and I made it to the last few innings of Tuesday’s Noon 7-inning game between Sugar Land and New Britain. Like Monday, there was no charge for paring or admission, they were just looking for a donation to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
There were a few more people at Tuesday’s game than Monday’s game, and definitely a few more kids ballhawking.
Still, Sean, sitting just left of the net in the top section, had much of the third base side of the stadium to himself. Unfortunately, nothing came his way. We did get a foul ball that left the stadium, and someone from the Sugar Land bullpen tossed Sean a ball without him asking, so we had no complaints.
Like the day before, the Bees were offering a hot dog for each ball returned to the concession stand. We have plenty of Atlantic League balls, and brought three with us which we traded in for hot dogs.
The game was a good one. The Skeeters were again playing as the home team. The score was tied 0-0 heading into the bottom of the 7th. Sugar Land got its lead-off runner on, and one out later, he tried to steal 2nd base. The throw clearly beat the runner, but according to the umpire, the runner snuck his hand in before the tag.
It was the turning point of the game as with two outs, Sugar Land got a base hit and the runner on second scored for the 1-0 Skeeter win.
Sean had decided to try for Sugar Land’s lineup card again, despite being told “no” the day before after a Sugar Land loss. Apparently, the win made the difference as a Skeeter coach filling in for manager Gary Gaetti gave Sean the card.
Sean waiting for the lineup card after the game
The major surprise was that it wasn’t a Skeeters’ card, but rather, a Bees’ card with tape over the New Britain logo.
Our assumption is that the Skeeters didn’t bring enough of their own lineup cards with them given that this series was to have been played in Texas, and had to get one from the Bees. While we would have liked a Skeeters’ card, we already have a couple from past seasons, and the modified Skeeters’ card is unique.
2017: 33 lineup cards (18 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 155 lineup cards (105 dugout/bullpen; 47 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)
The New Britain Bees ended up with a surprise home stand this week. Due to Hurricane Harvey and the flooding in Texas, it was announced yesterday that the Bees @ Sugar Land Skeeters series was moved from Texas to New Britain.
I assume for a few reasons including the lack of time to market the series, it was decided not to charge admission to the four-game series being played over three days, with a twin bill Tuesday afternoon.
Kate, Sean and I headed over to today’s 4pm game a little late due to work. We made a donation to the flood relief efforts and walked into a largely empty stadium.
Kate counted about 75 people in the stands.
We figured it would be a ballhawker’s paradise, and it largely was. There were a few other kids roaming around, end even a few adults chased balls, but there were plenty for all.
Sean pretty much had the upper section of the 3B line to himself.
That’s Sean in the maroon shirt up top, with no one near him
Kate had a similar situation in a shaded area on the 1B side, but she was happy to read, and never had a ball hit near her anyway.
We ended up with 8 balls: one home run, five foul balls and two toss-ups Sean got after the game. He gave two balls away, including one to a little ball who was beaten out for a foul ball a couple minutes earlier.
Sean (red shirt) making me proud giving a ball away!
In the picture above, Bees’ General Manager Gerry Berthiaume (black shirt) was being interviewed by a local newscaster, presumably about the fact that the series was moved from Texas to New Britain due to the flooding.
Sugar Land was playing as the home team, and led 2-0 on an Anthony Giansanti home run that Sean ended up with.
It was 2-1 in the top of the 9th when New Britain’s Jon Griffin crushed a one out, 2-run homer to give New Brtain the lead. The Bees hung on for the one-run win.
Sean had decided to go for the Skeeters’ lineup card. For whatever reason manager Gary Gaetti, who has given us his card a few times before, was not at the game. The interim manager told Sean “no” with respect to the lineup card. Maybe it was because Sugar Land lost a tough game?
Meanwhile, Kate got the usual dugout and two batting order cards from New Britain manager Stan Cliburn.
Not bad considering we didn’t expect to have a baseball game to go to today.
Most importantly, we send our thoughts and prayers to all those in Texas being impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
2017: 32 lineup cards (17 dugout/bullpen; 15 “official batting order”; 1 “today’s lineup” card)
Lifetime: 154 lineup cards (104 dugout/bullpen; 47 “official batting order”; 2 “relief pitcher usage”; and 1 “today’s lineup”)
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”)
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”)