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 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”)
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”)
Lineup card from the New Britain Bees first ever victory? Check.
Sean and I made it to New Britain’s second-ever game on Friday, April 22nd. The Bees are a new team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, playing in New Britain Stadium, formerly home to the AA Eastern League New Britain Rock Cats. The Rock Cat organization bolted for a new stadium in Hartford after last season, opening the door for the formation of the New Britain Bees.
The Bees lost their first-ever game to the York Revolution, 4-3, the night before. Sean had a Little League game and it was a school night, so we didn’t make it to the Bees first game.
We did make it to Friday night’s game. Despite the threat of thunderstorms, the game went off without a hitch. The Bees scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, and that single run held up for a 1-0 victory, the franchise’s first-ever win.
Nick Greenwood, who had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Cardinals on a couple of occasions earning a pair of victories, went six innings to get the win.
With two outs and no one on in the top of the ninth, things got a little hairy for the Bees. After a double and a walk, a Revolution player hit a hard grounder down the third base line. The third baseman got his glove on the ball, but in doing so, knocked it into foul territory.
The Revolution player on second tried to score on the play, running through a stop sign from the third base coach. He was thrown out at the plate to end the game.
Sean and I were already sitting near the Bees dugout, and quickly asked Bees manager Stan Cliburn for the lineup card after the bang-bang play at the plate. Cliburn pulled the lineup card off the wall and handed it to Sean.
Assuming Cliburn filled in his own lineup card, he’s got some nice handwriting. He also kept score for the New Britain batters. The baseball in the picture is a foul ball I caught on the fly.
Lineup Card Stats
2016: 11 lineup cards (9 dugout/bullpen; 2 “official batting order”)
Lifetime: 74 lineup cards (56 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)