Thoughts and pictures of my local minor league baseball team the New York Penn League Connecticut Tigers; a Detriot farm team. We'll still be looking at former Navigators/Defenders players along the way....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Interesting artilcle from yesterday's New Britain Herald..

by Ken Lipshez:

"The transfer of the Norwich-based Connecticut Defenders to Richmond, Va., for the 2010 season is a foregone conclusion.

If you need any more proof, the Rock Cats published next year’s schedule on a back-to-school folder handed out Monday and it shows them visiting what was marked “Defenders” just prior to a trip to Bowie, Md. When the Cats distribute the slate in earnest, the DF will no doubt become RICH. The Eastern League is obviously waiting until after the season to make it official.

It doesn’t make me happy. I have enjoyed the years of motoring cross-state to Norwich for games. I like Dodd Stadium, although its absurd location in an industrial park on top of a mountain in the somewhat remote Yantic section of the city is part of the problem.

In spite of the impending move, a vibrant crowd of 3,519 attended the first game of the Northern Division playoffs. Over 4,000 came to Game 2. Many observers unfamiliar with the nature of minor league ball would think that postseason games would attract sellout crowds but history reveals it couldn’t be further from the truth.

When August passes into September and the children return to school, the perspective of the families who frequent minor league games in the northeast changes. Their minds leap from summer to fall. They aren’t likely to stuff the kids in the SUV on a chilly weekday evening for a night at the ballpark as they readily do in July and August.

The intrepid people who work for the Defenders, most of whom are unlikely to stay with the team after the semi-trucks are loaded, obviously made an effort to promote the playoffs. Whether the Defenders win or lose to the Rock Cats, the franchise appears to be getting a rousing sendoff. If you need any further proof, the Southern Division opener in Akron, once an EL hotbed, attracted 2,646.

The media came out, too. Newspapers from Hartford, Norwich and New London were represented. In addition to the radio teams from both markets, several stations sent reporters. Television crews from three of the four major networks also covered the game.

The atmosphere was electric. What a shame this move couldn’t have been averted.

The EL scene in Connecticut had three representatives not long ago. New Haven’s Ravens left for Manchester, N.H., after the 2003 season, ironically after playing the Rock Cats in the EL North championship. Next year, the Rock Cats will be alone in the Nutmeg State.

Perhaps Dodd Stadium will become home to a short-season Class A team from the New York-Penn League, although that tidbit seems to be a bit more safely guarded than the Defenders’ departure.

“If something else comes in here, then everything will have worked out okay,” Defenders owner Lou DiBella said Thursday, further confirming the impending move.

DiBella believes the region is ripe for success, would like to be a part of NY-P team at Dodd and senses an incoming owner would solicit his help.

“We bring a short-season team in here and one of those college leagues,” he said. “They play 21 games and their schedule is very [flexible] and you can work them in with [the NY-P schedule]. All of a sudden you have 62 games between June and September instead of 71 games between April and September.

“I don’t think our fans are going to care if we’re Single-A or Double-A. The hard core is not as many people as I’d like but they love baseball.”

We don’t hear the scuttlebutt bouncing around NY-P circles as we do around the EL since there are no NY-P franchises in Connecticut. We do know that the owner of the Vermont Lake Monsters has taken a look. I understand the Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers may also be a candidate to move to southeastern Connecticut.

The quality of NY-P baseball is a far cry from the EL. Many short-season Class A players don’t make it to Double-A, but the games are fun. I saw a NY-P game in Burlington, Vt., a few years back and another this year in Brooklyn, and it’s good baseball.

I still find it more fun to watch teenage players in affiliated ball with dreams of making the big leagues than independent-league baseball, which may have an ex-big leaguer or two but few with the chance to advance.

Yes, the Defenders are leaving. No, I’m not positive that they will be replaced by a NY-P team immediately, but for the sake of Defenders fans and the media from southeastern Connecticut, I hope professional baseball has a future in Norwich. If the NY-P League moves in, I hope the fans and media alike will welcome it with open arms.

As I’ve said many times, too many in Connecticut feel that anything short of “big-league” is not worthy of their attention. Connecticut is not New York City. It is not Boston. Maybe fans were spoiled by having the Whalers. Surely the dramatic rise of UConn sports helped contribute to our “big league or bust” mentality.

Yet fans in greater NYC flock to NY-P games in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Red Sox faithful jam the grandstands in Lowell. I just hope fans in the Norwich/New London region will appraise such an opportunity with an open mind, and if the two playoff games at Dodd are any indication, I think they will.

And if they plan to continue following the EL by joining us for Rock Cats games, I hope the City of New Britain will consider more seats and parking at New Britain Stadium. Rest assured that the Rock Cats front office will aggressively pursue such an upgrade, but that’s a story for another day."

Some notes:

1.) Those notebook covers likely said "Defenders" on them last year also, just like 2009 RockCats pocket schedules says "Defs" because the RockCats front office remains upset the it's the "Connecticut Defenders" as opposed to say the "Norwich Defenders" or the "Thames Valley Defenders" or whatever.

2.) There is a 2010 EL schedule floating around--have to visit some team websites.

3.) A college league and a NY Penn league running at the same time at Dodd? Interesting marketing possibities there! Although there's some maybe's in Lou's comments.

4.) That's right--we out drew Akron--twice!

5.) Expanding NB Stadium (bleachers?) and shuttle buses is probably in there future as well.


Post a Comment

<< Home