Saturday, May 26, 2018

New Britain

On Getting Out for a Day

New Britain Stadium
New Britain Stadium, 2018
Saturday, May 26, 2018
Sugar Land Skeeters vs. New Britain Bees
New Britain Stadium
Atlantic League (Independent)
New Britain, CT
6:35 PM

Outside the Game:
After some tentative plans to go to Indiana by way of Chicago fell through, I was floundering with what to do with my Memorial Day weekend. In doing some cursory research, I discovered that New Britain, which had lost its minor league affiliated team to the Yard Goats two years ago, had already filled the hole with an indie league team. The Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic Baseball League had folded two years ago when the city of Camden bought the stadium they were playing in, tried to play hardball about the rental, and then the team had folded, leaving them holding the bag for a multi-million dollar baseball stadium that was now just hosting college baseball. Good job, Camden. Apparently, the park is going to be torn down, now, which is a shame. It was a really nice ballpark.

Anyway, although I had already visited New Britain Stadium, there was a new team in a new league there, and I decided to spend my Saturday on a trip up to see them, and air out my car a little bit, as well. Now that I finally had air conditioning to drive around in, I might as well use it.

After a lazy morning of cooking and napping, I headed out at around 2:30 PM, after most of the Memorial Day traffic had abated, and I had carefully planned a route up to 84 so I wouldn't hit what was left of it. I got to the car with my game bag and headed up to 95 via 1 and 9ish, avoiding a backed-up 495. Once I was up and going to the Palisades, it was all good. The drive out was nice and uneventful, and beside a small slow-down going through some road work in Waterbury, it was an uneventful ride up. I got there a little too early, so I stopped to get overpriced gas in my car and had a small snack before driving out to the stadium and parking. I took some pictures outside, and also noticed that the beautiful old wooden ballpark, the Beehive, that used to be next New Britain Stadium had been "renovated" at some point and turned into a high school field. Some of the grandstand still existed, but the old wooden bleachers were all torn down. That made me pretty sad as I bought a ticket and went inside the newer park.

Coming out of the game, I beat most of the crowd that had stayed to the end of the game to see the fireworks. I was out on the road before the explosions even started, and had a nice, relaxing ride back to Jersey City, hearing the Yankees lose big and how the Metropolitans had also already been trounced within an inch of their life. I spun around to see if there was any parking by my apartment on the street. There wasn't, so I went to my garage, got a Lyft back to my place, and was comfortably in bed by midnight.

The Stadium & Fans:
Home to center at New Britain Stadium
Home plate to center field, New Britain Stadium

I had visited New Britain Stadium before when it was home to the Twins AA affiliate the Rock Cats in the Eastern League. Two years ago, that team moved to Hartford and became the Yard Goats, so New Britain became the Bees in the independent Atlantic League. The stadium was still the same, which probably makes it one of the nicest in the Atlantic League. Outside, the biggest change is the signage, as well as one wall of the stadium that previously had all the Eastern League teams is now covered with all the Atlantic League affiliates. Also, with smaller crowds, only the main entrance by home plate was opened.

It still opens onto a covered promenade behind the seats that wraps around from outfield to outfield. All of the stores and concessions still reside in here, but now with a yellow paint job and bee-related names (the team store is the B. Hive & Co.), and a couple of the concession stands were closed, including a Puerto Rican restaurant near first. There was also a photo booth that was closed, as well.

The seating area was split up by a walkway that ran through the center of all of the seating, from short-outfield to short-outfield. The lower boxed seats ran the length of the seating bowl, while the upper deck was only seats until the dugouts, and then bleachers for the rest of the top seating run. At the top of the covered eats behind home plate were the press box and several luxury boxes. At the top of the third-base seats was the Rooftop Beehive Bar, and there was another unnamed party deck on the top of the first-base seats. Right field ended with a children's play area, while left field ended with a covered picnic area. The aging digital scoreboard rose in left-center field, among the trees that lined the outfield wall and above the single tier of outfield wall covered in local advertisements. The New Britain Sports Hall of Fame is still in the exterior walkway, the dedicated plaques are on the front of the building by the entrance, and the press box is named for Larry Michaels.

Stinger and fans

Mascot Stinger the bee is around before and during the game, schmoosing with fans and leading the between-inning entertainment that was the regular minor-league level of races, contests, and giveaways. One unique event was a sun roofed SUV that parks by the stands, and contestants try and hit the people inside by throwing bean bags into the sunroof, while also raising money for solders' charities. There was a respectable crowd for a holiday weekend, although it wasn't nearly halfway filled. Many of the fans were just there for something to do, but a good number did pay attention to the action on the field.

At the Game with Oogie:
Chicken fingers and soda, click to see all the photos
Chicken fingers and soda

I did my walking around to see everything that was different. They did a good job converting the place over to more modest designs, though I did find an old Rock Cats sign still hanging around.

I got some chicken fingers and a soda to eat and regretted not getting a backup beverage after sitting in that sun for the first hour. I got a seat right next to the dugout on the home side. There was a Hispanic family next to me who was clearly there because the father (grandfather?) loved baseball. They all amused themselves while he watched the game closely. There was another family to my right, and they were more annoying. The mother kept teasing her teenage son in front of her by touching his neck with her toes through her open-toed shoes, which was amusing the first time, but bordering on abuse after the twentieth. One of her other kids asked me for a pen to try and get autographs, which I gave him, but then he asked if I wanted it back. Why, yes, I do want my property back that I loaned to you, you little so-and-so. The older son kept running his mouth about everything, and was universally wrong about nearly everything he said, which was annoying to endure. I tried to concentrate on a family a couple rows ahead of me where a father and a young son were patiently explaining everything that was going on to an older sister. It was nice.

At the end of the game, a team of local Hispanic Little Leaguers came and sat down by the dugout in open seats and started arguing about fellow players. One guy commented it was like having a live Sand Lot re-enactment.

The Game:
First pitch
First pitch in the Insect Bowl, Skeeters vs. Bees

This early-season match-up of insect teams Sugar Land Skeeters and New Britain Bees looked to be a one-sided affair, as they had opposite records, with the Skeeters at 17-9 and the Bees at 9-17, but the game was largely over in the first and just dragged out the required nine.

The Skeeters started the game by getting their leadoff batter to third on a single, passed ball, and fly out, but they stayed stranded at third. New Britain, however, came out swinging and did not stop. Well, except for their leadoff hitter, who flied to right. But then it was six straight hits (four singles [including a bunt single], a double, and a triple) before a walk and an RBI ground-out. Batting around, the leadoff hitter made two outs of the inning, striking out, but with the Bees perched on a 6-0 lead after one. Sugar Land got a runner on an error and a single and nothing else in the top of second, while the Bees cooled down with a lone single in the bottom of the inning. The Skeeters went in order in the third, while New Britain stranded a two-out double in their half.

Sugar Land got on the board in the top of the fourth, turning three singles and a double into two runs to close it to 6-2, while the Bees finally went in order. The Skeeters returned the favor in the top of the fifth, while New Britain got a one-out homer to left in the bottom of the frame to open the lead up to 7-2. Sugar Land got a double in the top of the sixth, while the Bees did them one better with a double and a walk. Neither scored.

The Skeeters stranded a walk and single in the top of the seventh, while New Britain just managed a walk. Sugar Land did the same in the top of the eighth, but the Bees had a leadoff homer to deep left-center in the top of the eighth to extend the lead to 8-2. The Skeeters gave it a go in the top of the ninth with a one-out rally. A double was followed by a walk and then another double top close it to 8-3 with second and third and only one out, but the Bees' closer got two fly outs to right to end the game with an 8-3 victory for New Britain.

The Scorecard:
Skeeters vs. Bees, 05-26-18. Bees win, 8-3.
Skeeters vs. Bees, 05/26/18. Bees win, 8-3.

This was kind of a first for me. The scorecard was free, such as it was, but the scorecard didn't include a scorecard. It was a cardstock tri-fold, but it was all ads for the team and sponsors. It was sort of an "assemble your own" deal, as there were printouts next to the cover with an actual scorecard, starting lineups, rosters, and statistics for both teams. You could store all these in the "scorecard," and it provided a stable platform on which to score, but the scorecard wasn't a scorecard.

The print scorecard was a Scoremaster variant, with boxes to record balls and strikes in the top left of each scoring box, along with a pre-printed diamond. It included an ongoing line score at the bottom, and comprehensive inning totals. There was space for replacements, and although slightly cramped, it was easy enough to score a game on it.

There weren't any especially interesting scoring plays per-se, but there were a bunch of odd things in the game. Firstly, the Sugar Land pitcher who gave up 6 runs and let the Bees bat around in the first inning stayed in the game until the sixth inning. I have to imagine it had something to do with pitching staff situations. Or maybe Skip wanted him to get the opportunity to bring down his ERA. Who knows? Also, the Skeeters did a switch-up of players in the second inning. I'm not sure if it was an injury or not, but it wasn't announced. A new second baseman came in and the current second baseman went out to left field.

The Accommodations:
Sweet home, Jersey City

2018 Stand-Alone