By Robert Held
Baseball will be returning to New Britain this season, despite doubts from last year. For a long time the New Britain Rock Cats, and before that the New Britain Red Sox have been fixtures in the hardware city. The New Britain Bees will now be playing 70 home games in the Atlantic League this season in the Rock Cats former stadium. The Bees first game will be on April 21st.
Promotional image of outfielder Anthony Hewitt. Image courtesy of New Britain Bees
Due to several issues the Rock Cats were threatening to move out of Connecticut. However, the state was able to convince them to stay, by building the team a new stadium and relocating them to Hartford. This left a hole that needed to be filled at New Britain Stadium.
“We got to work the next day I found out that the Rock Cats were going to be leaving, but really, they approached the city,” said New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart.
By they, Stewart meant the principal owner of the Bees Frank Boulton, along with several other executives from the Atlantic League. Boulton was looking for somewhere to move the former Howell Land Sharks after the club was about to fold, and New Britain had an opening. Unlike the Rock Cats who were a Double AA team affiliated with Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins, the Bees are not affiliated with any MLB club.
“Our goal is to get these guys sold to or brought back into a major league system or organization,” said Bees broadcaster and media relations coordinator Chris Knoblock.
New Britain Stadium is located at 230 John Karbonic Way. Photo by Robert Held
For example, Rich Hill played in the Atlantic League for the
Long Island Ducks last season before signing with the Boston Red Sox. During the off season he was able to sign a one-year, $6 million contract with Oakland Athletics.
The Bees season starts in about three weeks, and Knoblock states that the team’s roster is not entirely set yet. However, Knoblock did mention that the team will feature a lot of players with major league experience.One of those players is outfielder Greg Golson. He will be joined by recently signed, former first round draft pick, Anthony Hewitt, who is a Connecticut native. The team will also be managed by Stan Cliburn, who has managing experience in the majors.
Replacing a long standing baseball tradition in New Britain could be a difficult task for the Bees. Although, Knoblock feels the Bees have several good plans in place to draw in fans.
Photo of mascot “Sting” waving to elementary students. Photo courtesy of New Britain Bees.
“We have promotions going on at every game, and we have a rock climbing wall and a carousel going in for children at the games,” said Knoblock.
The Bees recently revealed their new mascot Sting, to replace the departed Rocky the Rock Cat. Sting already seems to be a hit because according to Knoblock he is already booked out a few months in advance for appearances. A good sign for the team considering the Bees have not even played a game yet. Residents of New Britain still seem excited to have a baseball team in the city.
“ I went to Rock Cats games, so I will definitely be there to check out a few Bees games to see what the team has to offer,” said New Britain resident Samara Nicole.