By Robert Held
Gone from New Britain Stadium are the familiar black and red colors of the Rock Cats. In fact, no trace of the former AA team can be found anywhere. Instead, it has been replaced with the black and gold colors and logos of the new Atlantic League team the New Britain Bees.
“Baseball is still here in New Britain,” said Stan Cliburn, the manger of the Bees. “We may not be affiliated with anyone like the Twins or Rockies, but we are here to help get these guys back where they belong.”
This is not Cliburn’s first time in New Britain, he previously managed the Rock Cats from 2001-2005. He seems excited to start over again in the hardware city.
“It is good baseball, quality baseball, talented baseball, “Cliburn said referring to the level of competition in the Atlantic League.
While several of the players on the team are from around the New England area there are also players on the Bees who came from as far away as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Japan.
One player who came from a great distance to play for the Bees is outfielder Greg Golson.
“I was born in Texas, my siblings were born in Connecticut, but my mom moved to Texas before I was born. I am happy to be playing in an area where my family is originally from,” said Golson.
Golson was drafted in the first-round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2004. He has played for several major league teams, including the New York Yankees during the 2010-11 seasons.
There is a wide range of playing experience on the Bees roster. In some cases players have only made it from the college level, while others have been in Major League Baseball and are trying to work their way back. One example from the Bees, is pitcher Josh Outman, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals over the course of six seasons.
Originally, Eric Fornataro was supposed to pitch for the Bees as well, but before the season even began he signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles.
“These guys have given up a lot of money to play in other countries like Japan and Mexico, because they want the best chance to get back to where they belong,” said Cliburn.
Two recent Atlantic League success stories are Rich Hill, and Chien-Ming Wang. Hill played for the Long Island Ducks, before being signed at the end of last season by the Boston Red Sox. During the winter, Hill signed a one-year $6 million contract with the Oakland Athletics.
At one point, Wang pitched for the New York Yankees, but last year found himself pitching in the Atlantic League for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. However, Wang was able to work his way back to the majors and made the defending World Series champions Kansas City Royals opening day roster.
The final 29-man roster for the Bees will be announced at noon on April 21. By June, the roster will be cut down to 27 players per Atlantic League rules. Despite these restrictions, Bees’ General Manager Pat Day does not seem bothered by these rules.
“I am expecting seven or eight contracts to be purchased, we will probably move another five to seven guys, and of course there will be injuries, but I want to be last in the league in transactions,” said Day.