NEW BRITAIN, April 21 – She looks a little older. But she is still beautiful.
More than four thousand fans make the trip to 20-year-old New Britain Stadium Thursday for the first-ever contest for the New Britain Bees baseball team. And the facility once called The Emerald by former New Britain Herald sportswriter Ken Lipshez looked good.
The city of New Britain and the Bees have spent more than $500,000 to renovate skyboxes, repaint the concourse, replace the infield with new grass and dirt and other tasks, said Bees general manager Patrick Day.
Perhaps it was the lights but the grass looked a bit greener and infield a bit more red.
“It is great to that baseball hasn’t skipped a beat in New Britain,” said Berlin’s Gerry Berthiaume, the former general manager for the Rock Cats and New Britain Red Sox from 1983-99. Berthiaume and his wife, Jenny, were at the ballpark for opening night, chatting with old friends and acquaintances. “This stadium has stood the test of time. There are some great sight lines and it’s a terrific place to watch a ballgame.”
In September, the Rock Cats played their final game at New Britain Stadium and fans were picking the facility apart, purchasing all kinds of Rock Cats memorabilia – shirts, hats, jackets, signs and even magnetic signs for a refrigerator door. Eight months later, there was just two Rock Cat jerseys among the crowd.
Last night, fans swarmed into the team store to purchase Bees hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts. Dozens and dozens of fans proudly wore their new Bees gear.
Twenty years ago on a frosty April evening, the newly-christened Rock Cats made the move from Beehive Field to New Britain Stadium. The Rock Cats are now extinct.
The team once known as the Rock Cats are now the Hartford Yard Goats. They’ve won 10 of their first 14 games but they have yet to play at home because their stadium remains under construction. The first Yard Goats home game is set for May 31.
The Yard Goats are a tender subject in New Britain, which found out about the Rock Cats’ interest in moving to Hartford when the team announced they would be leaving the Hardware City in a press conference.
But the city of New Britain moved quickly to secure an Atlantic League franchise. The team isn’t affiliated with any major league team. It is independent ball but it’s still baseball.
Bill Dowling, the long-time owner of the Rock Cats, is now a special advisor to the Bees. He welcomed fans to the ballpark and chatted with fans throughout the contest. The team has added a new carousel for the kids along with a rock climbing wall and a bounce house. There is still plenty of ice cream, hot dogs, pretzels and some frosty alcoholic beverages at the ballpark.
On the field, the visiting York Revolution held off a late New Britain rally to earn a 4-3 decision. New Britain lefthander Josh Outman struck out four and gave up three runs in five innings of work. Former Farmington High pitcher Shawn Haviland threw four innings of relief, striking out five and allowing just one run on two hits.
New Britain had nine hits. The Bees rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth thanks to two wild pitches and a RBI single from first baseman Jon Griffin.
FIELD DUST: Jovan Rosa tripled in the fourth inning to drive in the first run in New Britain Bees’ history. Rosa also had the team’s first double in the eighth inning. The first pitch thrown by Outman was a strike. The first hit in team history was a single to left field by Brandon Chaves in the first inning. Rosa was 2-for-4 in the game while Jon Jones was 2-for-5. … Game two of this four-game series is Friday night at 6:35 p.m. at New Britain Stadium.