Summer of Baseball: The game is the main event in New Britain
If you’ve ever read books about baseball players and their growth through a system, you probably realize what the minor leagues are all about.
It’s not glamorous, that’s for sure.
Often enough, stadiums aren’t that great, travel is tough and the living conditions differ from place to place.
In recent years, it’s becoming more of a money-driven setup. Top-of-the-line stadiums are being built. Former major leagues coach and manage young prospects in their ascent to the big leagues. Travel conditions have improved and, in some spots, the living setup has changed.
But with big-money comes bigger places looking to take these minor league teams to a new spot. I watched it happen when the new owners of the then Oneonta Tigers packed up and moved to Connecticut a year after buying (despite agreeing to keep the team in Oneonta through its lease). Other small towns have watched it happen (to be fair, Norwich watched it happen, too, before snaking the Tigers).
Of course, when that happens, it also means these smaller areas lose a part of their community and identity.
New Britain, Connecticut appears to be next on that list.
It was announced in June that the New Britain Rock Cats would be moving to nearby Hartford in two years, once a $60 million stadium is built. I didn’t know that until actually heading to New Britain for a game and to take in New Britain Stadium, built in 1996, which makes it far from a relic.
The Rock Cats are the Double-A affiliate for the Minnesota Twins. New Britain has hosted a Double-A team since 1983, but a move to Hartford could signal the end of minor league baseball in New Britain. Often, when a team leaves an area, another will move it. That might mean a lower level (such as a Single-A team), but with Hartford being so close to New Britain, territorial rights will likely come into play. That being said, it appears there are some issues with the whole Hartford thing, so we’ll see how it all plays out and if the owner has to eat crow and stick it out in New Britain.
I didn’t know about all this until the day of a visit to New Britain Stadium. Waiting in line to get in (it was Ted Williams bobblehead night, so worth getting there early), a few fans chatted with us about the impending doom of their team and how it seemed like attendance had started to go down since the announcement, which is fully understandable. Signs were handed out as we parked, asking people to support and save the Rock Cats.
And from reading reports, it doesn’t sound like Hartford – at least those who pay – are too thrilled with paying for a new baseball stadium when other things (such as a good supermarket) are needed.
New Britain Stadium doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. It’s a baseball stadium. The seats are decent (though the ones we had were permanent bucket seats, almost like enlarged child seats) and the sight lines were pretty strong. But, much like stadiums built in the past 20 or so years, there’s not a lot of cover, which is good and bad. It’s bad because there isn’t a good way to get out of the sun, but good because there aren’t any beams and such blocking views.
There is a walkway between the box seats and upper seats that goes from the third-base line to the first-base line, giving you open looks at the park. The concourse is covered and behind the baselines — and below the main seating area. The club store is a tad small and the prices are average. I did walk out with a past-season sweatshirt for a good price, which was nice. They have the normal offerings, however.
One bonus — and I’ve seen this at more stadiums than not this year — free programs. That’s truly a bonus. The programs were given as we came in the stadium and you could get statistics and a lineup at the customer service booth, which was directly in front of the main entrance.
Food offerings were normal ballpark fare. The hot dogs weren’t bad, but there were no cups for drinks, rather just a bottle. That’s a little on the odd size as it’s nice to have a cup with ice to keep your drink cold. It’s also another stadium without a souvenir cup, which was disappointing. I’ve been trying to collect them at most stops this year, at least when they are available.
In the end, I enjoyed the park. It’s in an easy-to-reach area, the parking is right at the park (if I remember right, I think it was $3 or $5) and it’s easy to get in and out. The old ballpark is next door, though we didn’t check it out. It’s a shame if the Rock Cats do leave. as it’s a nice setting for a minor league baseball game.
New Britain Stadium
New Britain, Connecticut
Home of the New Britain Rock Cats (AA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins)
Visited on: June 14, 2014
Opponent: Trenton Thunder (AA affiliate of the New York Yankees)
Ratings (out of 10):
- Stadium: 7.5
- Concessions: 7
- Parking: 8
- Ambiance: 8
- Friendliness: 10
I am embarking on a summer of baseball with the plan to hit a minimum of 10 stadiums this summer. Hopefully, there will be more than that. I will report on each park that I hit on the blog.
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