Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Russian hockey sticks must really suck

rema rema.. rema rema.. ha ha ha ha

This is an excerpt from an interview with Russian defenseman Denis Kulyash, who was the 8th round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2004 and plays with the CSKA Moscow (Central Army) team in Russia. This interview was taken from the always-reliable russianprospects.com...

Do you know that many consider your shot the strongest in the Russian Super League?
D. Kulyash: I’ve heard about it from a lot of people. Especially those people who remember my goal against Sibir, when I shot the puck from the red line (center ice). That was only 50 seconds into the game! I had just jumped on the ice, picked up the puck behind our goalie and then skated to the center of the ice. As a matter of a fact, our head coach Vyacheslav Bykov always tells us to skate forward in such situations. So, I glanced quickly at the keeper (goalie), and he did not look very focused on the game. As a result, I just shot from the center circle and scored. The rest of my goals I scored from the blue line.

Are there any special exercises you use for your shot strength?
D. Kulyash: After each team practice I always stay on the ice and shoot the puck. Of course, I do this only if there are any sticks left.

What do you mean: if there are any sticks left?
D. Kulyash: Well, I break them regularly! So far 53 sticks got broken already. When I practice my shooting skills, I smack the ice with the stick very hard, so the hook breaks at the same spot of the stick every time.

Have you ever injured any goalies?
D. Kulyash: They complain when the puck hits them hard. Besides that, the safety glass panes at the CSKA training rink get knocked to pieces. I've broken the glass three times already! Next time the team management promised to withdraw the damage costs from my paycheck…


Fifty-three is a lot of sticks for one player to break, especially considering that in Russia they play about 30 or so fewer games each year (between the regular season and playoffs) than in the AHL or NHL. Although I remember last season in the AHL there were a ton of sticks broken, sometimes 10 or 12 a game which was way more than usual, after the league entered into an exclusive equipment agreement with The Hockey Company that forced all the players to use the same crappy composite shafts and blades.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Game Break!

Time to play some arcade games...

All I wanna eat is them B-B-Q chips Donkey Kong
Use the Space Bar to jump, arrow keys to move around

Giving out their worth, 'cuz that's all that they won't keep Asteroids
Use the Space Bar to fire, arrow keys to move around

Bedtime Beats You Senseless Pac Man
"M" to mute sound, "P" to pause/unpause, arrow keys to move around

These cookie crumbs are making me itch Space Invaders
Use the Space Bar to fire, arrow keys to move left/right

Games courtesy of www.80smusiclyrics.com.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sea Dogs nip Rock Cats, 4-2

A couple of late-inning runs weren't enough as New Britain fell short to the visiting Portland Sea Dogs today, 4-2, halting the Rock Cats' win streak at nine. The game featured a number of great defensive plays, including several by Portland shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who exhibits so much range and arm strength that it's almost as if he were playing on a Little League diamond.

stop, drop, and roll Hanley Ramirez

I've noticed that it hasn't even taken a year for Red Sox fans to perfect the same level of arrogance that took Yankees fans decades to achieve.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rock Cats extend win streak to nine

racecar spelled backwards is racecar Glen Perkins

In a late-morning start, the New Britain Rock Cats knocked off the Portland Sea Dogs today, 9-4, momentarily dropping Portland to second place (a half game behind Trenton) and moving New Britain into sole posession of fourth, pending the results of games to be played later tonight. The Rock Cats got 7 strong innings from Glen Perkins, who throws it past the hitters pretty regularly (97 strikeouts in 94 innings between Ft. Meyers and New Britain this year) and looked especially quick today. Doug "Dirty" Deeds, who only had five homers last year in a full season of A ball, belted his 13th home run, which yet again I was able to later stroll behind the fence and pick up (that makes 5 balls so far this season).

secret agent inspector rock Doug Deeds

As a side note: Don Steele is a solid PA guy (and sometimes works Hartford Wolf Pack games, too), but I think he should be reminded that his voice acting routine sometimes makes it hard for people to hear him above the background noise. (Sure, once the team starts winning, now the gripes come out.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Nip Drivers Will Change Your Life

I finally got around the other day to checking out The Shins Will Change Your Life, an unadorned web log that keeps tabs on over-indulgent "indie rock" writing. At first I avoided clicking on the link whenever I saw it pop up, afraid that it would send me to an actual Shins site purveyed by limp-wristed hipster doofuses (and who would want that?), but thankfully I was way off on that point. I mean, it was bad enough that one time I was scrolling haphazardly through Chromewaves or some site like that and accidentally right-clicked on a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah mp3. What the hell?

Rock Cats move into tie for 4th

The light was green and so was I 3B Matt Moses

New Britain completed a 3-game sweep in Norwich last night, extending the Rock Cats' winning streak to 7 games. With last night's win, the Rock Cats moved into a 4th-place tie with the Navigators, with both teams now at 47-54, six games back in their division. Binghamton dropped a half-game back into last place, despite also winning last night as Evan MacLane threw a complete game, 5-hit shutout against Bowie in his Eastern League debut.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Day Is Upon Us

Shoot more, shoot more often

Today, New Britain moved into a tie for 5th place in the six team Eastern League Northern Division:

New Brtn 46-54 .460 6.0 GB
Bingham 43-51 .457 6.0 GB


While the Binghamton Mets were blowing a 5-1 lead in Bowie, losing to the Baysox 6-5 in 11 innings, the Rock Cats were prevailing in Norwich, 9-8. It was a typical Jeckle and Hyde performance for the Rock Cats: Norwich broke out quickly, leading 4-0 after 2, but then the Rock Cats stormed back against the Navigators' top starter, Merkin Valdez, and took a 9-4 lead before Norwich scored 4 more runs in the bottom of the 8th to make it close. Alex Romero had 2 doubles and 2 RBI, and a 90-year-old lady in the row in front of us almost got smoked by a line drive foul ball, which always makes me think of Walt Frazier for some reason.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Blackburn 2-hits Norwich, 11-0

Gimme Indie Rock! Nick Blackburn

Nick Blackburn, just called up from Single-A Ft. Meyers a week ago, pitched a 2-hit complete game shutout in Norwich tonight as New Britain nailed down their 5th straight win, 11-0. Rock Cats leftfielder Alex Romero continues to tear it up at the plate; already the Eastern League's Player of the Week last week, Romero has hit safely in all 4 games this week with 8 RBI. The Binghamton Mets won their game in Bowie against the Baysox, for now keeping the Rock Cats a game behind in last place. New Britain gets another chance to escape the cellar tomorrow night, when it's Pfizer Bat Night in Norwich. An appropriate joke about "wood" escapes me at the moment.

Here in my car, I feel safest of all Big deal

In other, less exciting news, the NHL has replaced the orange in its logo with silver, in much the same way that your team will have to replace many of your favorite players with cheaply-paid rookies under the league's new salary cap.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Danbury Trashers' Owner Targeted By Feds

Wait'll I start Nautilus

(Hartford Courant) July 20, 2005 - Shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, dozens of FBI agents began sifting through business records at the offices of Automated Waste Disposal Inc. in Danbury, Ct. In addition, agents armed with search warrants were at Galante's home and the homes of several of his senior employees, said a source familiar with the investigation. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Haven confirmed that agents had served a search warrant at the Automated offices and other unspecified locations, but would not elaborate. Three sources said federal law enforcement "activity," about which they could not be specific, also was underway in Westchester and Putnam counties in New York state.

Automated is owned by James E. Galante, 52, of New Fairfield, who was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and fined $100,000 in 1999 for assisting in the preparation of false corporate tax returns. Automated dominates the refuse hauling business in southwestern Connecticut, and its owner was linked in federal court in the middle 1990s to mob efforts to stifle competition in the industry in Westchester County, N.Y. Galante also owns at least three trash hauling companies based in Westchester County, including Suburban Carting Inc., in which he is co-owner with Thomas Milo of Pelham, N.Y. Milo emerged as a major player in the Connecticut garbage and recycling industries in the 1990s. In 1996, he was one of seven people charged by federal prosecutors in New York with mob-related racketeering, extortion and tax conspiracy charges in a 61-count indictment. The indictment alleged that Milo and the others - including Mario Gigante, the brother of then Genovese crime family boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante - were part of a mob cartel that used arson, bribery and violence to dominate the garbage-hauling industry in the suburbs north of New York City. The individuals and 14 companies were accused of committing dozens of crimes in southwestern Connecticut, in five New York counties and in two New Jersey towns. The object of the conspiracy, prosecutors charged, was to avoid competition in the garbage industry by dividing suburban New York into spheres of influence controlled by individual haulers. After the indictments broke up the conspiracy, federal officials estimated that trash hauling rates dropped 50 percent in some parts of Westchester County.

Galante also owns a professional, minor league hockey team that he named the Danbury Trashers. It is part of the United Hockey League and plays in the city-owned ice rink in downtown Danbury. Galante bought the team as an 18th birthday present for his son, who is general manager.

Galante made national headlines following a game in Danbury in December 2004 when he left his skybox and became involved in a fistfight in the penalty box with one of the referees working the game. Referee Jimmy Harper claimed Galante punched him, and Harper filed assault charges. The charges were later dropped by state prosecutors, who said they couldn't prove who started the fight. Galante was fined an undisclosed amount by the league and Harper was dismissed as a referee.

Galante and employees of his businesses have been generous contributors to Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. Boughton could not be reached Tuesday night for comment. Some senior city employees, who asked not be identified because they fear retribution, have said the city of Danbury allowed Galante to spend millions to quickly renovate the ice rink to comply with league standards - but without timely city inspections for code violations. The arena was too small for league standards and needed to be expanded to a capacity of more than 3,000. The city employees said they felt pressured to quickly approve the renovations.

After the hockey season ended, the city issued a cease-and-desist order that prevented the Trashers from selling tickets to games at the rink. City inspectors belatedly gave the Trashers a 28-page list of code violations. Among other things, Galante must make improvements to the second level of the arena, including adding more fire exits, before games can be played again.


Rock, Scissors, Gun

At a Danbury Trashers' game that I attended this past season, there were not only plenty of fights on the ice (it is, after all, the UHL), but a fight in the stands that involved the police and, from what I could see, the Trashers' 18-year-old "Team President", A.J. Galante. But, hey, the beer at the games is cheap, and owner James Galante has gone out of his way to court the business of disenfranchised New Haven hockey fans, who would rather drive to Danbury than support the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. Danbury has even hired Paul Gillis to be their head coach this year (presuming that the Trashers play); Gillis was once the coach of the New Haven Knights of the UHL, the team that New Haven fans feel was put under by the placement of an AHL team just a few miles away, in Bridgeport.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Rock Cats have more wins than someone else in the league!

Excited by cheese

After last night's 8-5 win in Binghamton, the forever-stuck-in-last-place New Britain Rock Cats now have a tidy 3-game win streak, and have more wins on the season than Binghamton, 43 to 42.

Of course, the Rock Cats have out-lost Binghamton, 54 to 50 (Yes, "out-lost" is a word! Just because you don't know about it!), so the Rock Cats still trail the B-Mets by a game and a half with the worst won-loss record in the Eastern League.

3 Signs That The Apocalypse Is Finally Upon Us:

Spit Respectable It's 1983 all over again

1. I was reading Chronic Disorder's web site, and I find out that right now they're in the middle of recording a new album.
2. I was reading Chronic Disorder's web site.
3. Chronic Disorder has a web site.

Even more frivolous web surfing led to my finding, through mentions on a couple of blogs, that back issues of the original Punk magazine ('76-'79) are available to be read on-line. To me, stuff like "Do-It-Yourself Sixties Protest Song" and "PUNK Reviews" is frickin' hilarious. Maybe not as hilarious as Kenny Rogers yelling at yet another cameraman, but still.

Oh, look: After homering in 6 straight games in Double-A earlier this year, Pirate farmhand Brad Eldred now has 8 home runs in his last 9 games for Triple-A Indianapolis (International League).

Monday, July 18, 2005

Lastings Milledge tearing through 1st week in EL

Where do you find a turtle with no legs? Wherever you left it last That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate

Following a 3-for-4 game against the Reading Phillies on Sunday, Lastings Milledge is now batting .588 (10-for-17) since being promoted to Double-A Binghamton. Milledge, considered the #1 prospect in the Mets organization (and ranked #11 overall in the country by Baseball America) for his combination of speed, power, and defense, is in only his second season as a pro since being drafted out of high school as the Mets' first round pick in 2003.

Binghamton starts a 4-game series at home tonight (7/18) against woeful New Britain, who are now the only team trailing the B-Mets in the Eastern League's Northern Division after Binghamton was passed in the standings last week by the Norwich Navigators, who've won 8 of their last 10.

Player of the Week, yippee Alex Romero

New Britain received one of their few bits of good news this season when Rock Cats outfielder Alex Romero was selected today as the EL Player Of The Week after batting .417 (10-for-24) with two home runs this past week. Romero is batting .287 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI in 78 games for the Rock Cats in 2005.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Tyutin and Kondratiev returning to Rangers

The machine ate my quarter! Tyutin Puttin' on the foil Kondratiev

New York Rangers defensive prospects Fedor Tyutin and Maxim Kondratiev will start the upcoming hockey season in New York, rather than staying to play in Russia (or possibly even returning to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL), according to the always informative russianprospects.com:

According to the official websites of Russian Super League clubs Lada Togliatti and SKA St. Petersburg, New York Rangers defensive duo Fedor Tyutin and Maxim Kondratiev are on their way back to North America to rejoin the NHL club. The young defensemen were part of the Hartford Wolfpack’s top defensive pairing before returning to Russia when it became clear that the NHL season was lost. The two have established themselves as top four defensemen in the RSL, though Kondratiev did face a bit of controversy down the stretch when he was disqualified from the playoff finals due to the minute presence of ephedrine in his blood because of a cold medication he took a week earlier. Still under contract with the New York Rangers for another season, both young players will likely start the season in the NHL.

Talk is cheap but I still can't afford it Kondratiev fighting!

Meanwhile, #1 Russian prospect Alexander Ovechkin is saying that he'd prefer to stay in Russia one more year to play in Omsk than join the Washington Capitals in the NHL:

What do you get when you cross a lake with a leaky boat? About half way across

Ovechkin's comments

"Personally, I set a goal for myself to play for Avangard. I think that my wish will be realized... if the court would accept my contract with Avangard, than I would stay in the Super League for another season. However, if the court would decide that I have to stay in Dynamo, than, perhaps, I would pack my stuff quickly and go to the NHL."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A message from Ike Turner and the NHL

Every ant you step on in your driveway is one that won't get inside your house If we're gonna be the police of the world, I want my donuts free

"Oh, baby, I'm sorry! I didn't want this to happen again! I mean, I'll give you anything you want, baby, just.. anything you want.. Take it back, baby! I fixed the candy, look! Just give me a chance, come on, baby! We can do it again! We can be the best! Ain't nobody gonna stop us!-"

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pay attention, this is important

Thanks for the nice fancy-dan header, guys

The American Hockey League today announced a multi-year partnership with B2 Networks to offer fans around the world the opportunity to watch AHL regular-season and Calder Cup Playoff games on B2 Networks' broadband broadcasting network.

All 1,080 games (plus playoffs) played in the AHL during the league's upcoming 2005-06 season are scheduled to be available worldwide for just $6 (US) per game. Fans will be able to watch the action while listening to their own team's audio
(Oh, you mean the audio feed on the Pack web site that, when you try listening to a game on it now, keeps cutting out every 15 seconds? Yeah, that one) on the live broadcasts. Any fan worldwide with a high-speed cable modem, T1 or DSL broadband connection and Windows Media Player 9 or higher will be able to view the games through the links to be provided on the official Web sites of the American Hockey League (theahl.com) and all 27 of its member teams.

Gee, six bucks a game doesn't sound like an awful lot to see Peoria play Grand Rapids *cough cough*.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Ballpark Reviews

A look at Connecticut minor league ballparks

I'd originally written an article covering all of the Connecticut minor league teams years ago, when Brushback was an actual print magazine and not just this stupid web log. The article never made it to print, of course, but about a month ago I re-wrote from memory an abridged version of the article that I then posted on a hockey web site (hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time). Nobody read it, of course, which gave me the impetus to put up a finalized version on this site so that nobody would read it here either.

One of the main points of visiting a whole bunch of ballparks is to take photos, of course, which I've done. They're all prints, however, and right now I don't have the time or the ability to load them all here. Instead I've used photographs from a number of very good websites: ballparkreviews.com, baseballguide.com, digitalballparks.com, minorleagueballparks.com, and projectbaseball.org. If you're from one of those web sites and you want something in return for using your photos, let me know-- I just bought an awful Girls Against Boys CD and I'm dying to find somebody to get rid of it to.

The city begins at the end of my legs Municipal Stadium, Waterbury CT (Waterbury Spirit IND-Northeast/Northern)

Municipal Stadium- ballparkreviews.com

The stadium in the city where I was born, where I saw my first ever minor league baseball game back in 1984. Cory Snyder played for the Waterbury Indians that year, two seasons before he was the Rookie of the Year with Cleveland in '86. The site used to be a horse track, so the stands are on only one side of the field (along the first base line), much like the grandstand is at a race track. When the Eastern League was in Waterbury (through 1986), the seating was all benches, and the teams barely drew 500 fans per game; individual chairback seats were added for the Spirit in 1997, and a year later a brick concession stand/media booth was built behind the backstop. The Spirit didn't draw very well, either, and only lasted 4 seasons (1997-2000); the stadium sits mostly unused now, save for some amateur tournaments and the like.

Municipal Stadium, looking from 1st base side- ballparkreviews.com

It was really easy to get foul balls here, because any fouls hit behind the third base side would land on an adjacent high school football field, so you were able to just run over and pick the ball up. I went to 20 games in the Spirit's final season, and got at least one foul ball at every game. Municipal Stadium is always very cold (even in the dog days of summer you'd want to bring a jacket to the game, and the ball never carried well so there'd usually be more triples than home runs), and to describe it as a run-down dump would be extremely generous, but it had a Frankie's Hot Dogs restaurant behind home plate, so the concessions were way better and cheaper than any other minor league stadium in Connecticut. Frankie's is a popular fast food chain in Connecticut, so it was worth it to go to the games just to have supper there.

Luckily it wasn't a fight over hair dye or Kevin probably woulda killed him New Britain Stadium, New Britain CT (New Britain Rock Cats AA-Eastern)

New Britain Stadium- digitalballparks.com

Going to New Britain Stadium gives one an obvious comparison of the upward direction Minor League Baseball facilities have taken in the past decade or so, with a lot of new stadiums being built, mostly because the old ballpark that New Britain Stadium replaced still stands right outside the new stadium: Beehive Field, former home of the Eastern League New Britain Red Sox, and now used almost exclusively by the New Britain High School team, a tiny bandbox of a stadium with mostly old style open bleacher seating (the kind where, if any change fell out of your pocket, it would drop between the floorboards and go right down to the ground).

New Britain Stadium, the stands behind home plate- digitalballparks.com
New Britain Stadium

Beehive Field- ballparkreviews.com
Beehive Field

Being a newer building, New Britain Stadium has a lot of extra amenities (skyboxes, a tavern, several picnic areas, a super-wide concourse that you could drive a tractor trailer through, etc), but there's a sterility to the place that leaves it lacking in charm somewhat. What the stadium doesn't lack is smothering heat in the summertime (making it almost impossible to go to a day game in August without sweating off a few pounds) as well as countless minivan loads of oblivious soccer moms and their mostly unattended offspring (NOT the place to go to if you don't like that sort of thing). Rock Cats games have become a hot ticket over the past few seasons, so weekend games are almost always standing-room only, and you'll probably have to walk 10 minutes from whatever hilltop or mountain goat trail they tell you to park your car on (regular weeknight games are still no problem). The only minor league stadium in Ct. that doesn't have free parking (not only isn't it free, they raised it a buck to $3 a couple of seasons ago), plus they lowered all their promotional giveaways to include only the first 1000 or so fans, meaning that you'll almost never get the ball or bat or bobblehead that's being given away. Despite all that, the Rock Cats are my favorite minor league team (figure that one out).

Punch It Like Kojak Yale Field, West Haven CT (New Haven County Cutters IND-CanAm)

Yale Field- projectballpark.org

One of the oldest stadiums (1927) in the country still being used for professional baseball. Photos of Yale Field pop up every so often as grainy black-and-white backdrops during ESPN documentaries on old ballplayers, masquerading as photos of some century-old park closed decades ago, even though ESPN probably just drove down from Bristol the week before and took the photos. Yale Field has a 25-foot-high manually-operated scoreboard (made from the scrap metal of old WWII battle ships!) in center field that's in play, meaning any home runs to straightaway center have to clear the scoreboard, which I think has only been done twice during a game. Juan "Large Human" Thomas cleared the scoreboard in 2000, when the New Haven Ravens won the Eastern League Championship; I went to every home playoff game that year, and jumped like a delinquent onto the visiting team's bullpen mound when the final out was made. I even got to take part in an on-field contest that season, trying to throw a pitch through a little hole in a piece of plywood. (I didn't win, but at least I hit wood all 3 times, which was better than most people.) The Ravens franchise was moved after 2003, becoming the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who then promptly won the Eastern League championship last year. So now the New Haven County Cutters of the independent CanAm league (formerly known as the Northeast League) play at Yale Field, to breathtaking indifference... though I did get to see Brian Leetch and some former Rangers and Whalers at a "Hockey Night" Cutters game earlier this season, and got to swipe a bunch of Danbury Trashers pocket folders in the process. Trasher fans can't read or write, so what do they need them for?

Yale Field grandstand- digitalballparks.comYale Field, looking out at centerfield scoreboard- digitalballparks.com

Not even half of the seats at Yale Field are chairbacks; most are metal benches, and the entire grandstand is covered, which is good when it rains but tends to hold all of the crowd noise in (not that there's any crowds to speak of at Yale Field anymore). When the stands were refurbished for the arrival of the Ravens in '94, the original wooden folding seats were left in place as the top row of each section, which is a nice touch. I love Yale Field-- it's nothing but pure baseball, and it's a great change-of-pace from all the new stadiums in Connecticut, even though the bathroom floors are almost always wet and the place is far from being in the best of shape. New Haven fans are great, though, especially when the Ravens were still around and there'd be a group of fans that would chant "Ba-Ba-Lu!" whenever there'd be two strikes on the batter, while holding up signs of Desi Arnaz. They even made BaBaLu t-shirts, which I bought once, and at a couple of games they taped up a whole bunch of xeroxed pictures of Desi Araz all over the stadium, which was a riot.

It's time to do the Babalu!!
It's time to do the Babaluuu!

Throw me off the roof my framing hammer, eh The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, Bridgeport CT (Bridgeport Bluefish IND-Atlantic)

The Love Boat at Harbor Yard- ballparkreviews.com

Harbor Yard was built on a contaminated plot of land bought from Donald Trump for a dollar, and at first look it doesn't seem like a bad place, with plenty of interesting features like the Amtrak train running behind the outfield fence and the clear view of the shipping docks and the Long Island Sound nearby. I think the stadium is boring, though, with its screened-porch-looking skyboxes (reminiscent of a cheap motel) dominating the look of the ballpark, and too much sterile white paint everywhere. The place looks more like a cruise ship than a baseball stadium, the fans are uninitiated at best, and the concession food is the worst I've ever eaten at a minor league park. After the Bluefish first began play in 1998, for a number of years it was hard to walk up and buy much more than a single ticket on the weekends, but those days are gone now, and even Opening Night this year with John Rocker and the Long Island Ducks in town didn't fill all of the seats.

Harbor Yard- minorleagueballparks.com The train going by at Harbor Yard

My opinion of Harbor Yard is probably jaded and a bit harsh, though-- I wouldn't steer anyone away from visiting there once (who knows, you might even get mugged walking in from the gravel parking lot someday and have an interesting story to tell people!), and it's a fairly easy stadium to find, being visible from Interstate 95.

Kicked Out Of The Webelos Dodd Stadium, Norwich CT (Norwich Navigators AA-Eastern)

Dodd Stadium grandstand- ballparkreviews.comDodd Stadium, looking at 3rd base side- ballparkreviews.com

Almost identical in structure with Harbor Yard (both stadiums were designed by the same architectural company-- suprise!), but much darker in color (no all-white "Love Boat" look here) and much more enjoyable. I like how the concourse runs behind the top row of the stands, rather than beneath the seats, so you can still watch the game over your shoulder while waiting in line at the concessions. The concessions are pretty good, too, with lots of variety. Another nice feature of Dodd Stadium is the grassy berms at both ends of the grandstand, where you can sit on a blanket and watch the game if you like. Norwich fans are fairly loyal and friendly, too, though a bit heavy on the mullet-wearing pig farmer side (I used to live in the area, so I understand). I like Dodd Stadium as a building much more than either Harbor Yard or New Britain Stadium, only that it's in the middle of nowhere, hidden away from any main roads or residential areas inside a desolate, thickly-wooded industrial park, and it's not a convenient drive from most parts of the state. The Navigators also used to be the Yankees affiliate, in what is fairly heavy Red Sox country, but they've been the San Francisco Giants affiliate for a few seasons now, which is neither offensive or inspiring (the Giants haven't developed an everyday position player from their farm system in more than ten years). I got to see Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson (among others) fairly frequently while the Navigators were affiliated with the Yankees, though, which was pretty cool. The new owner has announced plans to change the team's nickname to the "Eastern Connecticut something-or-others", in hopes of increasing the team's fan base by making the local towns outside of Norwich feel more included, but that trick never works.

As long as we have opposable thumbs, we will fight you Fussenich Park, Torrington CT (Torrington Twisters NECBL)

Fussenich Park- ballparkreviews.comFussenich Park stands, and the white building behind the ballpark- ballparkreviews.com

Not really a "minor league" park, but still worthwhile; the New England Collegiate Baseball League is a "wooden bat" summer league for college players, along the same lines as the Cape Cod League (if you're familiar with that). College players from all over the country (even big schools like Texas and Miami) play in these leagues, mostly to get familiar with hitting and fielding a ball that's not off an aluminum bat, and hopefully showing the major league scouts their natural hitting skills that aren't "aluminum enhanced". You can get into Fussenich Park without a ticket, just a two or three dollar donation at the gate as you walk in, and sit wherever you'd like-- either the broken-down wooden bleacher seats on the right, which is where most people sit for some reason, or the more modern chairbacked grandstand behind home plate.

Fussenich Park 1st base side wooden bleachers- ballparkreviews.com

It's not a totally backwoods affair-- you can get a program, and there's also jerseys and hats for sale, and a concession stand that has crappy boiled hot dogs for a buck and half or whatever. Crowds of 1000 or more are fairly common, and there have been some good players (Dave Parrish, the Yankees 1st round pick in 2000, played for Torrington). Because of the way the ballpark was built into the side of a hill, stadium parking is on a level above and right behind the first base bleachers, making parked cars well within range of any foul balls that go that way. Fortunately, most Twister fans are wise enough to take their ratty old beat-up pickup trucks to the games while leaving their Porsches and Jaguars at home.

Slide, Charlie Brown, slide! Northwest Park, Manchester CT (Manchester Silkworms, NECBL)

Northwest Park view down 3rd base line- manchestersilkworms.orgNorthwest Park, a section of stands- manchestersilkworms.org

Like the Twisters, the Manchester Silkworms are one of the three Connecticut teams in the NECBL (Danbury has the other team, but I haven't had a chance to check them out yet). Also like the Twisters, Silkworm games are fairly low-key, family-oriented affairs, with a $3 admission (kids are free), and concession stands manned by volunteers. The concessions aren't bad, either-- for a couple of bucks you can get a pretty decent grilled hot dog, and sodas are a buck. There are two decent-sized bleacher seating areas on both sides of the field, with a PA announcer's booth behind home plate, and there's a merchandise booth where you can get programs, jerseys, hats, and other stuff. Put your earplugs in between innings if you don't like country music, though. The ballpark is part of a larger public park, so there's plenty of space next to the ballfield to play catch or lay in the sun or start your own pick-up baseball game, if that's what you want to do. The big news in Manchester this year was Jonah Bayliss, who became the first ex-Silkworm player to make it to the majors, throwing a scoreless inning in each of his first two outings with the Kansas City Royals in June.