Thursday, May 8, 2008


The atmosphere at New Britain Stadium is spellbinding.

The wins keep piling up with no visitor's lead safe. A new hero emerges every day as a team adds another course of brick to its bulwark of character. The enchanting effect of success, complete with coaches and players whooping it up and dancing in a strobe-lit, fog-shrouded clubhouse that has evolved into a house of glee, has cast a light on Rock Cats baseball not seen in these parts in seven years.

Times and players were a bit more conservative back in 2001 when Michael Cuddyer, Dustan Mohr, Michael Restovich and Justin Morneau helped give New Britain its first Eastern League glory since Clemens was nothing more than a bottle rocket in 1983.

These new Cats were nothing more than a collection of players with a new manager just 50 days ago on the back lots of Fort Myers' Lee County Complex. But winning serves as an intoxicant that can turn even the stoic into giddy schoolboys.

Danny Graves watched from the distance of a clubhouse corner Wednesday night as his younger teammates exulted in their ninth straight win to tie a Rock Cats record. His grin told the whole story. He really didn't have to say this was the greatest thing he had ever seen, and that coming from an ultra-successful major league expatriot with 182 career saves seeking one more opportunity to grace the screen on Baseball Tonight.

Chances are pretty good that the Rock Cats will lose someday, but you can't tell that to the likes of clubhouse leaders Drew Butera, Trevor Plouffe and Brock Peterson. They're having much too good of a time to be reminded that this can't last forever. And it doesn't have to! This is baseball, where you're remarkable if you can win 70 percent of the time.

With the character the Rock Cats are building, that possibility seems very likely.

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