Saturday, August 29, 2009


I know I’m getting old and I know I’m old-fashioned to start with but the continued rise of sports blogging and blabbing is making me ill.

The blabbing part – radio and television commentators spouting their worthless opinions and in radio’s case soliciting even more worthless opinions from listeners with no lives – has been around for a while.

That doesn’t make it any more palatable to sports fans who just want the facts, but you won’t see my car radio tuned to ESPN Radio (1410 locally), The Fan (WFAN-660 New York) or on any of the blabbermouth stations on the Sirius/XM dial. If you’re riding in my Avalanche, you’ll either listen to the Grateful Dead channel, listen to a ballgame, engage in decent conversation or get out and walk.

If you are riding with me, I’ll listen to your views because I only transport people I like. I’ll listen, debate and quite possibly even agree with you, but I don’t think it should become a syndicated show.

Blogging is even worse.

I’ll grant an exception and a sincere apology to anyone who blogs about sports or subjects which he or she has access to the inner sanctum.

For example, there is a writer named Mike Ashmore who blogs extensively in Trenton, N.J., covering the Eastern League’s Thunder. He attends the games, he talks to manager Tony Franklin, he talks to the players and he monitors the Yankees’ minor league system. He has credibility.

But to read the proliferation of trash written by people who seem to think their words have some meaning is laughable and tragic at the same time.

Frustrated fans, some with a modicum of journalistic ability and some who don’t know the different between “their”, “there” and “they’re,” on even more pitifully, “bear”, “bare” and “beer”, are spouting blather about issues they know nothing about. All they know is what’s being spewed by other blabbers or bloggers who know less than they do and accept it as fact.

For instance, pseudo-experts who have no inside access to NFL camps are blabbing about who’s going to be starting quarterback here and who sucks over there. This team has no chance, and this one is going to win the Super Bowl. They don’t know any more than the little old lady in the nursing home who makes her weekly picks based on what colors she likes or where the point of her pencil falls when she peruses America’s Latest Line.

Then there’s the blabber with blinders and a short memory who wants David Ortiz banished to Mars when he’s hitting .190 in April, only to anoint him as a surefire Hall of Famer when he hits a game-winning home run in August.

The Yankees lose on Monday, they suck. They win on Tuesday, fit them for World Series rings. They lose on Wednesday and Brian Cashman is an idiot.

What is it about the new generation of sports fan who just shoots from the hip and inevitably winds up sticking their foot in their mouth to keep it from foaming over with more propaganda? Inevitably, such rabble-rousers make good on a prediction or two, remind the world how smart they are and deflect attention to the hundreds of times they’ve been dead wrong.

It’s kind of like the gambler who goes to the casino, wins and boasts about it. What they neglect to tell you is the previous 10 times they went and lost their paychecks.

Hey, maybe I’m old-fashioned, and I’m not going to argue with anybody who wants to call me stupid or, pushing his intellect to its limit, chooses to make fun of my name like some have done answering this blog.

It isn’t worth my time to trade insults with somebody who couldn’t qualify as the missing link, but I will impart the following advice: if you want to learn about what’s occurring in the sport of your choice, find somebody with credibility and not some fool with a PC, internet access and opinions born in the catacombs of an empty mind.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Gotta share this story with you.

Two summers ago, I was working out at my neighborhood gym, Valley Fitness Center in Unionville. It was pointed out to me that two members of the Torrington Twisters baseball team were working out regularly there.

The Twisters were members of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, a wooden-bat summer league for college players to keep playing after their college season ended. The NECBL is equivalent to the more famous Cape Cod League, which generally gets the best college players in the country.

One of these Torrington Twisters was a tall, well-built pitcher. We talked for a while. He was staying with a host family in Avon while on the East Coast. He was playing his college ball at the University of San Diego, where he had just completed a solid freshman season. I talked with him several times over the course of the 8 weeks or so that the NECBL is active.

Well, like all devoted baseball fans, I was following the June draft and how the big league clubs were pursuing their first-round picks. Naturally, at the top of the list was the Washington Nationals' pursuit of pitcher Stephen Strasburg, whose agent Scott Boras was seeking unprecedented dollars.

When Strasburg signed for $15 million last week, I got a good look at his photo. I'm sure I don't have to tell you the rest.

Strasburg left the Twisters, had an exceptional sophomore year and exploded to the top of the draft class as a junior. He is labeled by some to be the most accomplished player to ever come out of the amateur ranks.

Here's hoping that destiny deals Strasburg a great hand. I can tell you first-hand that he is a very nice, hard-working kid who is very deserving of the fame and fortune that he has attained.

Monday, August 17, 2009


All too often, the harshness of reality seeps into what Rock Cats owner Bill Dowling so aptly and eloquently calls "the toy department of life."

I received an e-mail from city employee Craig Bowman last night that former Rock Cats pitcher Brent Schoening, 31, passed away Sunday after a long battle with leukemia.

Schoening never made it to the big leagues. He came to New Britain during that wonderful 2001 season when the Cats, led by Michael Cuddyer, Dustan Mohr, Michael Restovich, Juan Rincon and Brad Thomas, went 87-55. The events of Sept. 11 prevented them from meeting the Reading Phillies in the Eastern League championship so they settled for co-champion status.

After nearly twirling a no-hitter and eventually losing in his first start at Erie, Schoening went 2-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 12 games for that club. In 2002, he pitched in 21 games and went 3-1 with a 5.17.

He became one of the few players to be a part of two Rock Cats Northern Division pennant-winning clubs in 2003, leading the team in wins (12-6), pitching to a 3.98 ERA in 26 starts.

I'll carry memories of Brent Schoening, a classy, accomodating young man, in my heart forever.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


The developments are disturbing.

A reader contacted me after attending Friday night's record-breaking attendance game at New Britain Stadium with the following report. He was directed to park at the high school and when he returned to his car after the game, the parking lot lights had been turned off. He said people were groping around in the dark in search of their cars.

I don't need anybody to tell me about the New Britain Stadium elevator.

One of the Rock Cats' employees who works full time for Otis Elevator shook his head as the conveyance shook, rattled and rumbled from the concourse to the second floor. The elevator is used by the people who have tickets for the luxury suites. It is also vital to the concessions employees who have to tote heavy items up the suites and to the party platforms to the left and right of the suites.

Isn't anybody going to fix it? Are we going to wait for something ugly to happen? I'll take the stairs more often, thank you. I can use the exercise, but what of the people who have to transport 20 cases of hot dogs or the employees who have to carry all the garbage out of there?

Then there is the condition of the playing surface. It was a brand, new field two short seasons ago but you would never know it. Areas to the left and right of home plate are worn to the dirt. Areas behind and in front of the pitcher's mound are also wearing badly.

It's an embarassment. I have been to numerous stadiums this summer including Brooklyn, Norwich, Pawtucket and Manchester, N.H., and they all are in much better shape than New Britain. Don't think that the Twins haven't noticed.

One wonders why these things go unchecked. Doesn't anybody in the city realize how valuable the franchise is to its economic well-being? Doesn't anybody have the proper vision to spruce things up so we can be proud of what we have, and more importantly make sure that the franchise remains in New Britain for many years to come?

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The Rock Cats' homestand is magical. First a walkoff 1-0 extra-inning win against Erie. Now beating the Akron Aeros with their gaudy record twice in two nights before over 16,000 people at the Emerald. Wow!

To show you how much the Eastern League has changed in my lifetime, the Cats surpassed the entire season's attendance for the Thetford Mines (Canada) club where the Pirates had their affiliate back in 1975 in just two nights. Let's examine why.

Teams have dressed up the product with lots of entertainment, something I didn't care for as an EL administrator (1981-88), but nonetheless a very attractive addition to the ballgames. For instance, the Rock Cats regaled fans on Saturday with a pregame polka band followed by Dancing Christopher doing a Michael Jackson tribute.

Then there's the economic factor. Who can afford going to New York or Boston more than once or twice a season? They'll avoid lots of hassles and spend lots less cash in New Britain. Plus, the Cats are playing terrific baseball under manager Tom Nieto, pitching coach Stu Cliburn and hitting coach Floyd Rayford. ...

Last night after game, I ran into the DUI checkpoint on Rte. 177 in Plainville for the second time. The policeman pokes his head in and asks if I'd been drinking. I rarely drink, and when I do, it's usually moderately and at home. I cruised through after waiting in line for less than 10 minutes.

I thought about the inconvenience but you know what? I think it's great what they're doing. Who knows how many lives they may be saving by pulling drunks off the road. I know that people under the influence are likely to think twice when they go through Plainville. I like it. ...

I've been "tweeting" lately and quite honestly, I don't see much value in it. Heck, they only give you 144 characters to speak your mind. My friends and readers know that isn't nearly enough for an opinionated yakker like me. ...

I'm working on a story about popular Connecticut broadcast journalist Joe D'Ambrosio.

Joe D has been doing the games with Jeff Dooley all season and he's discovered how enthralling Eastern League baseball can be. He's having a great time and does a great job, supporting Dooley's play-by-play with vignettes that he unearths with his meticulous preparation.

I've learned a lot listening to him and talking sports with him all season. I particularly enjoy the interview I do with him before every Sunday home game. I think it's a good "listen" because we're both opinionated and don't always agree. How could we? He's a Yankee fan.

But that doesn't mean I'm a Red Sox fan. No, no, no. I like rooting for the underdogs, teams that can't go out and grab an Alex Gonzalez from Cincinnati and a Victor Martinez from Cleveland with their unlimited bank account. Buying players to fill holes late in the season doesn't impress me. Teams that throw around that kind of money should win. Shame on 'em if they don't.

Come out and see the Cats!

Monday, August 10, 2009


The Rock Cats regroup at New Britain Stadium Tuesday with a real chance to make the Eastern League playoffs for the first time in six years.

The Cats, after a 3-3 road trip to Erie and Akron, are tied for third place with the Trenton Thunder, a half-game behind the Portland Sea Dogs. With eight games remaining against Trenton and 17 of the last 27 games at home, New Britain has control of its own destiny in search of second place and a ticket to the playoffs.

The last time New Britain qualified for the postseason, a rather talented young man named Joe Mauer was the catcher. Manager Stan Cliburn had a knack for getting the most out of his clubs down the stretch.

The Cats faced the New Haven Ravens in the Northern Division playoffs and pushed it to a fifth and final game with big-league rehabber Eric Milton on the mound. Milton pitched a great game but lost a duel with husky right-hander Chris Baker. The crowning blow was a moon shot over the Yale Field scoreboard in straightaway center field by journeyman Anthony Saunders.

It's an exciting time. The games are apt to be crisply played with the possibility of a championship ring at stake.

The Rock Cats have the offensive strength. Second baseman Brian Dinkelman has established himself as one of the best hitters in the circuit. Center fielder Brandon Roberts is setting the table in the leadoff spot. Third baseman Luke Hughes is coming off a productive road trip.

Erik Lis can carry a team if he can get on one of his rolls. Versatile Juan Portes is on the DL at the moment but shouldn't be out long. The return of highly prized catcher Wilson Ramos would really bolster the lineup but he remains in Fort Myers with a hamstring issue. Chances are that he won't return so Danny Lehmann and Jeff Christy will share the duties behind the plate.

In Anthony Slama, manager Tom Nieto has the EL's leading closer. Alex Burnett was a capable set-up man before he went on the disabled list during the road trip, making room for the return of veteran Rhode Island righty Jay Rainville.

For starters, southpaw Ryan Mullins has been the Cats' most reliable of late. Matt Fox turned in an exceptional outing in Akron after nearly two months without a win. Deolis Guerra, a key component in the trade that sent Johan Santana to the Mets, has been inconsistent. Cole DeVries is terrific on the road but can't seem to get untracked at home. Mike McCardell returns to the rotation after a shoulder problem put him on the DL for a short spell.

Second place is there for the taking. The New Britain fans have come out in droves this year and deserve a chance for some extra baseball. Any maybe, just maybe, the Cats' inability to handle the first-place Connecticut Defenders will reverse in the Northern Division playoffs.