Thursday, September 2, 2010


I hit some medical bumps in the road in late August, nothing too serious but painful enough that I stayed around the house for a spell.

With constant discomfort comes that fog that shrouds the brain but the heart picks up the slack. Like hearts do, mine became a little more vulnerable, a little more tolerant of the aspects of life that usually have me spewing diatribes.

It rained most of the time I was cooped up and the combination of conditions cast me into a far more introspective state than I’m used to when I have writing, reporting, lawn-mowing and garden-watering on my mind.

The first thing I focused on was my 14-year run at New Britain Stadium covering the Rock Cats. I go there 71 times a year and I’m prone to take it for granted.

It’s easy to trash a team that may well lose 100 games but the bottom line is, better to cover a bad baseball team than a good anything else. While the overall product is grossly unacceptable, the individuals who have gone out there and made it happen are classy kids who have kept their heads held high throughout the debacle. Every one of them that I’ve approached to talk about what’s happened has kept a sharp perspective and an exemplary attitude about what it all means. Part of the deal is that the rest of the Eastern League was a lot better this season.

But having a corner of the New Britain Stadium press box as my spring and summer office is special in itself. A lot of it is due to the people, folks I’ve written about here from time to time. I sit with scoreboard operator Larry Michaels, official scorer Ed Smith and for most of this season Rock Cats intern Dan Karpuc from West Hartford and the College of the Holy Cross.

On my left I’ve had lovable Rock Cats voice Jeff Dooley by my side for 13 years. For the last two, I’ve gotten to know Joe D’Ambrosio, whose booming voice is a constant companion for the millions of UConn basketball and football fans.

Behind me is the domain of the technological experts, Luke Pawlak and Mike “Manny” Papazian, who bring the entertainment factor at the stadium to a major league level. There’s announcer Don Steele, long time Cats employee, friend and engineer Mike Torres and a bevy of amazing young people that Dooley brings in to participate in the broadcasts. There’s Bob Dowling, the team’s energetic and ever-smiling media relations man, the epitome of a Kennedy Democrat (which I never hold against him) and dedicated to every team and athlete who comes out of the Commonwealth.

Add in the visits from president Bill Dowling and general manager John Willi, vice president Evan Levy and assistant general manager Ricky Ferrell, hard workers like Kim Pizighelli, Jonathan Lissitchuk, Amy Helbling, Evan Paradis and Andres Levy. Heather Cavaliere takes the photos and writes the stories for the website, and feeds Dooley and D’Ambrosio the best baked goods in the state. I guess she figures that my figure cannot endure those delicacies.

They’re more than just friends, they’re closer to family.

Because of the people, because of the baseball, because it’s wonderful to watch nearly 6,000 people a game enjoying baseball. Because of the deep green of the grass, the brick-red warning track dirt and billboards with more colors than a rainbow. Because of the fine young men who play the game, the overwhelming compassion of the Minnesota Twins representatives. Because Dowling, Coleman Levy, Willi, Evan Levy et al have proven without a shadow of a doubt that minor league sports can make it in Connecticut.

There’s no place else I’d rather be.

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