Monday, July 18, 2016

Baseball Blog ::: People's United Bank 2, Ulbrich Clippers 1 [07.15.16]

More information on the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League can be found here.

Photos can be found in a slideshow on the main site and then ultimately on the Raised by Baseball sub-site.

On the Fourth of July I was talking to my Uncle Willie about baseball and he had just gone to see the American Legion Baseball in Middletown.   I was asking him about what kind of level the players were (high school, college, all ages, etc) and then he said he sometimes will drive by Maloney to see if they are playing baseball there because they have games there sometimes as part of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League.    Later on in the day- after work- I googled this and found the website for the GHTBL.    This was the first game to come up on a non-work night and so we were able to go there.    Living across from Maloney finally has its advantages.

Quentin and I walked out to East Main Street and back earlier on.   We then came back to Maloney and though it was around 5pm there was no one there.  With all of the construction going on, winter and everything else I can't remember the last time we went to Maloney as we were walking the track regularly for a while.    Quentin and I went over to check out the track and then we saw the football field and walked around the outfield of the baseball field.   It was really hot out- close to 90- and so we went home to cool down for a little bit and also to use the bathroom.   Quentin told me he didn't want to go back to the baseball game because it was "hot hot hot", but after texting that information to Gina (who was at work) he changed his mind and eventually wanted to go back to the baseball game.

We walked back- after cooling down at home a bit- and it was closer to 6pm now, which was the scheduled start time for the game.   There were a few people there already and some showed up while we had gotten there as well.   Looking into the dugouts, I counted about ten people in the Ulbrich Clippers uniforms (some on the field warming up) and wondered how they'd play with only ten players.   What about pinch hitters, pinch runners, closing pitchers?   But looking over at the People's United Bank team they didn't seem to have many more players.    As the game went on though, we learned that both teams had enough players and not what you might call too many players (So no one was really there just to sit on the bench all night)

The Ulbrich Clippers- who I believe are from Wallingford- appeared to be the home team while People's United Bank is from I think Cheshire.   The Clippers tend to play- based upon the schedule- at Maloney quite a bit, though there is a Meriden team called the Meriden Expos we just didn't get to see them this time.    Next season- when we have the chance to see them starting before July- we'll likely travel to more baseball fields near Hartford and see most of the teams in the GHTBL.    This was just such a relaxed game in some ways, as if it was being played simply for the love of baseball.  Around 6pm the umpires informed the players they'd like to start in about five minutes.     Everyone got into position and as the first batter for the People's United Bank stepped into the batter's box the home plate umpire yelled "Play ball!" and that was the start of the game.    It was very "Sandlot".

The starting pitcher for the Clippers was James Kukucka (number 25) who is also their coach.    It was interesting to see how everyone played their roles on the team, with some of them playing multiple roles.     Not only did we not get any sort of official roster going into the game (which would have bothered my dad greatly), they had no announcers or scoreboard/official score-keeping method everyone could follow.    So, basically, you had to pay attention to figure out what inning it was, what the score was and even things like how many outs there were and the pitch count- which the umpires sometimes reminded us of every now and then.   Gina had to take Quentin home to use the bathroom at one point and the third base coach said to someone else that they were playing seven innings and it was the sixth.  

I'll be honest, I knew the People's United Bank won the game and I knew they didn't win it by more than one run, but I wasn't sure at the end if the score was 2-1 or 3-2 but I knew it was likely one of the two.    Thankfully someone was there keeping an official score and uploaded it to the website so I could check it the next day.    It just reminded me of an older time of baseball in that way and if we somehow went to a game in the future with my dad or even if we took Quentin when he was older and could keep score himself we could either print out a scorecard with the roster from the website in advance or simply keep track by using the player's numbers instead of names.     There were certainly fans there who seemed to go to all of the games and as such it felt like they were keeping score themselves.

Speaking of which, one guy there was a big fan of the People's United Bank.   In one inning, the batter got a hit, stole second, was  bunted over to third and then a sacrifice fly brought him home.   The guy was yelling about the sequence of plays and said "That's baseball!" and it's true.    Everyone is so concerned with home runs and all that they tend to forget about the finer points of baseball being similar to that of a chess game.

The Clippers eventually took out their starting pitcher/coach, but the PUB kept their starting pitcher- Brendan Smith- in for the complete game.   Just doing some research online (mainly through the GHTBL website) you can see these players are all of different age ranges and experience which makes for quite the interesting game.    I asked the GHTBL on Twitter if their was a cost to get into their games and they said no, but if you had to pay someone to get into this game I'm not sure who you would pay exactly.   After the game, one of the Ulbrich Clippers players said (half-jokingly) that it was a record setting crowd of twenty-two tonight.

As always, I was interested in the type of baseballs they used.   I don't know why this fascinates me so much (or why I want to collect them all) but alas I found that there was no GHTBL baseball which seemed somewhat unfortunate.   If anyone in the GHTBL ever wants to start a GoFundMe or whatever to get official GHTBL balls into play I'd be willing to donate/spread the word on the condition that I could have one of them.    One of the first real pop up foul balls went over near the school so I sent Quentin after it.    From that point forward, all of the other foul balls were retrieved by players and fans who returned them because apparently they play with a limited number of balls.   I kind of wanted to make a donation to the point where I could go to Dick's and buy them a bucket of baseballs.  (Could I do that somehow?  Someone email me, seriously) but then you have to also wonder who would be responsible for the balls-- bringing them to the games and what not.

Still, Quentin got a souvenir foul ball and I felt kind of bad about it, like I wanted to give someone $5 or something so they could get a new ball.   Then again, one of the balls actually fouled back onto the roof of Maloney and they couldn't get it, so there's that.    I did a quick google search for "custom balls" and found a deal of 50 for $207.50 which might be worth looking further into.   Otherwise, I'm just going to make one somehow that has the GHTBL logo on it and Quentin can use it for autographs.   

Typically I work until 7pm Sunday through Thursday, so I've always wondered about going to a game at Maloney after I get out of work.   This game started at 6pm and ended around 8pm though, so I'm not really sure how much of the game I would get to see by the time that I got there and plus I wouldn't even know what inning it was in or the score, etc.   But for the nights when I don't work, I am definitely going to try and check out another game at Maloney (if I can) before the season is over.    And if not, we'll likely make more trips to and near Hartford next season as we have now found out how great this GHTBL really is.  

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