Even after the opening of nearby Dunkin’ Donuts Park earlier this year, the New Britain Bees (independent; Atlantic League) are continuing to find support from their fan base.
When they arrived last season, the Bees were providing New Britain Stadium with a new baseball tenant after the departure of the New Britain Rock Cats (Class AA; Eastern League). Initially it seemed that both the Bees and their predecessor, rebranded as the Hartford Yard Goats, would spend 2016 within close proximity of each other, but construction delays prevented Dunkin’ Donuts Park from opening as scheduled, forcing the Yard Goats to play the entire season on the road.
Thus far, fans in Hartford have responded positively to the arrival of the Yard Goats in their new ballpark, as the team has continued to post solid attendance figures since selling out their home opener in April. However, the nearby Bees continue to appeal to their fan base, and attendance is steady in comparison to this point in 2016.
Bees general manager Gerry Berthiaume acknowledges the close proximity to the Yard Goats, but says that the Bees have found a distinct way to reach out to their fans. More from the New Haven Register:
Through 20 home dates this season, New Britain is averaging 2,877 fans per game. That’s about the same as they were averaging at this point in last year’s inaugural season. Still, the dichotomy between the buzz of a new downtown ballpark in the capital city and an independent-league team in New Britain is hard not to notice.
“You can’t help but think about it,” Berthiaume admits. “We’re 15 miles apart. They’re doing their thing, we’re doing our thing. We have to concentrate on areas that, for the most part, are south and west of us: Plainville, Southington, Bristol, Cheshire, Wallingford.”
“We know they exist,” Berthiaume added. “And I know they know we exist. Is it competition? Of course. But we’ve got things they can’t offer.”
Indeed, the Bees offer convenient, $5 parking and cheap ticket prices. And they’ve got much more of a local flavor, with several Connecticut natives — including Torrington’s Conor Bierfeldt, who was surprisingly cut by the Orioles at the end of spring training despite a terrific 2016 season in their system, and Berlin’s Anthony Marzi — on the roster. And while the Bees might not have as many future major-leaguers, they’ve got more former ones who are trying to make it back, including Joe Beimel, who’s logged 13 seasons with six different big-league clubs as a reliever.
New Britain is located just south of Hartford, and both cities are included in the Greater Hartford area.