The New Britain Bees are departing the independent professional baseball ranks to join a summer-collegiate circuit, exiting the Atlantic League and entering the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
There had been speculation in recent weeks about the future of the Bees, who were planning to field a team in 2020 but were not expected to return to the Atlantic League. Plans for the team in 2020 have emerged, as it was announced Monday that it is joining the Futures League as an expansion entry.
“We are excited to have the New Britain Bees as part of our league,” Futures Collegiate Baseball League and Commissioner Joe Paolucci said in a press statement. “They have a fantastic ownership group, a top-notch facility and a great fan base that will love what we have to offer in the Futures League.”
The Bees will continue to play home games at New Britain Stadium, their home since 2016. The ballpark–which was home of the New Britain Rock Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) through the 2015 season, before the franchise moved to nearby Hartford–will host the Futures League All-Star Game on July 14. Anthony Iacovone and his ownership group will remain at the helm of the Bees as the organization transitions into a new league.
“We’re excited to be a new member of the Futures League,” Bees GM Brad Smith said in a press statement. “While our league affiliation has changed, one thing will not – our commitment to providing Central Connecticut the best entertainment value and most affordable way to spend their discretionary dollar.”
With the addition of the Bees and the departure of the Bristol Blues, who are no longer a member of the circuit, the Futures League will field seven teams in 2020. The Atlantic League, meanwhile, will replace the Bees in its Liberty Division with a Road Warriors entry. The seven other clubs from the Atlantic League’s 2019 slate will return in 2020, joining the Road Warriors in a 126-game regular-season schedule that will begin on Thursday, April 30 and conclude on Sunday, September 20.
“After a tremendously exciting and competitive 2019 season, I think all of our clubs and fans can expect more of the same in 2020,” Atlantic League President Rick White said in a press statement. “We are happy to announce this season’s slate of games and are already looking forward to Opening Day.”
The Atlantic League last used a Road Warriors entry in 2018, when it rounded out the circuit’s eight-team slate by replacing the Bridgeport Bluefish. The debut of the High Point Rockers allowed the Atlantic League to field eight teams with fixed homes in 2019. As it stands, the circuit might not have to use the Road Warriors beyond 2020, as plans have moved forward for an Atlantic League team to occupy an upcoming downtown Gastonia, NC ballpark. The Gastonia facility is currently expected to be completed in time for the 2021 season.
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