Saturday, July 8, 2017

Bridgeport Bluefish Report for July 7, 2017

We went out to the Ballpark at Harbor Yard last night to watch our beloved Bridgeport Bluefish take on the New Britain Bees for the first of a three game home series.  This year's Bluefish team is the best that Bridgeport has fielded since at least 2010.  The team is talented and fun to watch, and before last night's game, they sat a mere half-game out of first place in the Atlantic League's Liberty Division.

The Bridgeport Bluefish
Still, we weren't initially planning to go last night's game.  I got an email late in the week from the team's Social Media Director asking if Hannah could sing the National Anthem before the game and accepted gladly, though it's been over a year since Hannah had her last voice lesson.  Sally therefore scheduled a last-minute warm-up session with Hannah's old coach, and we made plans to get to the ballpark early, so that we'd be ready for the big moment.

One thing I noticed last night is that Hannah's voice is changing, and if she's going to keep performing in public, she's going to have to learn to change with it.  You can hear that--and the influence of her voice teacher in yesterday's lesson--in the way that she held the notes last night, but you can also hear a bit of her previous little girl approach to singing, too.  Hannah's got to learn to channel her power a little better when she sings, but she remains a poised and talented performer with a lot of potential.  However, I think that Sally and I need to do a better job of helping her bring that potential to its fullest expression.

This year's Bluefish team has based its success on excellent pitching backed by reliable hitting and good base-running.  The 'Fish are not out there blasting home runs, but they are very good at putting runners on base, and their pitchers don't give up a lot of offense.  We saw one solo-shot dinger early in the game, but most of Bridgeport's offense was manufactured on the back of speedy base running and line drive hitting.  With this, the 'Fish took an early first inning lead while starting pitcher Cory Riordan threw hitless baseball through his first five-and-a-third innings.

Riordan was on fire, honestly.  He struck out five of his first six batters and induced a pop-fly to retire the side in order in his first two innings with maybe twenty pitches.  It was unbelievable.  He worked quickly and efficiently, generally putting Bees' batters down with at most four pitches in his initial innings.  Things slowed a bit as we got into the fifth, and he finally gave up a couple of hits in the sixth, but overall, this was an amazing performance.  I mean, it was really something.

Hannah with B.B.
Our crew.  They put us in the front row!
The problem is that although this year's Bridgeport team is very good, I'm not sure how much of the local sports community has noticed.  In fact, the Bluefish made something of a turnaround last year, finishing in second place in the second-half divisional standings, but even now, with the team poised to make its first post-season appearance since 2010, the Ballpark at Harbor Yards continues to draw sparse crowds and sparser local interest from the local community.  That is unacceptable.

People who know me well will know that this is where I get on my soapbox.  We may live in a global world, but human society exists as a series of interconnected local communities, each with its own unique interests and flavor.  Healthy communities live through a shared sense of purpose while communities that struggle are those in which each member of society is allowed to stay out for his or her own unique interests first and foremost.  This is why it drives me crazy when people thank me for my service; because there's no one right way to serve, nor is it up to me--or anyone else--to decide what service looks like.  If you cannot ask yourself, "What have I done for my community?" and come up with a legitimate answer, then you are failing, plain and simple.  This is not complicated, nor is there any excuse for your personal failures.  You will one day meet your maker, and you will be judged.  

No really.  That is absolutely going to happen.

Living a community-minded life, however, does not have to suck.  Indeed, I think the happiest people I know are those that are part of the connected whole, who know not only who they are but also how they fit in.  They have a place in their local life and a purpose.  Rooting for your local sports teams is therefore an obvious extension of existing as part of living local social ecology.  Sports are fun, and baseball in particular is fun, and enjoying your local team's success is one of the best parts of really caring about who you are and where you live.

With temperatures in the mid-70s, last night was perhaps the most beautiful night of baseball I've ever experienced.
I talked to a guy about this on the train just yesterday morning, and although he was happy enough that the Bluefish are doing well, he gave me two dozen reasons why they struggle to draw at the gate.  These mostly owed to downtown Bridgeport's rather rough reputation.  I was stunned because the part of Bridgeport near Harbor Yards is patently safe and in the midst of some very real urban revitalization.  There is still work to be done, and I think Mayor Ganim's long-term vision of the area may well take the city in the right direction, but meanwhile, we need to live in the now.  However, the now includes the Bridgeport train station, the Long Island Ferry, the new Bass Pro Shop, Webster Bank Arena, the Ballpark at Harbor Yard, plenty of parking, and a routine police presence.  How is any of this not conducive to baseball attendance?

This is Emma, competing in an on-field game after the 7th inning.
We have to put the lion's share of the problems on the team's shoulders, honestly.  Folks may attend Bluefish games because they're cheap, local, convenient, and feature a really nice selection of local craft beers, but folks root for teams because they get to know and like the personalities of the players.  They root for people.  This is why the Yankees built the Judges Chambers, and it's why they went to so much trouble trying to put shortstop Didi Gregorious into the All-Star game with such a uniquely quirky online campaign.  The Yankees know that their future depends on a healthy bit of hero-worship from their fans.  Well, the Bluefish could use some of that, too.

Unfortunately, despite their success, it's been very difficult to get to know these players.  The Bluefish held some media and get-to-know-them sessions early in the season, but their outreach could use some work.  They don't:
  • Have a local radio affiliate
  • Stream games, either voice or broadcast, online
  • Have local sports beat writers, even from small papers like the Stratford Star
  • Have support from the Connecticut Post
  • Consistently put game recaps anywhere
  • Have a YouTube channel that provides video highlights
  • Have an affiliation to broadcast games on Twitter, as a lot of small pro leagues are doing.
I could go on, but the bottom line is this: if you can't physically get into the stadium, you have no good way to follow the team.  So even though the 'Fish have five All-Stars and a pitcher who threw hot fire last night, no one knows, and with that, it's very tough to get people to care.

This needs to change.  Granted, the Bluefish cannot force the Stratford Star or the Connecticut Post to put writers on their beat.  However, they could at least band together with the other teams in the Atlantic League to put a package together to get some games on Twitter--like Women's Basketball and Army Lacrosse have done--and they could sign a deal with an AM radio affiliate and get their games broadcast on their app.  I don't know if you've noticed, but Internet radio is kind of a big deal in 2017, and Twitter is desperate for sports content.  Meanwhile, here's a team that's actually good, and they can't even get the word out in their own hometown!

Like I said, it's driving me crazy.  I really like the Bluefish, and I want to follow them, and I have done my best to support them, but I simply cannot get to the Ballpark with any real regularity.  At the same time, I also can't listen to them on the radio... in 2017!  What the Hell is going on?



The bottom line is this: your Bridgeport Bluefish are the best local sports team around, and they could really use your support.  Do us all a favor, and come out to be a part of your local community in what's very likely to be a memorable season.

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