BRISTOL - The Bristol Blues have quickly become a staple in Bristol because of their success on the field and the work they have done in the community.
“It has given off the positive vibe in the community and the area that we wanted,” Blues general manager Rick Muntean said. “Why would we want anything else? We want people to realize that the Blues are part of the Bristol community. We want to always do that. It’s the right thing to do.”
The Blues have only been in existence for less than two full seasons but they are already extremely popular in the Bristol area. Through the team’s first 19 home games this summer, the Blues are third in attendance in the entire Futures League, averaging well over the league median with 1,642 fans at each game.
Since their inception, the Blues have focused on interacting with and helping the surrounding community in an attempt to forge a connection with the people of Bristol.
“We wanted to have people thinking about us, to be top of mind,” Muntean said. “That’s tough when you’re new. People are not used to hearing your name. I think that, if we’re there a lot and interact with as many people as we possibly can, we have a much better chance to be top of mind. I don’t know if we’re there yet but we are going to strive to be there.”
The Blues’ most recent community outreach event came at Sunday’s game at Muzzy Field and had roots in previous work the team has done. Partnering with 4-year-old Arley Sage, her mother, Ashley Picard, and the Plymouth Police Department, the Blues ran a toy drive to benefit Connecticut hospitals.
“It went really well,” Picard said. “I don’t know exactly how many toys we got because I got home late and I had to work early. We also received a portion of 50/50 raffle and some fans gave monetary donations who didn’t have toys but wanted to donate anyway.”
Arley has become one of the Blues’ biggest fans since they came to Bristol, especially after she was honored by the team last season. Amidst a battle with a rare muscular cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma, Arley was named an honorary member of the Blues and received season tickets, a jersey and an opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a game.
According to Picard, the Blues players and organization have come to mean a lot to little Arley.
“They have meant a lot to her,” she said. “She talks about them all the time. When they have a day off because of travel [or no game], she wants to know when she will see her boys again.
“A lot of the players have been really supportive outside of the baseball games. Christian Budzik has attended some her events, as well as some other Blues staff like Joe Boyle and Brianna Root.”
The toy drive was Arley’s idea and the Blues were more than happy to help out.
“They have been phenomenal,” Picard said about working with the Blues. “They’ve been really great. Anything I have brought to their attention, like wanting to do the toy drive, they have been all gung-ho.”
When asked about Arley, Muntean expressed as much enthusiasm as Picard has experienced while working with the organization.
“She’s a little sweetie pie,” Muntean said about Arley. “It’s the right thing to do. She needed help so we decided to help her.”
While Arley has been a favorite of the Blues in their two seasons, the Blues have spread the wealth. The players have been involved in a reading program with local schools and they can be seen around town at various events, like an appearance by Logan Greene and Mike Munson at First Bristol Federal Credit Union in early June.
“We like to help everybody,” he said. “We want to do what we can: the 50/50 [raffle], the toy drive, clinics at the ballpark. The reading program in the schools was a big deal.”
Sunday’s toy drive was just the latest in a long list of work the Blues players and organization have done in Bristol and Muntean hopes that the list can continue to grow.
“It is something that we have really concentrated since we got to town and something we strive to get better at every day,” he said.
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org