BRISTOL - The Bristol Blues wrapped up their home regular season Tuesday with a win over the Nashua Silver Knights on what was Fan Appreciation Night at Muzzy Field, and the Blues showed their gratitude to the Bristol fans.
“Incredible,” Blues manager Pat Riley said about the fans. “This was a Tuesday night and you saw what the crowd was like. [We] love it. We feed off that. I wish we could play all the time here, but we can’t.”
Part of the night’s festivities was an autograph session after the game, where most of the Blues players sat on the field and fans went down the line, meeting the players they had cheered so hard for all summer and getting autographs on team photos, playing cards and baseballs. The line stretched from home plate past third base.
The turnout for the signing session, as well as the game, was a depiction of how popular these players have become in Bristol and the nearby area.
“These guys are local celebrities. It’s great,” Riley said. “What’s better than that? People know them, know them by their first name, know where they go to school, what position they play [and] what part in the order they best bat at - all those things. It’s great and you get to know who these kids are.”
For the Blues, playing at Muzzy has been an extraordinary experience, mostly because of the energy the fans bring to the park.
“This is one of the best atmospheres in the league, if not the best atmosphere in the league,” Riley said. “Great stadium, old park, historic background, baseball people [and an] organization who loves what they do and they’re not afraid to do it. They’re behind this team.”
When their on the field, the players feed off the fans and it drives them to work their hardest.
“They are so incredible,” Blues pitcher Izzy Fuentes said. “We couldn’t have done it without them. They give me the adrenaline on the mound. It gets me in the zone. I love it. These fans are great. They cheer you on no matter what and it’s fantastic.”
Tuesday’s game was no different, as the Blues put together a few rallies, with one resulting in five runs in the eighth inning to seal the 6-0 win.
“It’s been awesome,” Blues infielder Austin Chauvin said about the crowd on Tuesday. “Whenever we got a rally going, you definitely knew they were there because they got really loud every single time. It’s big for us.”
The Blues were third in the Futures League this summer in attendance, with an average of 1,577 fans over the season’s 26 home games. It was just the team’s second season but the Blues surpassed their attendance total from last season.
“I’m never going to be happy until we lead it,” Blues general manager Rick Muntean said. “I also want to be in the top-10 in all of summer college [baseball]. We’ve got a ways to go. We beat our regular season total from last year. We still sold a lot of tickets. We still had a great year at the box office so we did alright there. I’m [satisfied] with that and we’re going to continue to get better.”
For Muntean, the toughest part of this season was the weather. He felt the Blues’ attendance numbers would have been better had Bristol not had so much rainfall around game time.
“Frustrating,” Muntean said. “It was one of those years where it rained at 6 o’clock. That’s going to be the theme of this season for me. Some years, the weather gets you and this was one of those that it did.”
The Blues are already a mainstay. The city has latched onto the team and has supported it in its short existence.
“It shows me that baseball can work here,” Muntean said about the team’s early success in Bristol. “It worked here before and I think that not just Bristol but all around here are baseball fans. They are. And you’ve got to give them a reason to get away from the TV and come out and watch a live baseball game. It’s a lot easier to make it fun when there are a lot of people in the ballpark. Everybody had fun [Tuesday] because they were with their neighbors. It’s encouraging.”
While the home regular season is over, the Blues still have the opportunity to entertain the fans again with postseason baseball. Sitting in the sixth spot in the FCBL playoff standings, the Blues would need to clinch a playoff spot and win their first-round game in order to make it back to Muzzy for a game. There’s still plenty of baseball to be played but the Blues are hoping to have at least one home playoff game this summer.
“Hopefully we can get back here,” Riley said. “Hopefully we’ll make a little run at this but we’re going to have to do it on the road and the guys know that.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org