BRISTOL - The Bristol Blues are no longer part of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, but it won’t be the end of summer baseball in the city.
“They chose to leave to Futures League,” FCBL commissioner Joe Paolucci told The Press on Monday. “That’s all I can really say on the matter. But it was an amicable split.”
The Blue will be replaced by the New Britain Bees, which left the Atlantic League and were announced as the FCBL’s newest team Monday. Instead, the Blues are expected to join the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
"It is my understanding that the Blues may join the NECBL for the 2020 season,” Bristol mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu told The Press. “Their contract with the city remains unchanged and we are looking forward to next summer and the Blues again playing at Muzzy, just in a different league."
The Blues will be entering the third year of a five-year contract with the city.
Brian Rooney, the team’s general manager, confirmed the move in a post on The Bristol Press Facebook page, writing, “They are not moving they are going to the NECBL,” while the team announced on Twitter, “next week we have a HUGE announcement.”
The NECBL is currently comprised of 13 teams across the six New England states, including the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, who departed the Futures League at the end of the 2018 season and were replaced by the Westfield Starfires. There are currently two franchises in Connecticut: the Danbury Westerners and Mystic Schooners.
The NECBL starts its summer season in early June and plays an eight-week regular season schedule of approximately 40 games. The league champion is determined by a playoff in early August comprised of the top teams from both divisions.
But the NECBL is also considered to be more competitive than the league Bristol is leaving. Based on a research formula by summerbaseballregister.com, the NECBL is the second-most competitive collegiate summer baseball league behind only the Cape Cod League. Overall, the NECBL boasts almost 150 Major League Baseball alumni who have played for its teams at one point.
"Due to the more competitive nature of the NECBL, it draws players from all over, which may require more host families than we have,” Zoppo-Sassu said. “I would urge families and empty nesters with an extra bedroom to consider being a host family."
The Blues joined the Futures League in 2015, replacing the Old Orchard Beach franchise, and subsequently appeared in two FCBL championship series — in 2015 and 2019 — losing to the Worcester Bravehearts and the Brockton Rock. The Blue also hosted the 2017 All-Star Game.
“Certainly, we were sad to see Bristol go because it was a good market for us,” Paolucci said. “They have great fans and a great ballpark in Muzzy Field. But there’s great fans in the central Connecticut area, and with the Bees joining, we’re not worried about it at all. We think the Bees have great facilities and have a fan base to build around.”
Bristol had two previous NECBL teams play at Muzzy Field. The Bristol Nighthawks played in the league from 1994-95 before disbanding, while the Bristol Collegiate Baseball Club played in 2010. That franchise left Bristol the next year and became the Schooners.
“Muzzy Field and baseball are such an integral part of Bristol’s history,” said Dante Tagariello, the Republican challenger in this year’s mayor’s race. “The city has done some renovations to the field. I certainly remember going to Muzzy Field during my childhood and more recently to see the Blues, and especially when I was in high school we utilized the field for the Battle of the Bell between Central and Eastern.”
As of right now, Paolucci said the Futures League will remain with seven teams, but the possibility to add more is still open.
“We’re always looking to expand the league,” he said. “But for us, it’s about bringing teams into the right community and the right markets that will support our teams. We don’t just want to bring a team in. We want to make sure it’s the right fit.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 810-5085 or email@example.com