As expected, the Connecticut Defenders, affiliated with the Giants at the AA level since 2003, will transfer to Richmond, Virginia for the 2010 season. The Defenders won the Eastern League Northern Division championship but experienced poor attendance. The team, managed by ex-Giants catcher Steve Decker was 81 and 56, but attendance averaged 2,966.
As I said in a previous note, I really feel for the Defender fans, especially since this was a great season for the team.
News Channel 6 in Richmond has a video report. Improvements will be made to The Diamond and fans can vote for the team nickname. Ballpark Digest has their usual excellent reporting.
The team can expect some knowledgeable and hungry fans. The AAA Braves, who called Richmond home from 1965 to 2008, were dissatisfied with the old stadium and moved to Georgia.
One Defender’s fan who will miss the team greatly is Greg Fogg of Uncasville, who has blogged the team since July 2005. He answered these questions.
I know it must be tough to see the Defenders departing? What are your feelings?
I've gone thru all the stages of grieving by now. The process of the team leaving has been pretty drawn out. I made a conscious effort to go to as many games as possible this season (63 games in all) because I wanted to savor as much as possible. In seasons past I went from anywhere from 35-45 games a year. I'm upset that the Eastern League basically hijacked the franchise out of here. I'm also upset that not enough people in this part of the state went to games to avoid this even happening. But I'm left with a ton of pictures that I took, great memories of players and friends made, and a couple of blogs that covers, in fairly good detail, the life of the franchise since mid July of 2005. So there's plenty to look back on.
Will you pull for them next year?
No, it's impossible for me to root for Richmond and I'll explain why. I love minor league baseball and before Double A baseball came to this part of the state I'd go to New Britain, CT a couple of times a year and root for the Red Sox farm team there even though I'm a Yankee fan. Why? Because the team represented Connecticut. When Double A baseball first came to Norwich, CT to play at Dodd Stadium in 1995 the team was known as the Norwich Navigators, a New York Yankee farm team. I'm a life long Yankee fan (I'm 54 years old) and this was a dream come true for me, to have future Yankees in my back yard almost plus rehab assignments etc. However when the affiliation changed for the 2003 season and the parent club of the Navigators became the Giants I still rooted for the Navigators because they represented my region. It did turn out to be a bonus that the Yankee farm team stayed in the Eastern League and I still saw plenty of future Yankees come through Dodd Stadium.
Will you blog them?
I won't blog the Richmond team. My Connecticut Defenders blog will run at least thru Opening Day 2010. I'll continue to post franchise news, player news and pictures daily in the meantime. Come Opening day 2010 I'll make a decision about the future of the Defenders blog. I'll follow some of the players for sure in 2010, will go to New Britain when they play the RockCats and take a ton of pictures but that's about it in terms of the Richmond team.
How did you get started with blogging them?
I was editor of my high school paper many moons ago and around 2002 I got involved in digital photography. The world of blogging reveal itself to me in 2005 and blogging seemed like a good way of combining the two since I was going to a ton of games and always taking my camera along with me. I meant it to be a mostly a mental exercise for myself. Fans, players, player's families, found it and the readership has grown and grown.
What prominent Giants players came through Norwich?
Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz, Main Cain, Brian Wilson, Travis Ishikawa to name a few. But I'll always remember a bunch of other guys like Chris Curry, Jake Wald, Pat Misch (now with the Mets), Mike Cervenak who didn't go as far as that first group I mentioned.
Why did Norwich lose this team?
Not enough people came to the games, pure and simple. There are plenty of factors that sportswriters and fans will list in addition to that: poor ballpark location, lack of population, the affiliation with a west coast team, the loss of the Yankees, a history of losing teams at Dodd since 2002 until this past season, poor front office marketing, an absent owner, poor media coverage, the weather in April and May and a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting. And each of those reasons have familiar arguing points both pro and cons. But if everyone around here went to one or two games a season this day would not have happened.
What are the prospects for Dodd Stadium and baseball next year and beyond?
Hopefully a short season New York-Penn League team sets up shop in 2010 and the region gets a chance to redeem itself. There is also talk of a college summer league also playing at Dodd in 2010. I'll be blogging the short season team and rooting for them, whoever they are, that's for sure!