Brews produce eighth inning runs against Weymont
By John Faucher
The New London BABA baseball team (formerly the Merchants) returned to its original namesake the Brews as they wore retro uniforms in their season home opener.
The Brews, named after the team’s original sponsor Knapstein Brewery, hosted the Weymont White Bass at Cottrill Field in Hatten Park on June 2.
Team photographer Brian Fischer lined up players with bats in hand for individual photos along third base line, as Head Coach Pete Thorpe handed out new white uniform pants to players filtering into to the stadium.
It was the first game in the new retro uniforms.
“We wanted to go back to the original name, and we thought the home opener was a perfect game to do that,” said Thorpe, looking out over a well-groomed ball diamond.
Thorpe said he was not sure what year the Brews changed its name to the Merchants, but he pulled numerous old newspaper clippings from his briefcase recounting games played by the Brews in the late 1940s.
Former New London Merchants coach Ted Christian recalled the year they brought back the BABA team in New London.
He was unsure when the Brews stopped playing league, but he was sure it was a long time when New London did not have a team.
“We started the team back up in 1985,” said Christian. “We went door to door to every business and asked them for $25 each to help pay league fees and for equipment. That’s how we came up with the name Merchants.”
Christian said at the time, the American Legion Clippers team donated their old yellow uniforms with blue pin stripes.
“I remember them like it was yesterday. They kind of looked like prison uniforms,” he said with a laugh.
He said getting used to the new name might take him a while, simply because of the memories he holds with the Merchants. Toward the end of his 20 plus years coaching the Merchants, Christian led the team to a National Championship title in the early 2000s.
“It’s growing on me,” Christian said of the name Brews. “I can see why they went back to the original name, given the history in town of the Knapstein Brewery.”
Christian continues his involvement in New London baseball as the JV Clippers head coach and he remains an active member of the Hatten Stadium Foundation.
Thorpe also a member of the foundation, had a file of clippings from 1949 when weekly stories told of how the New London community pooled together to raise funds for stadium lights. One headline read, “Light Drive Has Good Response in Opening Days,” from Feb. 24, 1949.
A committee of citizens formed to start the Hatten Light Drive, and set a goal to raise $10,000.
Hatten Stadium was built in the 1930s as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration program to help pull the country out of The Great Depression.
The WPA program put thousands of unemployed citizens to work, including many New Londoners. The entire Hatten Park was built through the WPA program in the early 1930s.
The stadium originally did not have lights until the community fundraising effort in the 1940s.
In 2015, the Hatten Stadium Foundation financed the installation of new lights for the stadium at a cost of $325,500. Work on the new lights began in the fall and finished this spring in time for the baseball season.
This was Thorpe’s first game coaching under the new lights.
“It’s just incredible. This is awesome. It’s like playing in daylight,” said Thorpe looking over the illuminated field. “This is just such a great venue here. This place is part of our history, I love it.”
He said the Hatten Stadium Foundation is about halfway to its fundraising goal in renovating the 80 plus year-old stadium.
“They’ve completed a significant amount of work already,” said Thorpe. “There’s a lot more yet to come.”
Weymont 10, Brews 9
The Brews got off to a slow start in the home opener against Weymont.
Weymont built an early 10-2 lead by the end of the sixth inning, but as the night air cooled and the lights came on, the Brews rallied back late in the game.
A crushing double by Brandon Sullivan seemed to rally the team in the eighth inning.
The Brews pounded out hit after hit and added five runs to bring the score within reach by the bottom of the eighth. New London quickly retired Weymont in the top of the ninth.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Brews kept their momentum and added two more runs to bring the score within one. Bases were loaded with two outs. New London fans that stayed for the end felt good for the go-ahead run. Then a line drive hit nearly cleared the infield as Wey-mont grabbed it in a solid defensive play to end the Brews hopes of an exciting comeback victory.
Leading hitters: 2B, Trevor Bryan, Brandon Sullivan, Gary Herzfeldt. SB, Jim Thorpe, SF Joey Schuester.