Torrington at a crossroads when it comes to collegiate baseball
(For some, it feels like Stephen Strasburg pitched in Torrington 40 years ago, not four.)
The date was August 11, 2003, the Torrington Twisters were playing at home in Game 1 of the New England Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series and the “announced” crowd of 2,168 that filled Fuessenich Park was loud from the first pitch to the last.
Despite an inspiring nine-inning effort from Dennis Robinson, Torrington lost that night, 2-0, to the Keene Swamp Bats and, one night later, lost the best-of-three series on the road.
If you told me as I walked out of Fuessenich Park that night seven and a half years ago that the Twisters would leave town five years later and another college team would come and go, I would have thought you were crazy. Boy, would I have been wrong.
We’ve been down the road of what has gone wrong since 2008 17,000 times, so we won’t go into detail over that today. But this needs to be asked: Has Torrington gone as far as it can go with collegiate baseball?
I say no.
Baseball fans in Torrington have shown the city is more than capable of supporting a summer college team in the NECBL. As far as the ACBL, where the Torrington Titans played last season, Torrington was the premier franchise, outdrawing the entire league combined.
Yet, cities such as Danbury in the NECBL, and several in the ACBL that can't draw still have teams while Torrington is currently on the outside looking in.
What it all comes down to is ownership. The ownership group that came to Torrington in 2008 came in for one thing: profit. If your only focus in owning a summer college baseball team is racking in the green paper, you’re in the wrong business. Not surprisingly, they moved the Twisters to New Bedford, Mass. for the following season and don’t be shocked if they’re moved again sometime in the future.
There have been some rumblings about an upstart league called the Futures League (its web page: thefuturesleague.com) looking to bring a team to Torrington this summer. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.
If you following minor league hockey, new leagues are always hit or miss and usually a miss. Look at the countless leagues and teams that went through New Haven and Danbury the last 15 years.
Torrington just went through a summer dealing with a shaky league in the ACBL and fan reation was not too favorable. Stability is key.
I still believe the NECBL is the perfect fit for the Torrington and vice versa. But it doesn’t look like a reunion will take place anytime soon. Bridges have been burned there and it may take a few years before the fire is eventually put out.
Torrington may not have a choice but to take a chance on something like the Futures League.
We do know one thing. Fans will be in the seats, as they have been since 1997. Whether a team will be here for long haul remains, unfortunately for the fans, uncertain.