Torrington Titans not returning in 2017. Tim Gaffney explains who is really at fault.
TORRINGTON: Let me start this by stating the obvious.
I and we at Litchfield County Sports have always been fans of college baseball in Torrington, have been since I started covering the Torrington Twisters back when a young man named Strasburg was toeing the rubber at majestic Fuessenich Park.
So, when I talk about what I have seen, experienced or personally gone through, I know from what I say because I has invested time and money in this local venture, both from a business and as a host family for three different players.
On Tuesday, the Futures Collegiate Baseball League put out their 2017 summer schedule and the Torrington Titans were not on it.
League Commissioner Chris Hall contacted the Mayor’s office in Torrington this morning to relay the message to Mayor Elinor Carbone and later Tuesday night, I confirmed it with Hall who has done an admirable job trying to keep a team here in Torrington.
“We will not be operating a team in Torrington in 2017,” Hall said. “We are going to see if anything develops down the road but for now there will be no team.”
I can’t really say I’m surprised at this news nor disappointed, considering what has transpired since the Titans version on summer baseball has come to town.
I also don’t want to hear from anyone that this is somehow the City of Torrington’s or Mayor Carbone’s fault.
Let me repeat myself: It’s not.
Who is at fault?
Oh, where do I begin.
Let’s start with a little history lesson since the Twisters moved their New England Collegiate Baseball League team from T-Town to New Bedford Massachusetts after a 12-year run here in Torrington, one that featured many a memorable summer with large crowds, great national and international teams galore.
Summer baseball went dark for a year before the Titans were born in 2010 to a group that used Crowd Sourcing as their method of operation and that experiment lasted a year and was over.
In came the Carminucci Sports Group and the FCBL in 2012 with general manager Sander Stotland who was at the helm for a season as the team opened a retail store on Water Street.
2013 saw another change as the ownership of the team was turned over to a new owner and a new general manager, Ed Gadomski who is the commissioner of a very well, organized Tri-State Baseball League.
Gadomski, one the most respected guys in the area was even asked to cut his salary half way through the season. His reputation at the park and in the area, was impeccable, I often had to apologize to my friend Eddie for recommending him for the job after not wanting the conflict of doing it myself while writing about local sports for a living.
2014 saw another change at the GM spot with Joey Abis taking the helm for one season with the team eventually changing ownership at the end of that summer campaign and bringing in another GM, Chris Myslow, who held the job the past two seasons.
Did anybody sense a trend in all that? I know I was out of breath writing about all the changes.
Here’s the bottom line. All these changes hurt any opportunity the franchise had to develop long term relationships in Torrington.
Every year, there was a new salesmen/GM knocking on local business doors with no continuity in this community.
A second and more troubling trend began to occur in and around Torrington and it involved folks not getting paid for services.
I know this from personal experience, having had to settle at one point for half the money I was owed for advertising and promotion of the team.
As I looked back on LCS from 2011 to now, I was stunned with how many stories and features I and the reporters for LCS did on this team throughout the years.
30 Titans in 30 days ran for three years. It involved talking to each of the incoming players about what they were looking to accomplish that season and more. I recall doing one year’s features while on vacation in Florida.
There were the years we did on-field shows before games, talking up the program at no cost to the team.
The list of local folks owed money is again long this year and it includes the city as well and I hear the number is not by any means a small one. My friends at WZBG radio are waiting as well.
To be good citizens in a community, a business must get the reputation of doing the right thing by those who do good things in supporting them.
Owning a college baseball team is a crazy idea if one has any thoughts of making money at it.
Forget about it, it’s not going to happen.
Count on losing 10-15 thousand per year, write it off on your taxes and move on.
If you didn’t have that kind of deep pocket ownership, you’ll never make it, ever.
There are too many variables that you can’t do a thing about.
Rain-outs, cold spells, heat waves, bus costs, conflicting events on a night that you were hoping for a big crowd and a thousand other things can and normally do go wrong.
Not winning? You better have another reason or promotion that is guaranteed to pack them in or the gates going to stink and if you’re counting on the gate to make it, you’ve already lost the battle.
Far too many times, I have heard someone involved with the Titans over the year state that “if only the Mayor and city were behind us and supporting us, we would make it!”
Nonsense. I want my city officials worrying about bigger things than making sure the crowds show up at Fuessenich Park each night. The only thing the city should make sure happens is that the bills owed to the city are paid.
That affects me, that affects us.
If that happened on even a slightly consistent scale you can bet the word around town would have been more positive.
I had to laugh this year when I heard that the Titans would be using no local outlet (like LCS or the Rep-Am or Register Citizen) to advertise their team, their games and their promotions this past season.
Instead the team used ESPN radio out of Bristol (at a premium, pre-paid price I would guess) in an effort to get Hartford area folks to travel to Torrington.
Just who did they think was going to cover the team on a daily basis? ESPN coming in with a special Game-Day set up?
I don’t think so.
Back when they Twisters were successful, their next game would be posted on the front page of the local papers, I know because that’s when I first started covering college baseball myself for the RC.
People knew when there was going to be a game.
Would it not have made more sense to utilize the folks who know this city and have large following of readers?
All of this comes down to a couple of points.
Not having an owner or ownership group with deep pockets didn’t work.
Having a different face try and sell sponsorships to our local business didn’t work.
Having a less than stellar reputation around town when it came to paying for services rendered didn’t and won’t ever work.
None of these things have anything to do with the large numbers of baseball fans that walked into Fuessenich Park over the past 20 plus year.
Now there has been and always will be tremendous baseball being played at the park known as the “Jewell of Litchfield Count” and I encourage folks to take in a high school or American Legion or Tri-State or Connie Mack game this summer. It’s all good baseball.
Getting college baseball back to Torrington may or may not ever happen again. It’s always tough to bring back something that has failed as often as the organizations have since 2011.
If someone is thinking about it, please make sure you are not, I repeat, not looking to make money.
It’s not going to happen.
Just stop blaming the City of Torrington.