By Benjamin Upson
Opening night is just around the corner and a new summer season of the Futures League is on the horizon. New Britain Bees will begin their 2021 campaign when they open up on Wednesday night at New Britain Stadium against one of the newest members of the league, the Norwich Sea Unicorns. This will be their second season in the FCBL after officially announcing their entry to the league in October 2019.
The Futures League was able to play a season in 2020 during the height of the coronavirus outbreak. I spoke with team general manager Bret DeRosa on what it meant to have the ability to play their inaugural season with the unique yet also bizarre situation that everyone was placed into. “It was definitely special and when we look back at it as operators, that’s something that everybody involved with the season can look back and say wow, we operated a team during a pandemic,” DeRosa said.
New Britain has undergone a change in the front office for this upcoming season. Local Newtown, Connecticut resident Brad Smith has now become the new owner of the team, finalizing the purchase back in March. “He’s kind of just brought culture and that work ethic and attitude that everybody has to do everything to pitch in,” DeRosa said. Smith was previously the general manager of the team dating as far back as 2017.
As in a normal season, the league sees both new and old players come out to play for its teams during these summer months. There are many key players on this roster and there appears to be many returning players who have decided to play once again at New Britain this season. Among the notable players is senior pitcher Andrew Cain from the University of New Haven. He specializes in both pitching and hitting and can balance the two very well. UConn has some returning members including junior third baseman Todd Petersen and sophomore outfielder Zach Donahue. DeRosa noted that Petersen made one of the highlight plays of the year in 2020 with a walk-off home run, while Donahue has a great mix of good speed and efficient hitting.
There is definitely a fair balance of new players joining the Bees this summer. Specifically, there is a young core that DeRosa is keeping his eyes on. Freshman catcher Jimmy Sullivan plays for UMass Lowell and hit for an impressive .341 average during the spring 2021 season. Fordham University sophomore Chris Genaro joins the team in the infield, a late addition. Genaro has seen lots of playing time recently and began as a shortstop with the Rams.
There is a nice mix of veteran experience on the depth chart with seniors Luke Broadhurst and Alec Ritch both heading to New Britain this summer. Broadhurst has played a crucial role with Eastern Connecticut this season, recording a .421 average with 11 home runs and 43 RBI over a span of 38 games. Ritch has the ability to both pitch and hit and DeRosa has been told that he is among the best on the Middlebury College team.
In what was a 38-game schedule last season, New Britain was not able to find much success throughout their debut year and finished with a 15-23 record, last in the league. There are high hopes for this new season and a general positive outlook. “Obviously the goal is to win and we’d love to make the playoffs, but we want to make sure the guys are getting as much experience and having a great time,” said DeRosa.
DeRosa also said that fans were in attendance at Bees home games throughout the 2020 season, socially distanced and masked. This is quite impressive under the restricted guidelines that the country saw during the heavier months of COVID-19. They will be returning to New Britain Stadium once again this week with a larger capacity as we begin returning to more of a regular schedule as we knew it before the coronavirus.
New Britain also will be the first time host of the 2021 FCBL Home Run Derby and All-Star Game on July 12-13. Tickets are now available for Bees home games in 2021 and you can purchase tickets online at nbbees.com or call (860)-826-BEES for more information.