Tag: new britain

Neifi Mercedes Signs Professional Contract

Recently, Neifi Mercedes signed a professional contract to play for the Eastside Diamond Hoppers of the United Shore Professional Baseball League. Mercedes, 22, hails from New Britain and and he attended Monroe College in the Bronx. In 2018 and 2020, he was the former shortstop of Tom Abbruzzese’s People’s United Bank franchise. Mercedes joins a long list of GHTBL players who have been picked up by an independent league. Also of note: Neifi’s 27 year old brother, Yermin Mercedes is currently having a breakout season as catcher of the Chicago White Sox.

Visit the United Shore Professional Baseball League here at https://uspbl.com.

April 28th Ribbon Cutting at Johnny Taylor Field

In Hartford’s newly refurbished Colt Park, the Bulkeley High School Varsity baseball team will take on New Britain High School at Johnny Taylor Field, 3:45 PM on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. The matchup will mark the inaugural game at the field. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place 30 minutes before the first pitch.

The schedule of events will be:
3:15 – Welcome
3:25 – City Councilman John Gale
3:35 – Superintendent of Schools/Diane Callis Bulkeley High School Athletic Director
3:45 – Cut the ribbon – scoreboard revealed
3:50 – Lynette Taylor Grande, Bobby Grande & Taylor family
4:00 – Let the game begin!

RSVP to the event of Facebook. Click here.

In attendance will be members of the Taylor family who still reside in the Greater Hartford area. Local officials, park advocates and members of the press are also expected.

Complete with real grass, a well-manicured Igor of, custom scoreboard, bullpens and dugouts, Johnny Taylor Field is a major improvement for baseball at Colt Park. For more than three decades, the enclosed “Field #9” was in disrepair and unplayable more often than not.

The field is named after Johnny Taylor, perhaps Hartford’s greatest pitcher of all-time. In the 1930’s, Taylor was a graduate of Bulkeley High School and a local star in the Hartford Twilight League. The New York Yankees scouted Taylor, but due to racial discrimination they declined to sign him.

Taylor went on to play for the New York Cubans of the Negro National League. In the 1937 all-star game at the Polo Grounds, Taylor pitched a no-hitter to defeat baseball great, Satchel Paige.

After a long career in various professional leagues, Taylor returned to Hartford. He was signed to pitch by the Hartford Chiefs of the Eastern League, the Boston Braves minor league affiliate.

Taylor was Hartford’s first professional black athlete. His legacy of perseverance and athletic dominance still resonates today. Taylor’s story now has a permanent place in Colt Park and in Connecticut’s capital city.

The Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is pleased to have led the effort to commemorate Johnny Taylor. The league partnered with the Friends of Colt Park (now Colt Park Foundation) and local activists to collect signatures to petition for the renaming. The initiative gained full support from the City Council and Mayor Luke Bronin.

The renovation project at Johnny Taylor Field was finished earlier this year. Hartford schools, American Legion and twilight league clubs intend to use the diamond this summer. Two GHTBL teams, Hartford Colts and People’s United Bank, expect to schedule several home dates at Colt Park.

The return to Colt Park is significant for the GHTBL because our summer league was established on the premises in 1929. For about 40 years, the park and its many diamonds served the Greater Hartford area as a veritable baseball playground for youth and adults. During the 1950’s and 1960’s Dillon Stadium, on the easternmost parcel of Colt Park was used for baseball games by various leagues including the twilight league.

As the league returns to Colt Park, we pledge to be good stewards and donors of the park. In 2020, GHTBL raised $2,000 for Johnny Taylor Field in charity games held up the road at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The donation will be used to improve and maintain the diamond.

Baseball Bloodlines: The Riemer’s

Over the last 50 years, men of the Riemer family have achieved remarkable baseball success. The story of a father and his two sons begins in New Britain, Connecticut in 1974. A junior at New Britain High School named Mark Riemer was a fleet-footed infielder with a quick bat. Behind Mark, the Hurricanes won the Class AA State Championship. In 1975, New Britain won 30 consecutive games but lost 1-0 to North Haven in the state championship game. Mark was awarded First Team All-State honors. Later that fall, he also earned All-State honors as a linebacker on the football team.

1974 New Britain High School
1974 New Britain High School
1975 New Britain High School

Mark Riemer matriculated to Eastern Connecticut State University where he was a four-year starter on the baseball team under Head Coach Bill Holowaty. Mark helped the Warriors to their first four NCAA Division-III tournaments. He was the first position player in New England Division-III to earn First Team NCAA All-American honors. As a junior right fielder in 1978, he batted .403 with an .803 slugging percentage, led Division-III in hits (73), RBI (59), total bases (146), was second with 14 home runs, and tied for second in doubles (19). Mark holds the Warriors career record for triples (18), is second in total bases (366) and home runs (34), third in RBI (152) and fourth in slugging (.637).

Mark Riemer, GHTBL Batting Champion, 1979.
Hartford Courant excerpt, August 8, 1979.
Mark Riemer, Eastern Connecticut Baseball, 1978.
Mark Riemer, ECSU Hall of Fame

Throughout his baseball career, Mark Riemer also starred in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. At 18 years old, he suited up for the Moriarty Brothers of Manchester, winners of the 1975 league championship. Then he changed teams in 1977 and joined Manager Tom Abbruzzese’s Society for Savings. After winning the GHTBL batting title and another championship season in 1979, Mark signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. As a member of the Carolina League’s Salem Pirates in 1980, he finished second on the team in batting with a .298 average in 416 plate appearances.

Mark Riemer, Marco Polo, GHTBL, 1985.
Hartford Courant, June 24, 1985.

Mark served two years in professional baseball before returning home to Connecticut. He rejoined Society for Savings with whom he won 4 league titles. Afterwards, Mark jumped to the East Hartford Jets franchise from 1985 to 1992. Late in his baseball career he won several National Senior Baseball World Series men’s league tournaments in Phoenix, Arizona alongside GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee, Dave Bidwell. Mark continued to make twilight league appearances until around 2011 as a designated hitter for Tom Abbruzzese’s People’s United Bank franchise. Mark’s nickname is “Trout” because of his love for fishing. He is a father of three children, Matt, Meagan and Mike.

Hartford Courant excerpt, August 19, 1989.
Mark Riemer, East Hartford Jets, GHTBL, 1989.
Mark Riemer breaks up a double play, 1990.

Matt Riemer followed in his father’s footsteps in many respects. After graduating from Ellington High School, Matt took his skills to Eastern Connecticut State University. There he displayed speed and versatility under Head Coach Bill Holowaty, winning a Little East Conference championship in 2007. Matt began his Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League career in 2004 for People’s Bank. He was an effective leadoff hitter who got on base and collected steals at a high rate. Matt led People’s to a league championship in 2006, and regular season titles in 2007, 2008 and 2011. He took the field for the last time in 2013 after eight GHTBL seasons.

Matt Riemer, People’s United Bank, GHTBL, 2009.
People’s Bank wins GHTBL Championship, 2006.
Hartford Courant excerpt, August, 13, 2009.
Matt Riemer People’s United Bank GHTBL, 2011.

Mike Riemer, the youngest of the Riemer men, graduated from the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts, class of 2008. Like his father and older brother, Mike played under Bill Holowaty at Eastern Connecticut State University. He transferred to the Warriors from Division-I Central Connecticut State University. In 2011, Mike was primarily a relief pitcher in his first season. Then he became a two-year starter in center field and a heart-of-the-lineup hitter as a junior and senior. In his final collegiate season, he was one of three players to start all 44 games. Mike batted .329 with three home runs, 30 RBI and committed only one error in center field in 2013.

Mike Riemer, People’s United Bank, 2010.
Riemer’s Reds win at Doubleday Field, 2010.
Mike Riemer, Pitcher/Outfielder, 2011.
Riemer’ Reds win 3rd straight tournament in Cooperstown, New York, 2012.

During summer months, Mike Riemer was a valuable member of People’s United Bank team in the GHTBL. The Riemer men also organized an amateur squad that won three straight tournaments in Cooperstown, New York in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Men’s league experience helped Mike develop into a more complete player and in 2014, he signed to play professional baseball in Germany. The 6-foot-2 and 220 pound, 24 year old joined the Tübingen Hawks of the German Baseball and Softball Association (DBV). He landed in Germany after being recruited by Jason Holowaty, Director of Major League Baseball international development operations in Europe and Africa.

Mike Riemer, ECSU Baseball, 2012.
Mike Riemer, ECSU Baseball, 2012.
Mark and Mike Riemer, ECSU Baseball, 2013.
Mike Riemer with his mother Ellen in Germany, 2017.

Greater Hartford’s Own Jose Birriel

Jose A. Birriel was born on November 14, 1964 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a young man Birriel showed great athletic ability, especially as a left handed batter and first baseman. The Boston Red Sox signed him at 18 years old. In his first year as a professional Birriel banged 10 home runs, 56 RBI and a .351 average for Elmira of the New York Penn League. The following season he led the Florida State League in fielding percentage, assists, putouts and double plays while hitting 16 homers for the Winter Haven Red Sox.

Hartford Courant excerpt, July 2, 1988.

By 1986, Jose Birriel was called up to the Double-A New Britain Red Sox. He quickly earned a reputation as a top defensive first basemen in the Eastern League. In 1987, Birriel had a breakout season with 10 home runs, 57 RBI, a .292 batting average, and a .991 fielding percentage in 117 games played. Birriel spent 7 years in the Boston Red Sox organization. During this time, he was selected to 4 minor league all-star games, set the all-time club record for most runs batted in, and on occasion, the lefty also showed a knack for pitching.

Jose Birriel, First Baseman, Society for Savings, 1990.
Hartford Courant excerpt, June 29, 1990.
Hartford Courant excerpt, June 29, 1990.

Birriel was eventually promoted to Triple-A with the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1988. However he was only given 21 at bats and had 2 hits. He was released from the Red Sox that same year. The following summer Birriel was living in Hartford and joined the Society for Savings ball club in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. As a member of Tom Abbruzzese’s team, Birriel hit 6 home runs in 62 at bats and was named an all-star. Birriel played a final season in the Mexican League in 1991 before ending his baseball career.

New Britain Red Sox hat.
Jose Birriel career stats, Baseball-Reference.com.

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New Britain’s Tom Thibodeau Played Twilight Ball

(Main photo: Tom Thibodeau, Head Coach, Salem State University, 1985.)

A little known fact: when he wasn’t coaching basketball, Tom Thibodeau played baseball in the Hartford Twilight League. The New Britain native manned third base for the Manchester Community College twilight team in 1976 and for the Society for Savings club in 1977.

Tom Thibodeau, Third Baseman, Society for Savings, 1977.
Tom Thibodeau, Assistant Coach, Minnesota Timberwolves, 1989.

Thibodeau went on to become a collegiate and professional basketball coach. He won NBA Coach of the Year Award 2011 with the Chicago Bulls. He served as an Assistant Coach for the United States men’s national basketball team from 2013-2016, and helped Team USA win a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. Most recently, Thibodeau was named Head Coach of the New York Knicks.

Tom Thibodeau hired by the New York Knicks, 2020.

Jeff Bagwell, From Hartford to the Hall

  • Born: 5/27/1968 in Boston, Massachussetts
  • High School: Xavier High School (Middletown, Connecticut)
  • College: University of Hartford
  • GHTBL: Malloves Jewelers
  • Cape Cod League: Chatham A’s
  • Drafted: 1989, Boston Red Sox, 4th Round, 109th Overall.
  • Traded: Boston Red Sox send Bagwell to Houston Astros for pitcher Larry Andersen in 1990.
  • Major League Debut: 4/8/1991
  • Awards: Rookie of the Year (1991), National League MVP (1994) and 4-time All-Star.
  • National Baseball Hall of Fame: 2017
Jeff Bagwell (left) with teammates from University of Hartford, 1987.
Jeff Bagwell (right), Malloves Jewelers, GHTBL, 1987.
Jeff Bagwell, Malloves Jewelers, GHTBL 1987.

Jeff Bagwell, University of Hartford, 1988.
Jeff Bagwell, University of Hartford, 1988.
Jeff Bagwell, Chatham A’s, Cape Cod League, 1988.
Jeff Bagwell, New Britain Red Sox, 1990.
Jeff Bagwell, New Britain Red Sox, 1990.
Jeff Bagwell, Houston Astros, 1991.
Jeff Bagwell, Houston Astros, 1991.
Jeff Bagwell, Houston Astros, 2004.
Jeff Bagwell inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 2017.

View Jeff Bagwell’s MLB career batting statistics on Baseball-Reference.com

When Big Papi Rocked New Britain

Originally signed by the Seattle Mariners in 1992, David “Big Papi” Ortiz was traded to the Minnesota Twins organization in 1996. In 1997, he played first base for the New Britain Rock Cats. In his first Double-A season, Ortiz hit for a .322 average with 14 home runs, 56 RBI and even stole 2 bases. He was eventually promoted to the majors with the Minnesota Twins and hit .327 during his big league debut. Ortiz returned to New Britain for 9 games in 2001 during a rehab assignment. He was released by the Twins and signed with the Red Sox in 2003. Ortiz helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004, their first in 86 years.

David Ortiz, First Baseman, New Britain Rock Cats, 1997.

After playing in New Britain, David Ortiz had an illustrious, Hall of Fame caliber career:

  • 3× World Series champion (2004, 2007, 2013)
  • World Series MVP (2013)
  • ALCS MVP (2004)
  • 10× All-Star (2004–2008, 2010–2013, 2016)
  • 7× Silver Slugger Award (2004–2007, 2011, 2013, 2016)
  • 2× AL Hank Aaron Award (2005, 2016)
  • Roberto Clemente Award (2011)
  • AL home run leader (2006)
  • 3× AL RBI leader (2005, 2006, 2016)
  • 541 career home runs
  • Boston Red Sox No. 34 retired
David Ortiz, Designated Hitter, Boston Red Sox, 2015.

GHTBL Seeks 4th Win Versus CTL at New Britain Stadium

All Star Game to be held on Sunday, August 19, 2018.

The 2018 GHTBL vs. CTL All Star Game will be played at New Britain Stadium on Sunday, August 19th at 8 PM under the lights. 

The game will take place immediately following the New Britain Bees vs. Long Island Ducks matchup at 5 PM.

The GHTBL All Star team will be selected at the end of the Regular Season. Representing players will seek to claim victory over the Connecticut Twilight League All Star team for the 4th straight game (4 of 4). The first All Star matchup between the two leagues was in 2015 and since then the game has showcased some of the best local ballplayers in the state of Connecticut.

We look forward to your attendance!
 – Tickets will be $10 per person
 – Free for kids 14 and under

GHTBL All-Stars Fall to New Britain Bees 18-6

After leading in the 6th inning, the amateurs eventually lose to the professionals.

GHTBL All Stars led by a handful of former professional ballplayers and several former NCAA athletes matched up against the New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League on April 15th at New Britain Stadium.

This pre-season exhibition match-up served as an early start and a fun day for local baseball fans. The final score was 18-6 in favor of the Bees, though the GHTBL All Stars led 6-5 through six innings of play.

Wes Hurty, Catcher, GHTBL All Stars, 2017.

Vernon Orioles catcher, Wes Hurty had a good day with a run-scoring double. Ulbrich Clippers hurler, James Kukucka threw a perfect inning in relief and Manchester Braves pitcher/outfielder, Mark DiTommaso chipped in with an RBI single and a solid inning on the mound. Jack Ceppetelli, Manager of the 2016 Playoff and Regular Season Champions Vernon Orioles managed for the GHTBL All Stars.

Our league looks forward to taking on the New Britain Bees in the years to come! A special thanks goes out to the Bees GM, Gerry Berthiaume and their Legal Consel, Jamie Goldman for organizing the day.