© Republican-American (Joe Pallodino), 8/5/2008
The lively little Web page makes an audacious statement in bold letters right at the top of the home page: Northwest Connecticut ‘s premiere amateur wooden bat league. That’s a throw down if ever there was one. The Tri-State Baseball League (www.tristatebaseballCT.com) is alive and well swallowing up the competition to become, in point of fact, a premiere wooden bat league in this or any other location. Monday night in Meriden was proof of that. The Brew, Tri-State regular season champions with a best-ever record of 18-1, tried to become the first-ever Tri-State club to win a state Stan Musial title. They didn’t, losing 1-0 to All-Star Batting Rangers of Danbury/New Milford, in a crisp, well-played game at Ceppa Field. It was baseball at its finest.
Neither team committed an error. The pitchers, Marc DiDominzio for Brass City and Eric Webber for the Rangers, combined to allow only 10 hits over eight innings. There was only one walk. They swung wooden bats. There was a crack in the air, not a ping. Hot dogs cost a buck. If there had been a corn field in the outfield, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Ray Liotta walk out of it. It was a beauty.
It took two hours to play eight innings. The All-Stars (19-6-1 out of the Housatonic League) scored the game’s only run in the top of the eighth inning when Tony Patane lifted a flair down the right field line. Brew first baseman Justin McCulloch raced down the line and tried to make an over-the-shoulder catch, but the ball fell in and Mike Helmus raced in from second base. It was Patene’s second hit. All the evening’s thrills were packed into one inning. In the last of the seventh, Brass City Brew (24-3) nearly won the game. With two outs, Mike Padavoni singled to left, his second hit, and stole second. DiDominzio scorched a line drive to right that had the look of a game-winner, until Rangers second sacker Nick Parker made a stunning, leaping stab to send the game to the extra frame. “I froze when he first hit it,” said Parker. “I thought the game was over. But it had a little bit of a loop to it and I was able to grab it.”
The loss brings to an end a rather few odd days for the Brew. The team lost twice on Sunday to the Connecticut Reds of Bridgeport, to end the Brew’s state title quest. But the Reds had split its squad in two to play in two different tournaments. The team is coming back together again, but not for the final of the CABC event. The Brew now had lucky-loser status and a second chance. Even after losing three straight, the Brew play on. Both Brass City and All-Star Batting advance to the North Atlantic Regional in Albany on Thursday. The Brew then return to resume the Tri-State playoffs. The good times never end. This is the fourth straight year that a Tri-State team has advanced to the regional. These are grand times for the ancient league enjoying its 75th season.
Though the Tri-State is really only two-state, it is in an excellent state of health. The league boasts 16 teams this year, covering the length and breadth of the valley and every nook of the county. Next season, Watertown and Bristol join. Someday even the Twisters might apply for a franchise. When Waterbury ‘s Twi-Met League faded into the sunset, it was said that baseball was dying because kids didn’t want to play the game anymore. That’s just plain wrong. They were looking for somewhere else to play. They found it. Believe this: A Tri-State team would not have stiffed the tournament title game, ever. Ed Gadomski is in his fourth year as commissioner. Bud Selig should pay attention. If a player is ejected from a game, it brings a three-game suspension. Four years ago, the league had 28 ejections. Now, they are non-existent. If a coach fails to call the newspaper to report a game, it is a $20 fine. Can we get something like that going for high school coaches?
“The reason the league works is because we run it like a business, and every team manager is part of the board of directors,” Gadomski explained. The league has swallowed up the Twi-Met league, and if we may say this without ruffling too many feathers, has made it a point to keep the old Twi-Met crowd out. That hurts, I know, but the Twi-Met guys had their chance. It’s over. It’s time for a new energy to take control of amateur baseball. They play with wooden bats. The old foul-mouthed, beer game mentality is gone. Baseball lives.