Mickey's Mail - November 1, 2017

  Mickey's Mail - 11/1/17 

Today is precisely the one-year anniversary of the day I assumed the position of President and CEO of your Bridgeport Regional Business Council. As I think back over the past year, I am encouraged by any number of positive developments, and certainly a few negative ones, too. And I have certainly written about nearly all of these developments in my 50-odd “Mickey’s Mails”. I want to focus today on a development I did not see coming...the demise of the Bridgeport Bluefish.

The City of Bridgeport has lost its professional baseball club, the Bridgeport Bluefish, which occupied so much of my life from 1996 through 2005.

Ironically, today is the day of the Atlantic League’s Player Dispersal draft whereby the remaining seven Atlantic League teams will be obtaining the 2018 negotiating rights to players whose rights were controlled by the Bluefish.

There are three rounds in the draft with a fourth pick optional. Any players that are not drafted will become free agents.

Thus, this really is the end of the road for the Bluefish. When the team emptied the Ballpark at Harbor Yard of all of its personal property a few weeks ago, it seemed like the end then. Now it really is, so we can stop talking about where the team will play in 2018 and 2019. It is now totally disbanded, sine die. 

Coincidentally, this weekend I came across an editorial in The Bridgeport News, published over 20 years ago, on May 29, 1997, almost exactly one year before the Bluefish played its first game at the Ballpark at Harbor Park.

Here’s a piece of that editorial: 

The new stadium… will be more than a ball park. It will be a symbol of Bridgeport on the move. When people look and visit the ball park, they will sense a change in Bridgeport. They will feel safe in coming here with their families. They will notice the nearby Barnum Museum and Seaside Park. They may visit a Bridgeport restaurant or drinking establishment. They will tell their friends and families about the experience. 

There is no guarantee that the new ball team will be a success. Minor league baseball is a break-even proposition in most locations. Realistically, the team may not survive for a long time. Bridgeport will be a tough town to sell tickets, especially to suburbanites.

But even if only for a few years, the team - and new facility - will give Bridgeport an opportunity to change the perceptions of thousands of people.  

For about $14 million in taxpayers’ money, the minor league baseball park is a chance worth taking.

Well, the team lasted perhaps much longer than many “nay-sayers, complainers, nitpickers and doomsday predictors” as the Bridgeport News referred to them, claimed it would.

The team brought in an extraordinary number of suburban dwellers into our city. They came to enjoy affordable family entertainment. There was a renewed sense of fun and excitement in one of the state’s most tarnished urban communities.  And, local Bridgeport citizens also turned out in droves, and intermingled safely and happily with all those out-of-towners. 

Because of the success of the Bluefish, the Arena next door became a reality, with a professional minor league hockey team...even more affordable family entertainment.

Change is perhaps inevitable, and transition can be painful. And I am a fierce proponent of all the transformation that is now enveloping the BRBC and the many economic development projects underway in our region.

We have a special “Economic Development Briefing” on November 16 over breakfast at the Holiday Inn to celebrate the great new projects underway in downtown Bridgeport, in the West End and at Steel Point. And on December 5, we have MGM Chairman and CEO as our keynote speaker at our Annual Dinner at the Trumbull Marriott.

But I hope you will allow me this one last time in Mickey’s Mail to contemplate the loss of the Bridgeport Bluefish. In closing, I am reminded of what William Wordsworth once wrote; “Though nothing can bring back the hour, of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; we will grieve not, rather find, strength in what remains behind; in the primal sympathy which having been must ever be.”

May we never forget the Bridgeport Bluefish!