A franchise that was founded just five years ago has already made huge strides. The Bristol Blues, a summer collegiate team since 2014, officially left the Futures Collegiate Baseball League for the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
It is not the first time that Bristol will be a part of the NECBL. A franchise played at Muzzy Field in 2010 but left after that season to become the Mystic Schooners, which will play the Blues in 2020.
The NECBL is said to be a just a tier below the Cape Cod Baseball League, which boasts over 1,000 participants who have gone on to play in the major leagues.
Both the FCBL and NECBL leagues require that players be signed to NCAA division one programs. While the FCBL welcomes incoming freshmen and sophomores, the NECBL includes veteran players entering their sophomore or junior seasons.
Nick Rascati, the general manager of the Blues, said he, along with the players and coaches, is beyond excited about the move.
“It is a great move for our organization and the players,” Rascati said. “They are really excited. The coaches can’t wait to face up against better competition. We feel very lucky to be a part of the NECBL. They have been very welcoming. As an organization, we felt it was the right move.”
Rascati said the organization first saw the move as a possibility at the beginning of this year. After the New Britain Bees announced their move to the FCBL on Oct. 28, the NECBL confirmed the Blues’ suspected move on Nov. 7.
Rascati said they have already signed some players back from 2018, but the team will now be able to draw the attention of some of the best sophomore and junior players in the country.
“With the NECBL, you are talking about one of the better leagues in the United States,” Rascati said. “This is a huge boost for us as we can start looking at players from some of the better schools in the country.”
The Blues will join two other Connecticut teams in the southern division, including the Schooners and the Danbury Westerners. Other teams in the division include the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks and Valley Blue Sox in Mass., as well as the Newport Gulls and Ocean State Waves in R.I. The Sharks also left the FCBL for the NECBL after the 2018 season.
There are also seven teams in the northern division from Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.
Justin Malley of the Bristol Development Authority also works in the economic and community development department for the Blues, and he said the move should provide a boost in both of those areas.
“I can tell you that it was very exciting to hear that the Bristol Blues will continue to entertain Bristol fans at Muzzy Field,” Malley said. “As I understand it, the NECBL is a higher-profile, more competitive league. As a result, the move may increase the Blues’ profile and bring in more fans for the higher level competition. This is very good for the Blues and for Bristol. As a community, we thank the Blues for several years of excitement and also for making this move to grow the organization in Bristol for the future.”
Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, the mayor of Bristol, is also the host family coordinator for the Blues, assisting in finding the players housing during the season.
“The city is excited to support this move for the Blues,” Zoppo-Sassu said. “We believe it will bring an even higher quality caliber of play to Muzzy Field, and give the fans exciting summer baseball. We believe that the move to the NECBL might spark interest from more out-of-town and out-of-state players, which may necessitate additional host families. The blues have had over two dozen Bristol area families open their homes to host the players for the duration of the season for the last five years.”
The Blues have not yet announced their roster for their inaugural season into the NECBL, but they announced both their manager, Ronnie Palmer, and pitching coach, Jordie Scheiner will continue to lead the team in 2020.
The NECBL website announced that opening day of the league will be June 3, 2020.
For more information, follow the Blues at bristolbluesbaseball.com.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.