New Haven’s 168-year baseball tradition began a new chapter Thursday afternoon. At the Rusty Scupper restaurant, General Manager Tim Kelly unveiled the New Haven County Cutters, the newest baseball club to call Yale Field home.
The former occupants of Yale Field, the double-A New Haven Ravens, departed for to Manchester, N.H. in Sept. 2003. The Baseball Foundation of Connecticut finally found a new tenant on Dec. 10, 2003 when it signed a contract with the independent Northeast League to bring the Berkshire (N.Y.) Black Bears franchise to New Haven.
The Cutters will play 92 games, 46 of them at home, lasting from May 31 through Sept. 6.
“I think this is 46 nights of fun,” Mayor John D. DeStefano Jr. said at the team’s unveiling ceremony Thursday. “It’s nothing more complicated than that. It’s great for families and affordable. Baseball is a great way to bring us together.”
At the unveiling ceremony, Kelly showed off the Cutter color — light blue and yellow. The Cutters’ home uniforms will be pinstriped, while the away set will be tan. The team logo features a light blue letter C with two ship masts shaped like baseball bats, an homage to New Haven’s seafaring heritage.
Cutters Assistant General Manager Marie Heikkinen Webb, a former director of marketing for the Ottawa Lynx, the AAA team affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, said that the Cutters hope to bring to New Haven more than just great baseball.
“We want to be quality in everything we do both on the field and off,” Webb said. “That includes little things like good customer service. We want it to be easy and fun for people to come to games, not a hassle.”
Part of this customer service-oriented mentality will be improvements made to Yale Field by the May 31 home opener. The Cutters are planning to invest thousands of dollars in renovating concession stands, replacing metal grandstands down the left field line with a new Kids Zone and constructing luxury suites next to the press box behind home plate.
The Cutters, who have a lease through 2019, are making these investments with an eye on the long term.
“We plan to be here in 3019,” Webb said. “This is not a trial, we’re not testing this out. We’re putting everything into this. It’s not about what gets fans out there today, it’s about what keeps them coming back tomorrow.”
An additional focus of the organization’s operating philosophy is community involvement and giving, driven in large part by team Chairman Jonathan Fleisig. Fleisig’s Bakersfield (Calif.) Condors Hockey franchise have twice received the West Coast Hockey League’s Best Community Development accolade.
According to Peaches Quinn MED ’80, director of community development, the team will strive to achieve similar community status through involvement with the summer job program for New Haven youth and fund raising for the New Haven Emergency Shelter.
“What can we do for you? We want to work to make this community better,” Quinn said. “We don’t want to come in here with our hand out asking of the community, we want to do for the community.”
The organization’s arrival directly benefits the community even without such direct efforts, Nick De Matties, executive director of the West Haven Chamber of Commerce, said.
“West Haven is a very sports-oriented town,” De Matties said, noting that Yale Field is technically located in West, not New Haven. “From the Chamber’s perspective, the team brings jobs to the area, as well as pride and unity in supporting a local sports team.”
Community members shared the team’s enthusiasm about the return of professional baseball to the New Haven. Mel Zeidelberg, head of the Andy Papero League, a local youth baseball organization, welcomed the arrival of the Cutters.
“We need all kinds of baseball,” Zeidelberg said. “Everyone says it has to be a winning team to get people to games. It’s not true.”
The Northeast League, one of five independent leagues nationwide, began in 1995 as a six-team league in New York State and has since expanded to feature eight teams from Pennsylvania to Quebec.
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