Taking one look at the overflow crowd at Springdale’s Michael J. Drotar Field for the Division I Little League game between Fairfield American and Stamford North and any concerns about the relationship between Stamford and the game of baseball should be clear.
The love affair is still going strong and while suburban towns may be making gains at the high school level, summer baseball is still Stamford’s specialty. This year in particular showed the rest of the state that Stamford remains the No. 1 baseball city in Connecticut.
It was perhaps said best by Stamford North coach Bob Robustelli after his team defeated Fairfield that night in front of the electric crowd of families, friends and just plain people from the neighborhood.
“Fairfield American is a great Little League program,” Robustelli said. “But Stamford always been a great baseball city. This title brings back some of our luster.”
The Little Leaguers were not alone with programs from 11 year olds to 19 year olds producing successful summers, restoring a little bit of that luster Robustelli was talking about in the process.
It is not the glory days by any stretch when Cubeta was packed and teams were routinely playing in World Series, but 2015 was a golden summer of baseball in Stamford
Looking at the records for FCIAC schools over the last five years you will find the suburban schools at the top of those standings and the city schools toward the bottom.
Even though Stamford High and Trinity Catholic both reached the FCIAC playoffs this past season, the trend is not likely to reverse itself because the suburban players in general have more access to specialized coaching and training and some top city players opt for private schools such as Fairfield Prep and King.
We got a glimpse of what a team might look like if Stamford only had one high school and players stayed in town to play when the Senior American Legion team organized one of the best teams to ever wear “Stamford” across their chests.
That team featured the top pitchers from Stamford High, Trinity, Westhill, King and Prep as well as position players from all those schools.
It is a team that probably would have gone unbeaten in the FCIAC and done damage in states.
As it were, the team reached the Legion state championship series, falling in three games.
Obviously, the city cannot have just one high school and you cannot stop kids from opting for private schooling as a way to advance themselves in the classroom, so, you are left with the summer to see what Stamford baseball really is.
“What I really liked about summer stuff was the idea of playing with guys you competed against in the spring. For me that was the best part of summer baseball,” Stamford American Legion general manager Chris Sabia said. “It is a little different now because kids are way more connected now with social media. Now they are all so in tune with what is going on and they are fans of each other which is good. It is all positive and all makes Stamford baseball better.
As the Stamford Senior Legion team was grabbing headlines this summer a remarkable story was unfolding in town with players of the same age playing for the 16-18 year old Babe Ruth team.
That team also reached the state final, losing a close game to Housatonic in the championship, but showing the state that Stamford baseball is more than the Legion program.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys who came up and put four wins together but we came up a run short,” Babe Ruth coach John Calo said. “We hear a lot about that Legion team and they are very good but we showed that we can put together a team that con compete on the state level, too.”
The Stamford Babe Ruth 14u team was also a state runner up with the 15u team finishing third and the 13u team winning District I.
By contrast the Junior Legion team was a state runner up and the Prep team won the state championship.
Those teams all draw from the same talent pool and for both Babe Ruth and Legion to have so much success this summer tells you all you need to know about the state of Stamford baseball.
It is strong now and looks to remain strong for years to come.