New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart is working to bring another team to New Britain according to internal city emails obtained by Fox Connecticut News.
Fox CT received nearly 600 emails sent by the mayor since May 30 through an open records request. Some of the emails can be viewed at the bottom of this article.
After news of the team’s move went public, the mayor’s statements about the Rock Cat’s plans ranged from disbelief, to name-calling, to contingency plans.
On the morning of June 3 Mayor Stewart sent an email to a colleague saying rumors of the Rock Cats leaving were, “all hearsay” and wrote, “if that’s the case then maybe we can bring back the New Britain Red Sox. Lol.”
Of course, as it’s now known,the Hartford Courant broke news of the team’s move to Hartford later that day.
By 7 p.m. on June 3 Stewart had responded to a reporter, writing, “I still find this very hard to believe,” and, “The Rock Cats are still New Britain’s hometown team and we are very proud to host them”.
But by Thursday June 5 emails show Stewart was already making contingency plans.
She wrote to a colleague, “I want to start contacting other minor league teams, try to find a way to get them out of the Hartford market, nothing says I can’t sign a new team first.”
Except the mayor was wrong.
She admitted so during a phone interview with Fox CT today.
Stewart says she later learned the Rock Cats’ current ownership group has the regional ownership rights and that the Major League rules wouldn’t allow two teams so close together.
“The Solomon’s own the rights to the Hartford market so even if we wanted to go advocate for another Red Sox-affiliated, Yankees-affiliated, Mets-affiliated team, whatever, we wouldn’t be able to do so without Solomon’s approval,” said Stewart by phone.
Stewart says the move left her feeling hurt and betrayed.
In one email discussing improvements at the New Britain stadium she wrote, “We’re not spending another dime on you, ask Hartford for it.”
Then, in an email to a state-level press aide, the mayor referred to the stadium as “where the Farrell (sic) cats play.”
“Folks were commenting to me, calling them the ‘feral cats,’ wondering where their home would be. So that’s where that comment came from. A lot of people have been running with that, all in good fun I suppose,” Stewart told Fox CT by phone.
Emails reveal the mayor has reached out to the ‘Can-Am’ League, which is the Canadian American Association of Pro Baseball.
She inquired about bringing a team to New Britain and has placed calls to at least two other leagues about getting a team.
She also emailed a colleague, writing “If you know of any connections that would be interested in a meeting…. cough SOX cough… let me know.”
Ultimately, the Rock Cats have until March 1 2015 to let the mayor know whether they will stay or if they’ll go. “I guess it’s a waiting game for us now; It’s not the most ideal position to be in but they still have a contract to fulfill and we’ll see if they re-sign,” says Mayor Stewart.
“I and the city in our capacity, stand ready to work with the Rock Cats to keep them in New Britain, especially considering that Hartford doesn’t look like they’re going to publicly support them now with the numerous developments that have happened over the last week.”