Rob Tencza left and Trey Bongiovanni of the Meriden Merchants prep the field before a game Friday at Ceppa Field in Meriden July,19 2014 | Justin Weekes / For the Record-Journal
July 19, 2014 10:32PM
By Ken Lipshez
MERIDEN — Only time will tell what the future holds for the Connecticut Expos and Meriden Merchants in the venerable Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League.
Perhaps a merger is in the offing. Hopefully, an influx of young talent graduating from American Legion ball will serve as replacements and, just as vitally, a conduit to the future by recruiting the next generation.
“I’m planning on trying again next year,” Expos manager David Giglio said Friday night. “We’re going to try to get more kids from [Wallingford Post 187]. We’ll see. It’s tough.”
The economic downturn has been a deterrent. Sponsors are extremely hard to find and some players start to lose interest when Giglio asks them for their $125 playing fee.
“That’s the biggest problem,” he said. “I’ve tried [to get sponsors]. Pawloski Auto Body gives us the most. He gave us $250 this year. He’s a real nice guy. I haven’t found anybody who would give us $500.
“I’ve offered to put their names on the back of our uniforms, but most people don’t want to sponsor us. Most of our sponsor money is from people we know who own businesses.”
Merging has been discussed informally, but neither Giglio nor the Merchants’ Rob Tencza are ready to take the next step.
“Next year we’re going to get four or five more guys who graduate from Maloney who are above-average players,” Tencza said. “When we were all in college we had a pipeline ... Now we’re out of college and we’re grabbing high school kids and it’s tough for a high school kid to play in this league.”
The key is keeping the pipeline flowing, which has been harder for the Expos than the Merchants because Tencza is an assistant to Maloney coach Howie Hewitt.
A merger would result in a team with more depth and primed to become more competitive in the league, but would reduce opportunities for locals to play.
An offseason of self-evaluation will dictate which way they’ll go.