Herald: “We congratulate Mayor Stewart and her team for arranging this deal.”

OUR VIEW: Goodbye Rock Cats, hello Atlantic League

On Tuesday afternoon, New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart broke the good news: The Atlantic League has conditionally agreed to bring a professional baseball team to New Britain Stadium, former home of the Rock Cats, the minor league team now moving to Hartford. The eight-member Atlantic League of Professional Baseball voted unanimously Tuesday for the move, contingent on five conditions, including timely action by the city to ratify the agreement.

While we certainly weren’t happy about the Rock Cats’ departure under its new owner, we have nothing but good things to say about the team itself and the warm relationship we enjoyed with the franchise for many years. That said, we’re looking forward to a solid relationship with this expanding league, despite naysaying from those who moan, “but it won’t be the same.”

People won’t turn out for less than the quality of baseball made possible by future major leaguers, they say. They come to see the once and future stars play — and play at a very high level.

Frankly, we think this is, well, baloney! Last summer, people filled the stands at Muzzy Field for the Bristol Blues, members of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. They came for many of the same reasons people turned out for the Rock Cats in New Britain Stadium — family fun, fireworks and entertainment, an affordable outing, conveniently located close to home. After all, many of these fans are the same families that happily cheer on their Little Leaguers, no matter what their skill level, motivated by the sheer love of baseball.

Sure, Rock Cats management is counting on spectators following them into Hartford but we’re skeptical. First, we’re guessing that tickets and food will be a little more expensive next year, if only to pay for the still-under-construction $56 million Dunkin’ Donuts stadium. And, second, we think a lot of people in central Connecticut are reluctant to go into Hartford, given its big-city problems.

Bottom Line: We think baseball fans will be ready to support the Atlantic League to New Britain and we congratulate Mayor Stewart and her team for arranging this deal which we expect to be so favorable to the city.

This editorial originally appeared in the New Britain Herald.