20 October 2010

1986 ProCards Waterbury Indians Bernardo Brito

     Unfortunately for all of us Brito collectors (read: me) Bernie had no baseball cards in 1984 & 1985.  No team sets for Batavia or Waterloo those years.  But young Senor Brito was a busy man.  In 1984, he must have found his stroke as he went from a .228, 11 home run hitter in 95 games split between Batavia and Waterloo to a .300 hitter with 19 long balls in just 79 games with Batavia in 1984.  Then back to Waterloo again for 1985, where, while his average dipped back to .257 he went deep 29 times, earning a spot on Cleveland's 40-Man roster (though no actual playing time).
     By the end of 1985, Brito had spent five years in A ball.  That winter, he headed home to play his first official winter league season for the Licey Tigres.  A great season with Waterloo was followed by a great season with Licey, where Bernie, with 7 homers and 35 runs batten in, earned an All Star selection as well as Rookie of the Year honors and a spot on the Caribbean World Series roster of the Dominican League champs, Águilas Cibaeñas.

     In 1986, he'd long past earned his promotion to AA and a spot with the Waterbury Indians.  While his numbers were slightly down from the previous year, hitting only 18 home runs on the season against the tougher Eastern League pitching, he still managed to put on a show, such as his three dinger performance on July 22nd.  But in a glimpse of what might have been, from a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 24 October 1986, he beat out the boss, Indians president Peter Bavasi with a fishing pole:
Bavasi attended the Indians' organizational meetings in Florida earlier this month and received a fishing lesson from Bernardo Brito, one of the Tribe's minor-league prospects on their Instructional League team.

"When they're finished playing the games, a lot of the players go fishing," said Bavasi, an avid fisherman. "I've got hundreds of dollars worth of equipment and poles, but Brito said all he needed was a line, a hook and a sinker."

Bavasi supplied Brito with those basic tools and the outfielder sat down at the end of a dock.

"Here I am with a back pack, poles, waders and everything else," Bavasi said.  "All Brito did was bait the hook with a piece of banana, throw the line in, and catch a red snapper.  I didn't catch anything."

     ProCards was making their debut in the minor league team set arena in 1986, as evidenced by the complete lack of information about the players on the backs of most of the cards that year.   While ProCards was just getting warmed up, 1986 would be the least season for affiliated minor league baseball in Waterbury, Connecticut.  Cleveland would move their AA affiliation to Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the 1987 season, and Waterbury wouldn't see another pro ball team until the independent Northeast League arrived in 1997 in the form of the Waterbury Spirit.  It would be short-lived as the Spirit would leave for Lynn, Massachusetts after the 2000 season.

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