18 November 2016

More Team Photos (with Bernie!)

     In a major score, a seller on eBay recently posted a ton of old team photos, and luckily for me, those included four previously unknown (to me) that included one Bernardo Brito!  The 1981 and 1983 photos are all folded three ways which leads me to believe they were mailed out on request, rather than handed out out at the ball park, the 1983 photo even having a Batavia business card attached.
     Bernie played the better part of four seasons in Batavia, New York, with the Trojans, who were the low A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians at the time. In this first picture, we have Bernie in his first professional season, standing on the left end of the back row.  Bernie didn't have a very structured introduction to baseball in the Dominican Republic, so 1981 would have been a major adjustment for him, speaking little to no English and really only knowing how to crush a baseball against teenage pitching.  That he is even in this photo at all is something of a surprise as he only played 12 games for Batavia in 1981.

     Despite his unimpressive initial showing, Bernardo returned to Batavia for the 1982 season, this time appearing in 41 of the team's 75 games that season.  He improved a bit, showed some of that pop he was signed for with four home runs, and actually stole a base, which is impressive as he only stole 24 in his entire minor league career.  Here, Bernie is in the third row, four down from the man in the suit.  I had to adjust the exposure on the scan as a black & white photo of all of those dark jerseys didn't make for a very good photo.  In any case, looks like Mr. Brito blinked at exactly the wrong time.

     1983 saw Bernardo Brito returning for his third season in Batavia.  This time around, he appeared in 60 games, and had improved enough that he was promoted to High A Waterloo for part of the season.  He didn't stick, though, his batting average dropping 40 points with the change of scenery and he was back in Batavia for the 1984 season.  Another case of the photographer apparently not using a fill light.  Had to adjust the levels again just to make out Bernardo's face.  This time he's on the back row, third from the right.

     The sellers that listed these apparently did not have a 1984 photo of either Waterloo or Batavia, but I did land this 1985 Waterloo Indians photo.  In 1984, Brito finally started to put the pieces together in his hitting game and finished with 19 home runs and a .300 batting average.  That was enough to earn him a promotion (again) to Waterloo for the '85 season.  This time around he did not disappoint and racked up  29 home runs, to lead the Midwest League.  Accordingly, Bernie would not spend another season in A ball and would be play the 1986 season with the Indians AA affiliate Waterbury Indians.

    After five years in A ball, Bernie finally made the jump to AA, in 1986, to play with the Waterbury Indians, and it took a bit of adjustment.  I've heard it said that the jump from A to AA is almost the same difference in level of competition as the jump from AA to the majors.  His average and power numbers dropped a bit, but not an alarming amount.  He would recover all of that when the team moved to Williamsport in 1987.

    Skipping ahead to 1987, Bernardo made what at first glance appears to be a lateral move, but in fact was just him repeating a grade.  After the 1986 season, Cleveland moved their AA Eastern League affiliate from Waterbury to re-establish baseball in Williamsport, Pennsylvania (which had been without baseball since the Williamsport Tomahawks closed up shop in 1976) with the creation of the Williamsport Bills.  Bernie put up another good year at AA, batting .277 and clobbering 24 home runs, tops in the Eastern League.  1987 would be the final year for Brito in the Indians organization as he would be released the following spring, to be signed as a free agent by the Twins the following week.