It’s almost impossible not to pick out the names when you’re perusing the morning Major League Baseball box scores and glancing at the game summaries. They have a habit of jumping out at you.

Benji Revere had the game winning ribbie single in the Phillies pitchers duel win last night over the Braves. Joe Mauer with two ribbies and four runs scored in the Twins double header sweep of the Blue Jays. Torii Hunter had a ribbie for the Tigers in the win over the Indians. Not to mention the rookie who’s emerged as one of the early season sensations in the big leagues, Yankees third baseman Yangervis Solarte, hitting .373 as he’s made it impossible to remove him from the lineup since he got his first major league start three games into the season.

With infielders dropping like flies, for all of his offense, what they need most from Solarte, who hit his first major league home run last night to help the Yanks to their fifth straight win, is defense. Last night he showed great instincts and great reflexes, starting the first triple play in the majors this season, a dazzling, around the horn, 5-4-3 classic.

What all of these players I’ve just mentioned have in common is their roots, which, at one time, were planted right here in New Britain, with the Rock Cats, a team that has more players currently playing in the major leagues than any other minor league team. That got me to thinking about the sport that, while baseball season is just getting started, has already reached the post season.

The New York Rangers opened the National Hockey League playoffs last night with a win over the Philadelphia Flyers and a roster that includes several players who cut their teeth, the ones they didn’t lose, right here in Hartford, with the American Hockey League Wolf Pack/Whale, Jesper Fast, Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Matts Zuccarrello, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonald, alternate captains Marc Staal and Dominic Moore and Cam Talbot, who has developed into one of the most dependable back up goaltenders in the NHL.

It’s expected that the Rangers would have a plethora of former Hartford stars on their roster, Hartford is their top farm team, but the development in Hartford under Ken Gernander has been eyepopping, with several other of this year’s playoff teams sporting former Wolf Pack talent. The Bruins backup goalie, also one of the most dependable in the game, is former Wolf Pack star Chad Johnson. Artem Anisimov and alternate captain Brandon Dubinski are seeing playoff action with the Blue Jackets while P.A. Parenteau does likewise with the Avalanche.

The message is simple. The major league stars of today didn’t just walk onto center stage, and we’ve been blessed with one of the most fertile breeding grounds in all of sports.

Both the Rock Cats and Wolf Pack play at home tonight, the Pack with just two more opportunities to see tomorrow’s stars today before putting the lid on the season, tonight with Springfield, tomorrow night with Bridgeport. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to catch them when you don’t have to travel 100 miles and pay a kings ransom, before the autographs become hard to come by.

Take the kids. They’ll love it, and they’ll never forget their minor league heroes, no matter how “major league” they get.

With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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