The pandemic threatened it, but the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is on the field for a 91st season. The long running men's league has been a stop for major leaguers of the future and of the past.
“All the names that you know about in baseball history in the state of Connecticut you know, almost everyone was involved with the Hartford Twilight League in some capacity,” said Greg Morhardt, who started playing in the league in 1982. He went on to turn a minor league career into a scouting position with the Boston Red Sox.
Now, on these summer nights, he watched from behind the backstop as his son, Justin, a 2017 draft pick of the Atlanta Braves, takes the mound. And sometimes he’s joined by Justin’s grandfather, Moe.
Moe Morhardt played his first Twilight League game more than 50 years ago, in 1954. He went on to play first base for the Chicago Cubs for part of two seasons in the 60s and then came back again to the Twilight League.
“Baseball's often been described as being passed own as father and son,” said Moe. “Playing catch and things like that and that's absolutely true. That's the backbone.”
They may not know how many years they’ve all played – though they can agree, Greg’s brother Darryl has played the most – what they do know is that those years made a difference in their careers.
“We were playing with men,” said Moe. “Playing with people older, faster, stronger than we were.”
“Guys would go from playing on a major college team hitting fourth to going to the Hartford Twilight League team and hitting sixth,” said Greg.
It’s the kind of league where every strikeout has a story and those stories get bigger every time.
“Guys that are, you know, chewing tobacco, spitting on the ground,” said Justin. “Saying, ‘I don't care if he's 16, I don't care if he's a Morhardt, get a hit’.”
And that's a story that never gets old.
“Even in the major leagues, things are changing,” said Justin. “We've got new rules and new ways to do things but here in this league, you know, things don't change.”