When the Bridgeport Bluefish were conceived in 1998, it marked the return of professional baseball to the Park City after a 50-year absence. And Angel Espada quickly became the first public face of the franchise. On Sunday, April 15—the last day of the 2013 regular season—Espada's place in Bridgeport sports history will be cemented when the Bluefish hold Angel Espada Day at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard.
Any guest that brings a piece of Angel Espada memorabilia (baseball card, photo, jersey, etc.) to the Bluefish box office on the date of the game will receive a special $11.00 Box ticket. A special pregame ceremony will be held on the field to recognize Espada's accomplishments with the 'Fish. The team will officially retire his jersey, and fans will be invited to a special “meet and greet” with Espada, and have the legendary shortstop sign their memorabilia before the game.
“I’m extremely honored to have my jersey retired at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard as a member of the Bluefish,” says Espada, best known as a shortstop, but who also played second base and all three outfield positions with the 'Fish. “It was a pleasure to spend a portion of my career in Bridgeport, and I would like to thank all the fans for the support over the years.”
Throughout his 14-year minor-league playing career, Espada had been invited to spring training by both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Yankees, but he never rose above the A level in organized ball—despite the fact that he owned a career .305 career batting average and was known as a sharp fielder. Undeterred, Espada spent the next nine seasons with the Bluefish in the independent Atlantic League, where he played 734 games. He also became the team's all-time hit leader with 817, and scored the most runs in Bluefish history, crossing the plate 444 times. His best season in the Park City was 1999, when the Bluefish won their only Atlantic League title. That year, Espada hit .356—the best single-season average in Bluefish history—earning him the Atlantic League batting title. In 2005, he had another outstanding year when he hit .309 and stole 18 bases at the age of 29.
After his playing career ended, Espada went into coaching, becoming the hitting coach for the Jamestown Jammers, then Miami Marlins' Class A affiliate. In 2012, he was named manager of the Jammers, and moved on to Batavia, N.Y., this season to manage the Batavia Muckdogs—the Marlins' current affiliate in the Class A New York-Penn League.
“Angel Espada was a cornerstone of this franchise for nine years and made a lasting impact in Bridgeport both on and off the field,” says Bluefish general manager Ken Shepard. “Angel is one of the greatest players in our history, a class individual and we are excited to retire his jersey.”
Gates open at 12:05 p.m. On Sunday, with the pregame autograph slated from 12:10-12:30 p.m., and first pitch at 1:05 p.m. As is the case with every Sunday afternoon game, all kids are invited for a “fun run” around the bases after the game. For more information, call 203-210-BLUE, visit bridgeportbluefish.com, or stop by The Ballpark at Harbor Yard box office at 500 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT.