By BRIAN JENNINGS
It was an exciting year for the Bristol Blues baseball team in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) last summer. They won the West Division title for the first time in the franchise’s three-year history with a 28-22 record (.560), beating out the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs, who finished at 29-23 (.558).
They clinched a postseason berth for the first time since their inaugural year, and they even got to host the FCBL All-Star Game. After they earned a first-round bye as the top seed in the West bracket, the Blues season ended at the hands of the Nashua Silver Knights, edged the Blues by a run, 10-9, 4-3, in both games of a best-of-three-games series in the second round. The Knights eventually went on to defeat the Worchester Bravehearts, 4-1, 2-0, in a best-of-three-games championship series to win the FCBL title.
The Blues experienced many new changes during the offseason, and Blues part-owner Elliot Scheiner said that the hiring of new general manager and sponsorship coordinator, Brian Rooney, was the biggest change. Rooney is replacing Ed Swicklas as the third general manager the Blues have had since 2015.
“Brian comes off pretty well and seems to have his stuff together,” said Scheiner. “He’s raised a lot of support and response. Right now, everything seems like it’s on a good scale.”
Similar to last season, Scheiner said that the Blues will be hosting multiples events and promotions at home games to interact with the Bristol community. Some of those events and promotions will recognize little league teams in the area and senior citizens.
Scheiner said that Rooney is providing different entertainment for fans this summer, which they think kids will love. One of those attractions includes a dog act for Bristol’s first Sunday home game.
“He’s doing some stuff that we’ve never done,” said Scheiner. “Hopefully, it will work out.”
Another big change to hit Muzzy Field this summer is the new beer that will be for sale at concessions. Scheiner sad that they’re doing away with Coors Banquet and putting in Guinness.
“It’s a phenomenal beer, and it’s my favorite beer,” said Scheiner. “We brought Coors Banquet in last year, and it didn’t do anywhere near as well as we thought it would. It didn’t sell much at all. I hope enough people get into the Guinness because it’s so different-tasting.”
Along with the beer, the players are going to look different this summer as well, as almost all of the players that will be taking the field for the Blues are new to the organization. Although spectators will have to adjust to many new faces, Scheiner said that he’s most excited to meet the new players for the upcoming season, as he is every year.
“All the guys that haven’t played summer baseball, this is a big deal,” said Scheiner. “You want to see how they’re going to interpret what has to be done. It’s a great pleasure meeting them on that first day.”
Ronnie Palmer is returning to manage the team for his second season, and Scheiner said that Palmer did a really good job of picking up kids.
“I love Ronnie Palmer,” said Scheiner. “I think he’s a great coach. He has a good head and knows everything there is to know. It looks like we have a pretty good team. We have a couple of guys from last year, and I feel pretty good about what’s going on there.”
Palmer said that he’s looking forward to the upcoming summer and the guys arriving as well.
“We have quite a number of guys that have put together outstanding college seasons, personally, and guys coming from teams that have won championships and competed in regionals,” said Palmer. “We hope that momentum can carry over for us this summer.”
Palmer said that he certainly wants to compete at a high level and make a playoff run.
“The obvious goal is an FCBL championship,” said Palmer. “But just as important as a championship is, we want to represent the Blues organization, the city of Bristol, and the fans in a respectful and positive manner that does them all proud.”
In-state players on Bristol’s roster for the upcoming season include Jake Regula (RHP, Hartford), Jason Hebner (LHP, Fairfield), Kelvin Sosa (LHP, Wesleyan), Nick Rascati (LHP, Eastern Connecticut), Miguel De Los Santos (C, Post), Patrick Winkel (C, Connecticut), Andrew Hague (IF, Connecticut), Ian Ostberg (IF, Quinnipiac), Jeremy Sagun (IF, Central Connecticut), Matthew Bonvicini (1B, Connecticut), Giacomo Brancato (OF, Fairfield), Peyton Stephens (OF, Central Connecticut), and Theodore Hague (OF, Yale).
Scheiner said that there will be two less teams in the FCBL this season, which are the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs and the Seacoast Mavericks. He said that both teams aren’t playing because they are without stadiums at the moment, as both played on high school fields before. The Mavericks are in the process of building a new stadium that won’t be ready until next year.
“It’s kind of a drag,” said Scheiner. “We’re used to playing more baseball with more teams. It’s more diverse that way. I’m not crazy about that aspect, but there was nothing to be done. We’re trying to get two more teams added to Connecticut.”
The Blues will kick off the 2018 summer season on Thursday, May 31 when they travel to Fitton Field to play the Worchester Bravehearts. The Blues will host the Pittsfield Suns on Saturday, June 2 for their home opener. Game time is 7 p.m.
For more information, including updates to the schedule, visit www.bristolbluesbaseball.com
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.