By BRIAN JENNINGS
It might have been a cold April Fools’ Day, but it was no joke that the Bristol Blues baseball organization couldn’t wait to get its inaugural season underway as they warmly greeted the press.
Bristol Blues Manager Barry Lyons, Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne, Commissioner of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League Chris Hall, and team owners were on hand to unveil the team’s roster and answer questions about the upcoming season at a press conference on Wednesday outside the entrance of legendary Muzzy Field.
The Blues will join nine other teams in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, which has six franchises from Massachusetts, two from New Hampshire, and now two from Connecticut.
The Blues’ roster features college baseball players from nine different states, but has a special focus on New England baseball players.
Speaking from his personal experience, Hall was one of those New England kids that grew up in Massachusetts and played in the Cape Cod Baseball League. He said it was a great experience, but noticed that most of the New England kids in the league didn’t have a chance to play.
So Hall helped establish a league rule stating that 13 out of the first 26 kids of each team’s roster must be from New England or attend a New England college.
“We made this decision when we started this league for a lot of reasons,” said Hall. “One of the reasons that we really loved was to help develop New England kids. Those kids were not getting a shot to play at some of these other leagues around. The Cape was taking kids from all across the country and the other league here in New England was not taking as many New England kids.”
Last year in its fourth season, the F.C.B.L. was able to draft 14 out of 23 kids that were from New England or were playing for a New England college.
The Blues will continue the vision of Hall and the F.C.B.L. by filling most of their roster with 24 New Englanders, 14 of them being Connecticut natives.
Right-handed pitcher Michael Nocera will be representing his hometown as a graduate of Bristol Eastern High School who is a sophomore at Merrimack College.
The Blues will receive top-notch help from two left-handed pitchers, Ian Exposito and Dominic LoBrutto, from Florida International University, which is a top-10 ranked team in “Baseball America’s” 2014 college baseball rankings.
Speaking of left-handed pitchers, seven of the Blues’ 15 pitchers are left-handed. Not to mention, 10 are Division I players.
Not only will the Blues have experienced, collegiate talent, but two incoming college freshman as well. Pitcher Tim Cate of Manchester and outfielder Liam Scafariello of Southington are both committed to attend University of Connecticut in the fall.
Mick and Troy Terzi will be bringing their right-handed pitching talents from Post University and are grandchildren of WTIC-TV news anchor Al Terzi.
Mick and Troy will be joined by their high school teammate, centerfielder Griffin Garabedian. All three will feel right at home this summer after they helped Notre Dame High School in West Haven win the 2011 Class L State Championship at Muzzy Field.
Pitcher Bryant Morander also had success in 2011 by helping Newington High School win the Class LL State Championship at Muzzy Field as well.
Three players on the roster have ties with family members who have coached or played in Major League Baseball.
Left-handed pitcher Ty Robinson of South Brunswick, N.J. is the grandson of Bill Robinson. Bill played in the MLB for 18 years, going on to coach the 1986 New York Mets and 2003 Florida Marlins to World Series titles.
Shortstop/second baseman Zach Scott of Scottsdale, Arizona is the son of former major leaguer and Mets’ Director of Player Development Dick Scott.
Catcher Bryan Dromerhauser of Bay Shore, New York is the son of the 1986 Mets bullpen catcher, Rob Dromerhauser.
Lyons said he wants his players to be able to look back on this experience at some point in their lives and say that he was able to help them.
“It has been my goal to help other kids reach their goals, to get to that next level and to live out their dreams,” said Lyons. “As a young boy, my dream was to be a major league baseball player. I know each one of these kids that are going to be on our roster this summer probably have the same dreams. I’m here to help develop, teach, and encourage them, but all the while, we’re here to win a championship.”
Pitching coach Pat Riley of St. Joseph’s College in Vermont will assist Lyons in his first season with the Blues.
Opening night for the Blues is Friday, June 5 at Muzzy Field at 7 p.m. against the North Shore Navigators of Lynn, Mass.
By BRIAN JENNINGS