A new start for the Torrington Titans. 2014 Season preview with starting lineup.
TORRINGTON: It’s been 298 days since the Torrington Titans left Fuessenich Park after an 8-7 win over the Pittsfield Sun, completing a disappointing campaign that saw then miss the playoffs for the first time with a 22-28 record, seventh in the nine team Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
A great deal has transpired since that early August day a summer season ago with changes a plenty both on and off the field for a team looking to regain their status as a power in the ever growing FCBL.
The league, which started with just four teams in 2011, has now grown to 10, with the latest addition, the Worcester Bravehearts, joining the league for 2014.
Torrington opens up against the newcomers tonight at 7 p.m. with Mike Gibbons, a returning pitcher from 2013, on the mound.
The changes include one on the bench. Dan McNamara takes over for Misha Dworken, who managed the team for the past two seasons to a 51-50 mark during that time.
McNamara is not far removed from his own baseball career, having attended a Washington Nationals spring training camp as recently as 2012.
“I was a player/coach for the Newark Bears last season when I got a call from Alan Seraiti (the Titans owner) who wanted to get together with me to talk about the opportunity here in Torrington,” McNamara said. “He knew I was retiring at the end of the season. I met and got the job on September 1, two days before our season ended on September 3.”
He has a had a direct hand in selecting this group of players and has had the added luxury of having most of them in town since Memorial Day, a nice little 10-day spring training of their own.
“I spent a great deal of time talking to coaches and players themselves about coming to play here in Torrington this season,” McNamara said. “I wanted kids coaches told me where good people as much as they were good players. I tried to get a feel for what kind of kids they were when I talked with them as well.”
One of McNamara’s objectives was to fill his roster with local players and with 23 of 31 hailing from Torrington, one could say he succeeded.
“Being from New York myself, I understand that players that go to school in New England, and New York, don’t get looked at as much as players from other parts of the country,” McNamara said. “My job is to get them as many good looks this summer as I can.”
Seven Titans have been drafted since the league opened their doors in 2011, three in 2013, three in 2012 and one in 2011.
Local star Conor Bierfeldt attended a Division III school in Danbury (Western Connecticut) but was drafted after having a stellar year for the Titans in 2012.
He currently is playing for the Delmarva Shorebirds, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles in the Class A South Atlantic League.
Joey Abis takes over for Ed Gadomski in the role of General Manager after the Tri-State Commissioner held the job for one season.
Abis worked with FCBL Commissioner Chris Hall since the league began in 2011 and was in Torrington last season helping out as he could.
The 10 days McNamara has had is certainly unique but something he wanted to do from the start, get to know his players over time and making it a true spring training kind of environment.
“It gave them all a chance to develop some team chemistry,” McNamara said. “I can’t stress enough how important that is to a team. I like what I see so far. It also gave them a chance to show me their ability over time.”
The Titans new head man had a goal in mind when the players came to town as well.
“We are treating this like a pro-team without the paychecks,” McNamara said. “I want them to get a good feel for how life is when you do this for a living.”
In the league’s first three seasons, the Nashua Silver Knights won the first two championships, a season ago, the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks were the last team standing.
This year with 10 teams, the FCBL has spilt into two divisions, an East and a west. Torrington will play in the east with Nashua, Pittsfield, Wachusett and the Bravehearts.
The West will consist of Brockton, Martha’s Vineyard, Seacoast, Old Orchard Beach and North Shore.
McNamara feels good about what he is stepping into as well.
“I am extremely lucky to have landed where I did,” McNamara said. “To be managing in the same park where Gregg Hunt managed for so long. He had four first rounder’s come off his teams. Fuessenich Park is a tremendous place to play ball. There is so much history here.”
As for the team the Titans will put on the field it starts with a returning pitcher who will be on the bump tonight and had his own history making game last June.
Mike Gibbons (junior, Wheaton College) pitched a seven inning no-hitter in the first game of a double header on June 28 against Seacoast and was the team’s workhorse, logging 56 a year ago.
The arms don’t drop off much in the number two slot either with freshman Brett Susi (CCSU) penned in for the Thursday start against the Brockton Rox.
“His stuff is just nasty,” McNamara said. “Zachary LaRosa (freshman, Assumption College), Mike Bonaiuto (freshman, Fairfield) and Joe Borelli (junior, Fairleigh Dickson) all has tremendous stuff.”
Bates College sophomore, Samuel Warren seems to have the inside track on the closers job but much of what happens over the first two weeks will determine who fits in where.
At the plate, things heat up when you talk about a local player who is simply getting better each summer, Michael Odenwaelder.
The Goshen native and former Wamogo star destroyed opposition pitching this spring at Amherst and managed to throw a couple great games to boot.
Odenwaelder was durable a year ago, appearing in a team high 50 games while leading the team with five home runs and 31 driven in. The big righty will be the Designated Hitter and bat cleanup on opening night.
UConn freshman Taylor Olmstead was drafted out of Greenwich High School by the Texas Rangers in the 13th round and will be batting in the third spot while playing right field.
Chris Scura, a junior at Limestone College, will be leading off after showing considerable pop in the pre-season while roaming around the short porch in left field.
It’s a very important year for the Torrington franchise. They are looking for a fresh start and it all starts tonight.
The starting line-up for Wednesday night.
Chris Scura LF, Jack St Clair 3B, Olmstead RF, Odenwaelder DH, Samuel Warren CF, Kyle Decker 2B, Zach Brown 1B, Matthew Batten SS, Timothy Budd C and Gibbons pitching.