Titans Notebook: A mix of familiar faces and new blood as 2015 FCBL season approaches on Thursday, June 4.
Torrington Titans manager Dan McNamara talks with LCS writer John Nestor on Wednesday during the teams Media Day. McNamara is back for his second year at the helm.
TORRINGTON - Back for his second season as coach of the Torrington Titans, Dan McNamara is looking for one thing. A championship.
After falling short in the 2014 Futures Collegiate League playoffs, McNamara made his mind up to return to Torrington and try and lead the team a little further.
"I knew I was going to do it right after we lost to Martha's Vineyard in the playoffs because I felt like there was some unfinished business," McNamara said. "We had a squad that could have taken the whole thing last year. It didn't work out for us last year so I wanted to come back and bring this town a championship."
McNamara and the Titans open the 2015 FCBL season on June 4 at home against the Pittsfield Suns and will play 56 games between then an August 9. That kind of grind will be new to some of the players but they will have a coach who has been through it before, both last season with the Titans and as a pro.
McNamara played at various professional levels around the country and went to Spring Training with the Washington Nationals in 2012. He finished up his pro career with the Newark Bears of the Can-Am League that year.
"The FCBL grind is something that doesn't bother me coming from pro ball," said McNamara. "Right now is the hard part, trying to mesh everyone together as a team. We know everyone is good, we know everyone can play, it's just a matter of getting them to be one cohesive unit."
The Titans started working out as a team on Sunday. Like last season, the Titans will have about 10 days together as a "training camp" before the regular season opener. It's a good time for the players to build camaraderie considering they play all over the map and it gives time for McNamara and the coaching staff to see what they have to work with.
"First and foremost we have a top-notch character team, top-notch people playing really good baseball and that's my favorite part so far," McNamara said. "We have some guys that have shown some pop in their bats and our pitchers have shown good velocity in their throwing sessions so I'm excited to get going."
DECKER BACK FOR MORE: After three years as a Titans player, Kyle Decker will be back in a Titans uniform in 2015 only this time it will be as a coach.
Decker is coming off a trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs at Oberlin College and still harbors hopes of playing professionally. While he looks to recover from a shoulder injury he suffered during the season, Decker will get a jump on another of his aspirations, becoming a coach.
"Coaching is something I want to get into. My dad is a coach and I come from a baseball family and it's definitely where I see my career going," Decker said. "I'm going to rehab all summer and try and get back into it next season."
Having been through the grind of an FCBL season as a player for three years, Decker will offer a unique perspective as a member of the staff. He's just 22-years-old and can relate to the players on that level as well, it also means he still has things to learn about the game from a coaching perspective.
"There is something that I can give the team in terms of playing here and I know what it's like to grind all summer," Decker said. "I can offer things because I have a knowledge of the game but I also have a lot to learn, that's another reason why I am here."
BROTHERS SUSI - One night this summer Torrington Titans pitcher Brett Susi may get to throw some pitches to a familiar face, his brother Zac.
Brett is back for another season on the mound for the Titans after pitching for the team in 2014. Zac is a senior at Southington High School and is finishing up his senior season before heading to UConn in the fall.
With the couple years difference between them, Brett didn't get to throw to Zac very often. In fact he recalled just one game when they made up the Blue Knights' batter but it was a special occasion.
"It was senior night and I was pitching and our senior catcher caught the first six innings," Brett said. "My brother was a sophomore and they put him in to close it out when they realized it was his last chance to catch me. It was a pretty cool moment."
Brett Susi is coming off a successful sophomore season at Central Connecticut in which he earned Second-Team All-Northeast Conference honors. He appeared in 12 games, including eight starts, and went 4-2 with an ERA of 3.53 and a pair of complete games.
"I started out in the pen and got in the rotation after a couple of injuries and took off from there," Susi said. "My goal was always to start. I was excited when it happened and it was a great opportunity. Now I am looking to continue everything I did in the spring."
Susi throws a fastball and a curveball and has developed a changeup to go along with it. The changeup is something he's still working on and he'll approach the upcoming season as a way to get better in other areas as well.
"I just want to work on little mechanics things here and there, arm strength and you always want to increase velocity when you can," Susi said. "I'm just trying to keep improving all around."
READY TO GO: UConn's Nick Lamberti just finished his freshman year in Storrs. The former three-time all-state star at East Haven High redshirted this season and is ready to get back into game action after watching an improved Huskies squad win 35 games this season.
"I learned a lot from the guys, we had a good group of juniors and seniors and Coach Penders is a great coach," Lamberti said. "We had great chemistry this season. Working out since the fall, I had a blast."
Lamberti may not have seen any game action this season but there was plenty to take in. Lamberti worked out with the team all season, traveled with the team and just kept working each day.
"The biggest thing is learning from the guy in front of you, we had so many good guys on the team," Lamberti said. "A guy like Vinny Siena, was among the leaders in the country in hits and his attitude on and off the field was amazing."
Lamberti now wants to take what he learned from the Huskies and put it into action with the Titans. A second baseman and outfielder, he just wants a chance to contribute and work.
"We all want the same thing, we want to get drafted." Lamberti said. "I want to get my swings in and work hard and do what I can to help the team. The guys are great and it's about having a good summer and trying to win a championship."
NOTES: The Titans play three of their first four games at home and their first two road games are against the Pittsfield Suns. ... Former Titan and Columbia outfielder Gus Craig was recently named Ivy League Player of the Year. Craig shared the honor with Penn catcher Austin Bossart after hitting .327 with seven home runs and 31 RBI. He added 13 doubles, four triples and scored 37 runs, which tied for the league lead. ... The Titans roster as it stands now features 21 players from Connecticut. Central Connecticut State University is the most represented college with four players.