TORRINGTON – Maurilio Gregori.
Name is a little vague or flat out non-existent in the old memory bank? Understandable. You have to fire up the way-back machine back into the last century to attach some sporting significance to Mr. Gregori.
We will save you the trip. Maurilio Gregori helped start the Torrington High soccer program and was its last coach prior to the pitch being watched by the Fritch family. Michael J. Fritch took over from Gregori in the fall of 1979. Jimmy Carter was nearing the end of his presidency and ‘My Sharona’ by The Knack and ‘Bad Girls’ from Donna Summer were rocking the charts.
After 31 years and 299 wins, Michael C. Fritch took over for dad in 2010 and carried on the tradition through the 2022 season. So while you are boogying on down think about that – 44 years of the Fritch family on the soccer sidelines. These guys have seen enough balls booted to fill up Yale Bowl.
What started so long ago and seemingly was heading into the 22nd century has now ended. Fritch the Younger decided earlier this year that it was time to watch his daughters do their thing with the Torrington girls soccer team.
Enter Jason Apruzzese who played for Fritch the Elder, and coached with Fritch the Younger. No blood line here but certainly long lasting connections. Welcome the new and appreciate the era that has come to a close.
“When I got hired Charlie Duggan told people to hire me because I was good disciplinarian. It was supposed to be one year,” Mike Sr. said. “Look what happens. My kids came along and were ball boys and morphed into the program. But things have to pass it is inevitable. You can’t go on forever. My son wants to watch his kids play, I get it. Back in my day the kids played on off-days. Now everything is on the same day.”
Coaching tenures and eras are marked by a myriad of measurements. Longevity is one. Father and son Fritch registered nearly a half century of commitment. Working with young players is both a joy and a challenge. To do it through different eras where styles, habits and generational differences need to be absorbed is admirable. Mission accomplished here.
But the two coaches of the same blood line just didn’t combine to establish a lengthy tenure. There is so much more here than just time. There has been a large measure of success to go with the time.
The Fritch Era has accounted for more than 420 wins and seen the Raiders rise from a fledgling program just five-years old when Fritch the Elder took over to one of the Naugatuck Valley League’s ruling elite that has included along the way Naugatuck, Seymour, Watertown and Holy Cross.
Michael J. turned the program over to Michael C. after a state semifinal appearance. Fritch the Younger took the ball and kept kicking it down the field. In one three-year stretch (2012-2014), the Raiders posted a 47-13-2 and there were three NVL championship game appearances. You always knew Torrington was in the house.
Michael J. studied up on the game to be astute at it. He read, he went to clinics, he learned. Michael C. was weaned on soccer. Ball boy, outstanding high school and college player at Eastern Connecticut, some training in the coaching department from dad and the handoff to the head coaching job was seamless.
Styles were different, results the same – successful. Approaches were different.
“Both are grumpy with love,” said long-time Torrington Athletic Director and friend Mike McKenna with a laugh.” Both have always done the right thing and always have gone above and beyond what needed to be done. If a kid called and was in the middle of the road at midnight. They would both come running. They have been in it for all the right reasons.”
Fritch the Elder has been the mercurial one. Mount Vesuvius ready to go off at any moment. Fritch the Younger is more measured, he’ll go off when needed but it is a well thought out slicing and dicing.
“I bring passion and being fiery, although not in a negative respect,” said Mike Sr. upon handing over the coaching reigns 2010. “(Mike C.) is more laid back but I’ve seen him in situations where he can show he is in charge. “
A form of fire and ice that has more than gotten the job done.
The Fritch Era has also been marked by a quality every school would throw a party for – continuity.
“Many schools would be happy to keep a coach for four years. In 45 years Jason Apruzzese is only our fourth coach,” McKenna said. “To have the continuity the Fritches have provided is a great thing. We have known what we are getting every year, warts and the great things.”
Apruzzese enters the picture as a known quantity through his previous connections to the Fritch duo and Torrington’s boys soccer future continues to look bright. The table has been set. He will add his own touches as it should be and push on.
In the meantime, take a moment to salute the 44 years of Michael C. and Michael J. Fritch. They made Torrington proud. They built and nourished a program complete with character and wins. Players became better both on and off the field.
The now will be different in some respects. The past will be rightfully remembered. Almost half a century of success with any measuring stick you want to use.