BERLIN - Mauro Gozzo grew up playing baseball in Berlin, starred for the Redcoatsā high school team and now, heās looking forward to beginning his professional managerial career so close to home.
Surrounded by faculty, coaches and members of the Berlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame Tuesday afternoon, the New Britain Bees manager spoke about building excitement between the Atlantic League team and the town, the quality of players the franchise has brought in and what the former Redcoat wants to accomplish.
āI think itās great,ā Gozzo said. āIāve been in baseball my whole life and I always wanted to get back into the professional game and now that my boys are off playing their college baseball and all that, itās time for me to get back into the game and what better place for me to start then right here at home.ā
It will certainly be an interesting season for the former Major League pitcher.
Heās still in the process of building his roster for the upcoming year, one that he hopes will lead to the franchiseās first playoff appearance, and will have to deal with the Atlantic Leagueās new rules following its partnership with Major League Baseball.
The Bees already have eight players signed with MLB experience, but the new manger also knows it comes down to execution and production.
āI want to see us create runs,ā Gozzo said. āI think last year, we got into a situation where we waited on the long ball too much. I think one of the things Iām going to instill from Day 1 is, āletās make the right type of out. Letās move the runner over when we need to, get that run in, get that conscious effort to get runners moved into scoring position. Letās have a quality at-bat and letās pick up our players when they make mistakes.āā
Last season, New Britain ranked sixth in runs scored with 552 and sixth in OPS at .716. The leagueās new rules might also affect those numbers.
Computers will be used to help home plate umpires for ball/strike calls by a TrackMan radar tracking system, bases will be enlarged by three inches to 18 and while the distance between the pitching rubber to home plate will be extended from 60 feet, 6 inches to 62 feet, 6 inches in the second half of the season, beginning July 12.
In addition, no mound visits will be permitted by players or coaches, other than for pitching changes or medical issues, and pitchers must face a minimum of three batters or reach the end of an inning before they can exit the game. The Atlantic League will also require two infielders be on each side of second base when a pitch is released.
āI think [the rules] are going to be fine,ā Gozzo said. āThe guys are professionals. I think itās going to be interesting having the strikes consistent in all eight ballparks because you could go into one city have the home umpire. I like that about the TrackMan stuff. The bases, I donāt think thereā going to be a big difference. If it speeds up the game or provides more action for the game, thatās great. But the one main one Iām concerned with is the mound visits. I think we need to go out there and talk to some of the pitchers at times. They need that. Last year it was three visits. This year itās none. The mound moving back, that is what it is, weāll see how that goes. But I think that could work on both ends. For the fastballs, it will help the hitters and for the breaking, offspeed pitches, I think that will help the pitchers.ā
But Gozzo and the organization believe the league is ready to take on those challenges and as Gozzo looks to build a winning culture in New Britain, he also knows is good to be back home.
āIām excited,ā Gozzo said as he headed off to Sage Park to talk to the Berlin baseball team. āI canāt be more excited. I think with the roster weāre constructing, with the pitchers we have and the mixture of veterans and the young guys weāre bringing in, weāre going to be competitive and should be able to compete at a high level.ā
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org