BRISTOL - The offense struggled through much of the first half of the season for the Bristol Blues, but the organization brought in a Bristol native to hopefully give the hitters a boost. Bristol Eastern graduate Jim Deschaine was recently hired by the Blues to be the team’s new hitting coach.
“I’m really happy to be here,” Deschaine said. “[General manager] Rick [Muntean] and [owner] Elliot [Scheiner] and [manager] Pat [Riley] and [pitching coach] Jordie [Scheiner] have been really welcoming and I’m really happy to be working with the guys and getting to know everybody.”
Deschaine graduated from Bristol Eastern in 1996 and, while he was there and was a part of the Bristol 1994 American Legion state championship team. After graduating, he went on to Brandeis University, where he played baseball for three years before being drafted in the 1999 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Chicago Cubs in the 10th round (320th overall).
He left Brandeis and had a seven-year career, playing in the minor leagues for three different organizations. He played three seasons for minor league affiliates of the Chicago Cubs, including the Triple-A affiliate Iowa Cubs, the highest level he reached. He also played two and a half seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies organization and another season and a half in the Toronto Blue Jays system.
Now he’s back home and coaching a Blues team that could really use help on offense. The Blues rank last in the FCBL in batting average, hits, runs and runs batted in. But, since coming on in late June, some of the Blues batters have already shown improvement.
“We got a new hitting coach with Jim and he’s awesome,” Blues outfielder Lorenzo Arcuri said. “I think he’s really gotten to the hitters. I really think it’s going to be great for us.”
The player who has shown the biggest resurgence under Deschaine has been outfielder Frankie Gregoire. Since Deschaine joined the team, Gregoire has 12 hits in eight games. In addition to Gregoire, infielder Zach Scott has nine hits in six games and Arcuri has six in six.
“He’s extremely knowledgeable and I think the reason why he’s brought so much success to us as of late, with our bats especially, is because [of] the way he can explain it to us,” Scott said. “He gets it across to us and helps us understand as he’s teaching us and he talks to us and he makes it very easy for us to see and understand what he wants us to do.
“I think that’s one of the major keys about him. He’s so approachable and he’s so knowledgeable. Any questions you have, anything you’re worried about with your swing, anything like that, he’ll help you. He knows what he’s talking about and he takes his time to make sure that you are really understanding what he’s trying to get at.”
Deschaine has made just as much of an impression on the Blues manager as he has on the players so far.
“Jim has been awesome,” Riley said. “I can’t thank him enough for joining us. The guys really love being around him. They ask him questions [and] they’re always picking his brain. He knows a lot about hitting. He’s a guy who’s been around the game for a long time, played at a very high level, can offer a lot of different expertise and it’s been really, truly a blessing that he’s come along and I’m very thankful for that.”
While Riley and the players give him a lot of credit for the success since he came aboard, Deschaine deflects it right back to the players.
“Those players are super, super talented all on their own,” he said. “Anything that I’ve done is very small compared to the work that they’ve already done in preparation for what they’ve heard from me. A tidbit here, a tidbit there is minimal compared to the extreme effort that they’ve put in prior to meeting me. I’m happy to help a little bit but their efforts are paramount.”
With his deep roots in Bristol baseball, Deschaine is happy to be back in his hometown and going to work as a ballpark that holds a special place in his heart as well helping improve the community’s team.
“It’s really, really great to be back here at Muzzy Field,” Deschaine said. “I had a lot of great memories playing here at Muzzy Field for the American Legion Post so, [with] all the community members that helped me in my career, I wanted to do something for the community and give back.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or jkestenbaum@ centralctcommunications.com