BRISTOL - The ebbs and flows of the 2019 season seem to have leveled off for the Bristol Blues, as a rocky start to the season - which included a very brief last-place spot in the FCBL standings and a fleeting feeling they may be the league’s lone team to not reach the playoffs - has settled down.
The Blues hold a 19-18 record heading into the All-Star break Monday through Wednesday.
“The guys have been consistent,” Blues manager Ronnie Palmer said. “They’ve brought a consistent attitude to the field, and they continuously go about the game the right way. I hope the best baseball is ahead of us this last part of the season after this weekend and the All-Star break.”
Bristol sits in fifth place, 2 1/2 games behind the North Shore Navigators after a loss via home run derby to the Navigators on Sunday evening, and it opens up the second half of the season with a three-game home stretch Thursday-Saturday and six of its first seven games out of the break will come at Muzzy Field.
Win or lose in throughout those six games, fans at Muzzy will be able to see what has been one of the keys to the turnaround from a 5-10 start into a seven-game win streak and a day spent tied for first in the FCBL standings … a full roster.
“We got off to a slow start, but a couple of those games we lost by a run here and there, and then you fill in guys that are showing up a little bit later than other guys because of academic commitments and what they’re doing for their college programs,” Palmer said. “You get the entire roster, and they start to jell together.”
Position players such as Sam Loda and All-Stars Buddy Dewaine, Parker Upton and Brandon Miller, and pitchers Matt Shane and Cam Van Hoorebeke all arrived late to the club, but once everyone got comfortable, the Blues started rolling.
“They’ve gotta get a feel for each other and how they go about things every day and how their pregame routine is and things of that nature,” Palmer said. “They’ve kind of settled in.”
The win streak is when the team began to truly feel relaxed, as the victories piled up one after another.
“Obviously, after a win there’s kind of a feel-good atmosphere on the bus, but after a loss, it’s not really like we’re down in the dumps or anything because they realize that tomorrow’s another day,” Palmer said. “When you start winning, obviously, that’s good for the soul. It makes people feel good, and you have a good vibe and hop in your step every day coming to the ballpark.”
That streak helped to make any ensuing losses a bit easier to take.
“You pick up a couple Ws, and it’s just kind of contagious,” Palmer said. “It feels good, and when you get on a little streak like we did, and then you lose a game, it doesn’t sit on you as heavy as when you lose four or five in a row and you’re off to a slow start. When we lose a game now it’s, ‘So what? We’ve got tomorrow.’”
As far as on-field changes go, the Blues began doing the simple things better. Pitching and defense, Palmer says, are the keys to winning. His club wasn’t playing clean baseball, walking too many hitters and committing too many errors.
But another critical difference has been the stronger mentality. Dewaine, a CCSU junior who helped lead the Blue Devils to their first NCAA Tournament win in the spring, said earlier in the year, CCSU had been feeling too good after a win and too bad after a loss. Once the team started leveling out its emotions, that’s when it started playing its best ball.
That’s a similar scenario that Palmer believes had the Blues starting to match their potential.
“It can’t be a roller coaster. You can’t go up and down emotionally,” Palmer said. “You’ve got to stay even-keeled and stable, and I think the guys do that. They show up with a good attitude and mentality every day. … They’ve just gotta get each other going because this is more of a grind and a demand than their college season is.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org