NEW BRITAIN - After offering his assessment on his New Britain Bees through the first half of the season, the time came for manager Mauro Gozzo to fill out a report card for himself.
The first-year skipper had just completed his first run to the All-Star break with the Bees, and while he remains optimistic about where the team can go in his first season at the helm, he has yet to let go of a handful of games that could have left him feeling much better about his first months as manager.
“I’ll get a little specific with where I think we should have been and where we are now,” Gozzo began.
“I still think that we let go of eight to nine games from the seventh inning on that irk me and make me think ‘Wow, where could we have been?’”
Then quickly, as always, Gozzo took a look at the other side of the coin, as he continued to see everything from both sides, as he has done since his first game as the Bees’ manager.
“But we also could have lost the Amarista’s earlier in the year,” Gozzo said, noting the loss of infielder Alexi Amarista, who led the club in home runs before he left to be with his family. “We could have been in the same boat.”
There are a lot of ‘what-ifs’ to ponder for Gozzo and the Bees.
A 10-game winning streak earlier in the season helped cover up a slow start and vault the club back into the playoff race; but success brought consequences, as valuable contributors began to be plucked by affiliated teams, sending the team back into mediocrity.
The end result was a 35-34 record at the All-Star break, one that would have put them in the playoffs had they been a part of the Freedom Division, but in the unforgiving confines of the Liberty Division, the reward was last place.
Still, Gozzo didn’t look at the final outcome when evaluating his first experiences as a manager of a professional ballclub.
A manager wants to coach players who want to play for him, and that’s precisely what he experienced through the first half of the season, even down the stretch when contributors departed and losses accumulated.
“The exciting thing about the Bees is that I think we have a good core of players who understand what this is all about and work hard every day,” Gozzo said. “(On Friday), we were down seven or eight runs and kept fighting to almost make a game of it. It’s a never-quit attitude.”
For Gozzo, it’s enough to keep his coaching flame burning, but it doesn’t settle the thoughts of what was missed, or what he could have done differently to put the Bees in a better position to clinch their first-ever postseason berth.
“I’m proud from that aspect, but of course I want to be greedy as a manager and say that we should have won more games than we did,” Gozzo said.
The first half didn’t end how he wanted, but in his first taste of leading the Bees, Gozzo gained what he thought to be valuable lessons and plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the future.
“Overall, I’m pleased with the state of the organization as far as the type of players we’ve brought in, what we’ve shown the crowd and what we’ve shown the community,” Gozzo said. “I’m pleased with that.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org