NEW BRITAIN - When Ray Ricker put in a phone call to New Britain Bees general manager Brad Smith last Thursday, the head coach at Post University was only looking for a place for some of his college players to get in more work over the summer.
Having heard about the Bees’ move to the Futures League, Ricker was hoping that the Bees could use some of his players from Post, which had engaged in discussions with the Bees before last season to organize an exhibition game.
Before the phone call ended, Smith casually mentioned to Ricker that the Bees were still searching for a new manager, and if Ricker had any recommendations.
“I told him ‘Well, I’m interested,’” Ricker said. “I went down there the next day and interviewed with Brad and talked about what I thought of summer baseball and what my philosophy was.”
The Bees liked what they heard. Just days after the unexpected opportunity, Ricker was offered the job on Monday and officially announced as the team’s manager Wednesday morning.
Ricker, who has coaching experience in other collegiate summer league teams such as the NECBL, the ABCCL in New Jersey and the Cape Cod League, was as unexpected as he was qualified when he offered himself as a candidate to Smith.
“We had about 10 resumes and another five or so references from people around the league, but Ray really stuck out,” Smith said. “He’s done a great job at Post and has done a great job in the college world.”
Ricker’s collegiate ties were one of the biggest draws for the Bees, who are admittedly slightly behind in constructing their roster for the 2020 season, but now have a local leader in Ricker, a Bristol resident and Torrington native who has been involved in the industry since his own collegiate days when he played for the University of Bridgeport and eventually Albertus Magnus College.
He’s now in his third season as the head coach at Post, and has already guided the program to the most conference wins in its history within the CACC, and also coached the team’s first-ever MLB Draft pick in Mike Costello, a pitcher who was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in 2015.
“I’m pretty familiar with the landscape of summer collegiate baseball,” Ricker said. “And with my connections in Division I, Division II and Division III baseball, I think I can put together a pretty good roster and know what college players want out of the summer.”
Ricker brings in much-needed experience at the collegiate level to a Bees franchise that has been operating within the Atlantic League since its birth in 2015, and the front office plans to follow his lead when it comes to putting together their squad for the 2020 season.
“That was probably the most important part of it,” Smith said. “These kids play a long season with their college teams, so when they get here, they’re pretty well-versed in the fundamentals of the game. So while it’s important for Ray to manage the game … recruiting is essential to this coaching job. We want to assemble a quality team. We’re well-versed on the business side, but I can tell you that I don’t know much about recruiting college kids, so Ray will be a perfect fit.”
Ricker already feels like he has a head start in that area. A resident of Bristol for the past three years, Ricker spent a lot of time at Muzzy Field watching his Post players compete for the Bristol Blues, who were managed by Post’s Athletic Director Ronnie Palmer. Last year, he watched Palmer lead the Blues to an appearance in the Futures League Championship Series.
Ricker has seen how the Futures League works and other collegiate leagues in the area, and is confident in building a competitor in New Britain, even with a slight time crunch given the Bees’ late entry to the league. It will be a new era of baseball in the Hardware City, though one Ricker believes will be successful if baseball fans in the area give it a chance.
“You’re going to see the future stars of tomorrow before they make it big,” Ricker explained. “I think it’s going to be great for the fans and everybody following along to watch their favorite players in the summer and follow them over their career and hopefully to the big leagues one day. It’s more of an intimate setting where you get to know these players. They’ll be looking forward to signing autographs and meeting fans in the community. It’s going to be a new era for everybody.”