FCIAC baseball, softball coaches, players gather to share, scout
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, baseball and softball coaches and captains from around the FCIAC met at Bobby Valentine's Sports Academy in Stamford to enjoy some good food and good company, setting aside their rivalries and competitive natures, if just for a couple of hours.
Representatives from the conference enjoyed a buffet, a little fraternization and some college basketball at the Ruden Report's first FCIAC Baseball and Softball Media Day as the spring sports season approaches for Connecticut high schools.
"It's fun," Staples baseball coach Jack McFarland said of the event. "We're a competitive group, there's no question, but it's fun to come out here and talk to the guys and figure out you're all in the same boat; it's great to come out and see all the guys in this kind of setting."
Players and coaches alike had the opportunity to meet, talk and even do a little scouting before the real competition begins.
"It's great," Westhill captain and pitcher/outfielder Luke Dawson said. "You can take a look at who you're going to go up against and you can talk to them, get to know other people, it's a great thing."
The competition will be relentless this season from top to bottom, McFarland said every game will be a "dog fight" and the other members of the conference were quick to agree.
"You see a lot of kids who have been playing on varsity since they were sophomores," Dawson said. "So it shows everyone has a lot of experience and depth on their teams."
New Canaan softball coach Danielle Simoneau is returning much of her team from last year, with two exceptions, and said her team is working on meshing heading into the season.
"We're working on team chemistry, communication," Simoneau said. "We need the team to gel very well together, it's a very young team. We have two seniors and one junior so just working on maturity; ability wise they're good but we all know once you get on that field it doesn't matter how skilled you are if you don't have the mental part."
Of those two starters missing one is pitcher, where captain Jamie Schlim will take over. Schlim got a taste of pitching last year but will be the lone option on the mound, as even the emergency backup is a freshman with no high school experience.
"I think I'll like it and it'll be in the back of my mind that I have to complete the job," Schlim said of being the all-or-nothing option. "Which I think will make me work harder and improve my game, I look at it as a positive."
Darien baseball coach Mike Scott said he expects much more talk about his squad, which put together an impressive 2014 despite its youth and looks to come out and show that the experience has just made the team more desperate for results.
"Last year nobody was talking about Darien baseball and they went out and had a very good season," Scott said. "This year they're going to be talking about them, so I think it's about taking those expectations and embracing them but staying hungry; I think the guys have it in their mind that they want something more."
Not everyone at the event has championship aspirations however, Greenwich softball is coming off a very successful year but graduated nine seniors, seven of whom were starters.
"I lost the whole team," coach Mary Beth Fratello said. "We're going to have a lot of young kids playing this year, not a lot of varsity games played, but the key is a lot of the girls play in the summer so they have some experience. I'd say it's more of a rebuilding year."
The baseball coaches at the gathering know that their teams must be at their best to win in such a strong conference.
"There's so much parity in the conference, I don't think there's any other sport that competes at the level from team one to team 17 that baseball does," Scott said. "Any given day you can be beaten by anybody that shows up to the field. There's no off days, the depth of talent in this league is very high, you have to show up every day and bring your A game."