BRISTOL - Amidst some early-season struggles, the Bristol Blues have added a player who should be able to contribute both in the field and at the plate.
Catcher Chris Villa is the newest member of Bristol’s FCBL team, having recently been picked up by the Blues after spending the beginning of the season with the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs.
“I was excited about it,” Villa said about how he felt when he got the call. “Muzzy’s a great place [with] a lot of fans and the Blues are a great team.”
The Blues brought on Villa due to an injury that shrunk the catching staff down to just two catchers.
“We needed a catcher,” Riley said. “Matt Iantosca’s kind of banged up at the moment and we really needed to bring in another catcher, a third catcher, especially with the amount of games we play.”
While the injury was a driving factor behind acquiring Villa, the fact that Iantosca’s recovery schedule is up in the air made it necessary.
“We’re not sure exactly how long he’s going to be out for,” Riley said, “so that’s kind of where that came from.”
The Dirt Dawgs became the team the Blues turned to because of their wealth of talent. Before Villa went to Bristol, Wachusett had four catchers on the roster so they could afford to spare one.
“They had plenty of catchers,” Riley said. “[And we] had a roster spot available for [Villa].”
Villa brings with him plenty of talent and in-game ability, both on offense and defense, which the Blues could really use at this point in the season. The Blues have posted a 5-7 record since starting the season 4-0 and have slipped into second place in the West Division.
“I’m solid behind the dish, continue to throw out guys, call a good game and get some timely hits,” Villa said.
In three games with the Dirt Dawgs, Villa posted a .273 batting average, which would rank him seventh on the Blues and above all three catchers that have suited up for Bristol this summer. Two of his three hits for Wachusett came in one game and included a double. The Blues have been short on extra-base hits so far this season so Villa could be valuable to Bristol on offense.
Through two games with the Blues, Villa has not recorded a hit in his first four at-bats but Riley is confident his bat will heat up soon.
“I think he’s got a little pop in his bat too,” Riley said. “We haven’t seen it for the first two games but I think there’s some potential there.”
While Villa’s offense has not showed itself since the change of scenery, his abilities behind the plate have made an impression on his new manager.
“He’s done a good job. I like him,” Riley said. “He’s got a pretty good arm, he blocks the ball well and he’s called a pretty good game the two times out.”
Players moving between FCBL teams is not terribly common so this will be an interesting transition for Villa, but the Blues are prepared to give him time to adjust which, according to Riley, he already has.
“Obviously, he’s coming from Wachusett so that’s kind of a unique situation, especially for a college kid to experience,” Riley said. “But he’s done a good job adjusting to it, getting to learn our pitchers and that’s his top priority and he understands that.”
In his short time with the team, it is already apparent Villa is ready to be a part of the Blues squad.
“He’s excited to be here,” Riley said. “He’s very thankful for the opportunity.”
Even though it will definitely be a challenge, Villa feels he is up to the task of helping shoulder the catching responsibilities and already has high aspirations for his new team.
“It’s a great environment to be in and I’m looking to win the first championship,” he said.
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or jkestenbaum@ centralctcommunications.com