BRISTOL - His name does not show up in the box score every night but Bristol Blues manager Pat Riley has just as much of an impact on his team’s games as his players.
“I think he’s a good baseball guy,” Blues general manager Rick Muntean said. “He knows the game [and] he’s got a good sense of the bullpen, which is big.”
Riley has led the Blues since late last season when his predecessor, Barry Lyons, was relieved of his managerial duties and Riley was promoted. He helped the Blues put up a 6-2 record in the final eight regular season game, outscoring their opponents 41-26 in that span. Then, under his leadership, the Blues reached the FCBL championship series, where they fell in Game 3 to the Worcester Bravehearts.
This season has not been as easy for Riley and the Blues, though. The roster has suffered a staggering amount of turnover but Riley has soldiered through it for the sake of his team.
“The lineups have been changing,” he said. “It’s been tough. We really want guys to step into a spot and run with it. A few guys have and a lot of guys haven’t yet so we’re still waiting for that consistency. We’re still waiting for guys to kind of catch fire a little bit. There’s been a lot of tweaks in our lineup, maybe too many. But we’re just trying to find out what gives us the best chance to win.”
Riley’s ability to stay calm while losing players has impressed his general manager.
“I don’t know how many guys could’ve adjusted like he has with the amount of turnover he’s had,” Muntean said. “It’s been almost mid-boggling this year the amount of turnover we’ve had. Nothing ever fazes him. He says, ‘We’ll figure it out. We’ll figure it out.’ [He’s a] very calming influence in there, which is not always the case.”
Despite the amount of players he has lost and the Blues hovering around .500, Riley has still had plenty of fun so far this season and has been impressed with the players he’s had.
“I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been great,” he said. “We’ve got a good group. A lot of our people who follow us, they see what we do on the field but we’ve got a lot of hard workers and a lot of guys who come in and get their work in before we start batting practice.”
In addition to his experience in Bristol last summer, Riley also coaches at The College of St. Joseph, where he was the pitching and strength and conditioning coach this past season. The combination of his two positions has helped him manage this season’s team.
“I’ve been a pitching guy first,” Riley said. “I was with this organization last year so that obviously helped out a lot, in terms of me stepping into the manager position. Obviously, past experience is always going to help you and mine certainly has helped.”
According to Muntean, Riley’s ability to communicate also allows him to excel as a manager.
“[Pat is] a great communicator, obviously,” Muntean said. “He’s got a master’s degree so he’s a pretty sharp guy. And he’s not afraid to look you in the eye and tell you what’s going on. That is a big thing. There’s nothing worse than getting to this point in the year and you’ve got a manager that is above it all. I’ve had those before and it makes for a real rough end to the season. He’s been great.”
The Blues have struggled to find consistent offense this season and that has resulted in inconsistent winning but Riley is determined to find the solution and get the Blues ready for the postseason.
“Between myself and other coaches, we’ve got to figure it out,” he said. “We’ve got to get to the drawing board a little bit more and figure out what we need to do to help this team reach its potential. That’s what it comes down to.”
With just under a full year of managing the Blues under his belt, Riley has endeared himself to the Blues players, fans and management.
“I would recommend Pat to anybody,” Muntean said. “I hope he stays but I’d recommend him to anybody.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com