BRISTOL - The season for the Bristol Blues may have come to an end short of a championship, but there was still a sense of pride as the team walked off Muzzy Field for the final time of the summer Wednesday night.
The Blues finished third in the Future’s League standings and finished with 30 wins on the season despite having a young roster with little-to-no experience in college baseball. Yet for Blues manager Ronnie Palmer, he couldn’t have asked for a better group of players.
“These guys fought hard all season long and grinded through a long season,” Palmer said. “These kids go through so much with the college season and then summer ball. To see them grind and continue to come to the park everyday - that’s all you can ever ask for.”
The team’s fight was evident in their ability to win close games. Including the postseason, the Blues went 24-13 in games decided by three runs or less this season.
“I think it’s because a lot of our players come from extremely successful programs,” Palmer said. “They’re used to winning games and that winning attitude is contagious. The players knew we came in with a plan and they just trusted the process.”
Although there were ups and downs along the way early in the summer, infielder Justyn-Henry Malloy said the turning point in Bristol’s season was a team meeting in early July when the team was struggling. Palmer put the players on notice, which Malloy believes proved Palmer’s ability as a coach.
“If I was to put it into one word, it’s ‘awesome,’” Malloy said of playing for Palmer. “Their demeanor and how they go about business [as a coaching staff], it’s a very laid-back attitude, because they know we’re coming from a long [college season] and then coming into another long season [with the Blues]. But Coach Palmer called us out midway through the season and it really made us check ourselves. After that, we got hot. He deserves a lot of credit for our success this season.”
But as Palmer has preached all season, a league like the Futures League isn’t really about results. His most important goal is continuing to develop young players, both as player and as men.
“It’s great seeing those guys come in at the beginning of the season until now,” Palmer said. “Watching them figure out how they have to go about it and what they need to do to get ready to play. You just see the growth happen as it’s happening. That’s the exciting part about it.”
Malloy is a perfect example of what the Futures League can give a young player. The Vanderbilt-bound player struggled to get on base early in the season. But in three playoff games, he had five hits, three walks and was hit-by-pitch twice - his playoff on-base percentage was .786.
“I took so much out of this experience,” Malloy said. “Me getting the chance to see college players this summer, it definitely helped me know that I can compete at this level. I feel prepared for what I’m about to see, heading into college in the fall.”
It may not have been a championship season, but there was still plenty of successes surrounding the 2018 Bristol Blues.
“I really wouldn’t trade this summer for anything in the world,” Malloy said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”