'I'm blessed': Mercado joins Orioles organization with heavy New Britain, Cape Cod League influence

Published on Friday, 28 January 2022 21:24
Written by TYLER HETU


NEW BRITAIN – There’s no clear cut answer when someone asks “what are the odds of making it into Major League Baseball as a player?” 

When you ask the odds on making it as a manager? You can almost forget it. With 150 managerial positions in professional baseball, across MLB’s highest and lowest levels, the positions are reserved for some of the finest baseball minds the world has to produce. 

For Roberto Mercado, a New Britain native, he never focused on when or if he’d make it to ‘The Show’ and instead focused on where he was at the moment, which for 10 years was with New Britain High School and seven years with the Cape Cod League’s Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. 

“I’ve been a big believer of be where your feet are and refuse to focus on what’s ahead, because that’s going to rob the joy of where I’m at now,” said Mercado. “… I’ve always tried to be the best where I’m at and work at where I’m at and I’ve been blessed with an amazing opportunity and I could not let that pass. I’m super blessed and excited.” 

Mercado was named the acting manager of the Aberdeen Ironbirds on Wednesday, a Class A team in the Baltimore Orioles organization. After years of working on his craft, and how to become one of the finest baseball minds in the area. 

He said the moment was presented to him through a mutual connection who had faith in him, with Mercado answering a phone call not knowing what he was about to embark on. 

“I actually got a phone call from the Director of Player Development, Matt Blood. He just called me out of the blue,” said Mercado. “… I was kind of taken aback, thinking someone was pulling a prank on me. He told me he got my name from someone he’s trusted and known for a really long time and he thought I’d be a really good fit for the position they were looking for. I was obviously excited, went through the interview process, and talked to multiple people over a couple weeks and then I got a phone call offering me the position.” 

Mercado’s time spent as a coach has been successful, not just with New Britain in developing the youth of the area but also with the Cape League. Notable players to pass through Yarmouth-Dennis’ team included top prospects Patrick Bailey and Austin Wells, 2021 Gold Glove winner Tommy Edman and 2020 Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber. 

The experience spent working with raw talent, working with them every day to build a relationship and to make them better, was part of Mercado’s recipe for success. 

“The experience from the Cape from 2014 to this past summer has been instrumental in my development (as a coach) in just dealing with those players,” said Mercado. “… Scott Pickler, the manager at the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, he’s been extremely influential in my life and has helped me a ton along with a bunch of other assistant coaches. … I consider myself a lifelong learner and a we ask our players to get better every day, and I think as coaches we need to do the same.” 

With the Cape Cod League playing a big part of Mercado’s ability to develop and work with the next crop of professional talent, he wouldn’t have been able to grow as a coach and become who he is today without his time in New Britain – and it’s something he’s aware of. 

“My experiences with (New Britain) high school, just being there and to be a part of that program for so many years that I love and played for, those players have helped me grow as a coach. Obviously the Cape is a big transition and will translate well into professional baseball, but I can’t take away from my high school experiences either.” 

Mercado added his experience as Dean of Students at New Britain, on top of his time with the baseball team as ways he’s bringing his experiences from the high school level into the professional level. 

“At the end of the day in the high school level, you get what you get. There’s not a draft where you can select players. I think as a coach that helps you understand and try to get the most out players. No matter if its high school, professional or on the Cape, great coaches find a way to get greatness out of players. I think that’s the most important thing no matter what level you’re at. … That’s what’s going to translate well.” 

Mercado mentioned that despite the lockout, he has been in contact with his coaching staff and other coaches in different levels of the organization. As of Friday, he’s working through camps in Florida with coaches and some local players. 

On if the moment has really set in for him, or if it ever well, Mercado said it became real to him seeing his name above his coaches locker in Florida at camp. 

“I think it hit me the most when I walked into the coaches locker room and saw my name up on the locker,” said Mercado. “It’s a pretty special moment that I’ll never forget. I’m super blessed and blessed with the opportunity to coach. I’ve got so many people that are rooting for me, especially back home in New Britain. 

“An inner city kid that went to the high school is living out their dreams. It’s special. Everything I do is 100%, … I’m going to bring that to the Orioles organization, just like I did at New Britain High School. … I’m proud to be from New Britain and I’m proud to represent us.” Mercado said.

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Friday, 28 January 2022 21:24. Updated: Friday, 28 January 2022 21:26.