MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: The Goose is now the King Bee

MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: The Goose is now the King Bee

NEW BRITAIN — The New Britain Bees have turned to former pro pitcher and Wallingford resident Mauro “Goose” Gozzo to be their new manager.

Gozzo, 52, served as the Bees pitching coach last season under manager Wally Backman, who left the team for Atlantic League rival Long Island. On Tuesday, New Britain announced Gozzo has been promoted to lead the Hardware City squad in 2019.

“When I heard Wally (Backman) was going to Long Island, I put my hat in the ring and let it be known that I wanted to be manager, and I went through the interview process and here we are today,” Gozzo said Tuesday afternoon.

Gozzo was a four-year pitcher at Berlin High School, where he was All-State. After graduating in 1984, he was drafted by the New York Mets.

Across his 12-year playing career, Gozzo made 349 career minor league appearances (126 starts). He owns 79 victories with a 3.83 ERA and 692 strikeouts in 1,134.2 innings.

Following his playing days, Gozzo turned his attention to youth baseball and coached his sons Paul and Sal. He started a travel team, Gozzo’s Gamers, and won won nine national championships with the squad.

He began coaching that team when he and his family lived in Tennessee. He continued the team upon relocating to Wallingford and his sons followed in Goose’s footsteps as stars on the diamond.

Sal and Paul were All-State players at Sheehan and helped the Titans win the Class M state crown and the state’s overall No. 1 ranking in 2015.

Sal and Paul, both four-year starters, were the Record-Journal’s Co-Baseball Players of the Year in 2016. The twins are currently on Division I rosters, Paul at UConn and Sal at Tulane.

Meanwhile, in New Britain, the elder Gozzo made a solid impact as the Bees’ pitching coach in 2018. Gozzo oversaw a New Britain pitching staff that logged a 3.71 ERA, which ranked third in the Atlantic League.

Now he takes on the more sweeping task of managing the entire roster.

“I like to think I’m thinking an inning or two or more in advance,” Gozzo said. “It’s about managing the bullpen and getting the right matchups in the right situations. At this level, it’s less about teaching and more about managing the players, like knowing who needs a day off, who is fresh to pitch, who is not and who will be available for the right matchups late in games.

“The toughest thing is knowing when to take your pitcher out. Being a former pitcher, I think I have a pretty good heartbeat on that.”

Prior to joining the Bees, Gozzo was a private instructor, teaching the likes of big leaguers Matt Cain and Drew Pomeranz.

In taking up the managerial reins in New Britain, Gozzo inherts a team that finished 28-35 last season. That mark placed New Britain fourth in the Atlantic League’s Liberty Division.

Gozzo said to expect an aggressive style of play at New Britain Stadium this summer. He said starting runners or a well-timed hit-and-run can help the Bees steal some runs.

“There’s no doubt,” the manager said. “We will look at last year’s roster and see where our players are at and what their plans are for the spring. The general manager and I will talk about what kind of roster we are going to put together. I would like it to be an energy team and an exciting brand of baseball.

“Obviously, I think pitching and defense wins. However, on the offensive side, we have to create more runs and create runs in different ways. I would like to get a lot more speed in the game and play a lot more defense and get good pitching.”

Gozzo said he was impressed in his first season in the independent Atlantic League last summer.

“I know last year we had 13 former Major League Baseball players on our roster,” Gozzo said. “It’s a high level of play in great cities and towns and stadiums to go to.”

The Bees announced they are pleased to have Gozzo aboard.

“Mauro is an outstanding teacher and homegrown talent,” said Bees GM Brad Smith in a press release. “To be able to bring on someone with his skills and connection to the local community is a win for everyone. Mauro excelled in the pitching coach role for us this past year and we look forward to a successful 2019 season with him at the helm.”