Mitchell College Baseball Next Step for Norwich Tech Grad
Originally Posted in the Norwich Bulletin
By Marc Allard
NEW LONDON — The smile on the face of Bryce Bedard could not have been bigger on Wednesday.
The sun was out, the temperature was in the 50s and Mitchell College was getting ready to play a baseball game against Newbury College.
The Ledyard native played baseball for Norwich Tech where he graduated two years ago. Now, he's playing Division III baseball for the Mariners.
Life is good.
Actually, life is great for Bedard.
"To be able to get out of Norwich Tech and play college baseball just makes me insanely happy and especially being a part of this Mitchell family, nothing can beat this," Bedard said.
Bedard is one of a dozen products of Eastern Connecticut high school baseball on the Mitchell roster.
Former Plainfield High School standout Travis Beausoleil is in his sixth season at the helm for the Mariners and trolling the local fields is a chance to find some hidden gems. He has 10 athletes from Eastern Connecticut Conference teams on his roster.
He understands the difficulty of the transition from playing high school ball in the local area, having made the progression from the Panthers to UConn-Avery Point to North Carolina Wesleyan in his playing career.
"It's a big jump, just because of the grind and I think our program pushes more than others do," Beausoleil said. "Our guys are here for an education, but 95 percent of them chose Mitchell because of baseball and the ability to compete at a high level."
Bedard is still a freshman as far as athletic eligibility is concerned. He graduated from Norwich Tech two years ago, but spent the fall at Avery Point. He transferred to Mitchell since it was more in line with what he wanted academically and had to sit last season. He was not allowed to play or practice with the team.
"I didn't care about that," Bedard said. "Just being around these guys is fun. Being in the dugout, being able to be here for the games, nothing could beat that. I was having a ball watching."
Drew Daley, a Killingly High graduate from Brooklyn, is a true freshman.
He didn't get that one year to watch and reality struck quickly this year.
"It's unbelievable," Daley said of the transition. "You can't expect it to be the same competition, you need to understand that you are the underdog. Pitching as a senior in high school, it was easy. I now know it's not going to be that easy here and I have to work way harder than I ever did."
Unlike Division I programs, Division III teams have just 14 days to practice in the fall. When the teams get back together on February 1, it's to get into game shape and prepare for the spring season.
There is little time to make an adjustment to a freshman's mechanics, but the Mariners have begun to do that.
Daley has lengthened his stride which has added a couple of miles per hour to his pitches and has eliminated a slider that college hitters were easily identifying.
"I told him to do everything that he has always done. Don't ride highs, don't ride lows, just be consistent, be down in the zone and pound it," Beausoleil said.
For Daley, Griffin has been a guiding hand in his adjustment not only to athletics, but college life.
"We work together all the time. I hang out with him every day," Daley said.
It's a leadership role that Beausoleil had hoped Griffin would take on last year.
"Garet is one of the most talented kids that we've ever had and he works hard," Beausoleil said.
But in his first year with Mitchell, he had some acclimation issues, hitting only .271 with one homer and 24 RBIs while committing 20 errors at shortstop.
"We might have put too much on him," Beausoleil said.
"You can't just walk in and expect things to be handed to you," Griffin said. "No matter where you are, you have to outwork everyone and don't expect things to be given to you. I definitely learned that last year. I have a little chip on my shoulder this year. I want to prove I'm better than I was."
Griffin went on to play a half-season with Maine in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer.
He has come back to the Mariners ready to play.
In the first 17 games this season, Griffin has two homers with 20 RBIs and is hitting .446. His errors are still more numerous than Beausoleil would like, but he has helped turn 14 double plays.
"He's not there, but he's getting there," Beausoleil said. "He's figuring it out. If he keeps developing at that level, he has an opportunity to play at the next level."
Beausoleil said he believes it's tough for any freshman, at any level in any program, to step in and be as good as they were in high school.
"You see draftable guys who go to UConn or a Florida State and it takes them a year," Beausoleil said.
Bedard knows that all too well.
He finally got a chance to pitch in Florida and was guilty of trying to overthrow, trying to impress and make the most of an opportunity, and it resulted in his inability to find the strike zone.
"Bryce is working on it, but he's still young," Beausoleil said."I think he has great talent, great ability, and if he develops a bit more, he can be a big back of the pen guy for us."
Bedard now has a protege of his own, freshman Connor Dulin, who is now the second player from Norwich Tech on the Mitchell roster.
In Bedard's mind, it said something for the roots from which he came.
"I have to give credit to Coach (Tim) DeLucia at Norwich Tech. He really made me who I am as a player and a person," Bedard said.