While Bristol assistant Lou Persichetti III is thrilled at the prospect of taking over the reins of the Bristol varsity baseball team, he says for the most part, it feels normal.
Why shouldn't it?
"Being a player for coach (Mangiaracina) then coaching with him then taking over the program, it's a gratifying feeling,' said Persichetti, whose hire was approved by the Bristol Boro School Board on Aug. 21.
A 1998 graduate of Bristol High School, Persichetti helped the Warriors to a comeback win over Bishop Shanahan in the 1998 District 1-AA championship game. That was former skipper Tony Mangiaracina's first year as head coach. Mangiaracina would lead Bristol to district trophies again in 2001 and 2003 before stepping down at the end of last season with a 162-114 coaching record.
"I've always thought of myself as a head coach so getting the opportunity is almost like a dream come true — to be the head of the program.'
The assistant coach for the past nine years, Persichetti takes over a team that finished 10-9 last season after a third straight loss in the district championship game.
"We have great talent here; we always have. We just never seem to get over the hump,' the new coach stated.
"We know we have the talent. It's up to us coaches to get us there and hopefully the players can let their talent take over and get us that district banner that we've been looking for.'
The new coach says while he wants some things to remain constant — Coach Mangiaracina stressed fundamentals and coming to practice/games prepared — he and assistant coach Eddie Rosato plan a few changes.
"We do want to maintain some things but we also want to add some things to what we've done in years past,' said Persichetti.
"We do want to change some things —things we do in practice and some things we do strategy-wise in games, how we approach the game offensively, maybe be a little bit more aggressive.'
In the past, a new coach came in and expectations might have been low, giving the new skipper time to adjust and rebuild. But those days are over if they were ever in vogue in the first place.
What's more, with Bristol varsity football coach Leo Plenski coming in and leading the Warriors to two straight District 1 banners and Tyrone Lewis taking the basketball team to its first district championship in 13 seasons have changed the expectations for new skippers at Bristol — they've raised the bar, if you will.
"Tyrone and Leo have done a great job and I'm trying to live up to their standards,' stated Persichetti. "Me coming in with baseball, I'm kind of in the same role — a younger coach coming in, the kids can relate.'
What's more, Bristol has a host of seniors returning to the varsity lineup in 2015 including pitcher/catcher Stephen Boggi, OF/pitcher Ryan Bauman, 1B/DH Mike Kane, SS Mike Heller and centerfielder Kyle Slivka-Fralin. Though he's a junior, pitcher/OF Danny Padilla returns with two years varsity experience.
It's a veteran lineup that is rife with pitching talent.
"With this being a senior-laden team, there's really no excuse for us not being able to go out there and put together a great season.'
"These kids have the experience — district championship losses, playoff losses — so they have that taste in their mouths.
"We can translate that frustration into something positive. Once we get there, we should have the experience to take it to the next level. That's what we're hoping for and that's what we're going to preach all year.'
Persichetti says the offseason will be mostly focused on developing pitchers and catchers.
"We want the pitchers and catchers to start the earliest so when March comes around, they're not throwing their arms out.'
The team needs a suitable backup behind the plate for Boggi and for that they'll turn to Faight. The coach is also looking for Heller to make some noise in his last year as a Warrior, especially after learning that Heller, after a solid first season on varsity, backed it up with a good year playing American Legion ball for Post 382.
Ultimately, the new coach says expectations are high for all the players.
"We're going to set the expectations high and we're going to let the kids know what our goals are.
"We're going to reach for that district banner. It's what we've been looking for and it's what's eluded us.
"We want to get a banner, get into states and make some noise.'
"Once you get in, anything can happen.'
True that, coach. True that.
NOTES: No changes to the JV staff — Tom Barbetta and Terry Dougherty remain on solid ground with the Bristol JV Warriors. Persichetti's father, Lou Persichetti Jr., was honored two years ago by the Bristol Borough Little League, the Phillies and the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame for his 50 years of service coaching Little League ball.