By: David Glovach
NEW BRITAIN — The New Britain Bees have officially begun putting their coaching staff in place, naming Jason Blanton as the franchise’s first-ever pitching coach in preparation for the 2016 season.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Blanton said of being hired. “It’s a great league. Not a lot of people know about the quality of play in the Atlantic League. It’s great to be on a staff with [Bees manger] Stan [Cliburn], learning more about the game from a guy who’s been coaching for a while.”
Blanton spent the 2015 season as the pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners’ Single-A affiliate, the Everett AquaSox, where his pitching staff collected a 42-34 record and 3.97 ERA.
His pitchers also allowed fewer hits (621) than innings pitched (679.1) last year.
When Cliburn was looking to hire someone to coach the Bees’ pitchers, he said Blanton’s name came up multiple times and came highly recommended.
“I had to do a little background check and I liked everything I saw,” Cliburn said. “He was on a short list. He was interviewing for a position with the [Los Angeles] Dodgers and the [New York] Mets, so when I went to go meet with him he told me he wasn’t sure if he wanted the job since he was negotiating with the Dodgers and the Mets. I told him if it didn’t work out ‘you’re my guy.’ It unfortunately didn’t work out for him, but we’re glad he’s here and looking to have a good year.”
But is was not just Blanton who came recommended.
Cliburn was as well.
“Terry Clark, who I have tremendous respect for, who was the pitching coordinator out in Seattle, spoke very highly of Stan,” Blanton said.
It was that input which helped sway the pitching coach to take the job.
Bees general manager Patrick Day said Cliburn laid most of the ground work in bringing Blanton to New Britain, but said his familiarity with both independent and Major League affiliated baseball were a factor as well.
Blanton spent three seasons in various levels of minor league baseball — reaching High-A — after being selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 12th round of the 2001 draft out of North Carolina State. He then went on to pitch five more seasons in the Atlantic League for Nashua Pride, Long Island Ducks and Southern Maryland Blue Crabs before joining the coaching ranks.
“Every time I’d turn around his name came up,” Day said. “He has experience is the Atlantic League and affiliate baseball, which is where we want to get [the players] back to. He checked off all the boxes.”
What makes Blanton successful according to Day is the way he deals with the pitching staff.
“He has a real disciplined approach,” the general manager said. “To me a very successful pitching coach is someone who is organized and who can communicate and he’s good at both.”
With just the pitching and hitting coaches as the only two coaches on Cliburn’s staff, the manager said surrounding himself with the best people possible is what will make the Bees successful.
“Myself as a manger is only as good as the players out on the field and the coaches I bring in to help those players,” Cliburn said. “[Blanton] brings a lot of energy.”
With 72 days left until New Britain’s first game in franchise history, the organization is getting ready to sign its first round of free agents. “I have a list of 35 players that I’m looking to sign,” Cliburn said. “We’re getting everything in order. A lot of it will be getting together with the front office and working out the contracts.” Despite the list of players Cliburn has picked out, the manager has not set an official timetable for inking players to contracts.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org