HAMDEN >> Tim Belcher always loved playing sports. He was on the baseball and hockey teams at Notre Dame-West Haven. After graduating in 1993 he continued his baseball career at Quinnipiac, and then with the Waterbury Spirit of the independent Northeast League.
Now, since the playing days are over, his passion is coaching.
Belcher has developed a reputation in Connecticut as a top high school hockey coach. After coaching Lyman Hall for 13 years, he was hired in June 2013 to take over at his alma mater.
Belcher, with a pair of sons following in dad’s footsteps, has enjoyed success on yet another level. He manages Little League teams in Hamden.
He has been a coach in the Hamden Fathers Little League program the past seven years — ever since Tanner, 13, and Mack, 9, started playing.
Tanner now plays on the 11- and 12-year-old District 4 all-star team and coach Belcher is preparing them for Division I round-robin action, which begins today against Fairfield American at Darien at 5:45 p.m.
“I approach coaching Little League the same way as when I was a player myself,” Belcher said. “I have a clear message to all the players. I tell them, ‘At the end of the day, let’s be better baseball players than we were yesterday.’ Is it different coaching 12- and 13-year-olds as opposed to high school-aged players? Absolutely.
“It is also very different going from the ice to the baseball field. But coaching is a passion of mine. I absolutely love doing it and I don’t know what I would do with myself without the competitive nature of athletics. Every practice I design, whether it is for Little League baseball or hockey at ND, has a competition involved somewhere. I will do anything to light a fire in the players I coach. Ultimately, a player gets better in practice, not in the middle of a game.”
Belcher’s motto wherever he coaches is preparation equals success.
During the Little League regular season, Belcher coached Tanner and their Burt Law team to a 15-1 record and the town championship.
Among the top players on the all-star team are shortstop Jake Pisano, catcher Alex Ponzio, third baseman and catcher John D’Ericco, outfielder Danny Alissi and Belcher, a first baseman and catcher. Ponzio and Trey Rivera are the top two pitchers.
“The strength of our district team is definitely hitting,” Belcher said. “Every one of our 13 players can hit the ball and hit it with authority. We have been hitting the ball out of the ballpark as well. We averaged two or three home runs per game in the district tournament. I know the competition and the pitching will get a lot better in the sectionals, so I have been telling them in practice we need to concentrate on hitting the ball hard. The home runs will come.”
Belcher said the team’s pitching has been solid as well.
“We just need to tighten up the defense a little bit, and I like our chances,” Belcher said. “This group of kids has been fun to coach and it is always special when you get a chance to coach your son. I have seen a lot of growth in Tanner’s baseball abilities this past season and that has been a lot of fun for me.
“When I was 12, I played for the Hamden district team coached by my father (Reuel) and we won the district title, so I guess it has all come full circle.”
Belcher said he has a lot of great memories as a player and looks at coaching as one way to give back to the community.
“I feel I have a lot to give these young players, given my experience playing,” Belcher said. “I had the best times playing college and professional baseball. I was able to see many places I would not have had the chance to see and meet other players who I am still friends with to this day.”
THE BELCHER FILE
- 1989-93, Notre Dame-West Haven: Played for and captained hockey and baseball teams. In 1993, won Division I state championship in hockey and was first-team all-state in baseball.
- 1994-97, Quinnipiac: Played first base, center field and pitcher. Had .476 average with 18 home runs and 76 RBIs in 35 games his senior year. Led Division II in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage. Five of 18 home runs were grand slams, which is still an NCAA record. Named New England player of the year by the ECAC and was an ABCA first-team All-American.
- 1997-2000, Waterbury Spirit: Undrafted and signed as a free agent into the independent Northeast League. Belcher played four seasons with Waterbury, primarily in the outfield and at first base. He also pitched seven innings out of the bullpen. He finished his career with a .264 average, 168 hits, 26 doubles, three home runs, 70 RBIs and a .385 on-base percentage in 231 games.
- 2000-2013: Head coach of Lyman Hall boys hockey team.
- 2009-present: Coach in Hamden Fathers Little League.
- 2013-present: Coach of the Notre Dame-West Haven hockey team.