Separated by less than 9 miles, the two varsity baseball coaches at Greenwich and Westhill have traveled similar paths to reach their long-awaited debuts on the field.
Both Adrian Arango at Greenwich and Mike Riveles at Westhill were hired in the fall of 2019 and expected to begin coaching the spring of 2020.
Of course, the pandemic hit, baseball got shut down and the only place either one saw their players last spring was on the computer either during Zoom calls or when a player would send the coaches videos of them working out.
“We kept in touch with the kids but as the spring went on, the kids were losing hope,” Riveles said. “There was only so much we could do to keep the kids from feeling like it was all pointless. Thankfully we had a good group of kids and they put in a ton of work since then, outside of what we do, and they all got better.”
Riveles was an assistant coach at Westhill prior to taking the job.
Westhill has been on the field for four practices so far and played their first scrimmage last week.
It was the most anticipated scrimmage most of them will ever take part in.
“It was awesome,” Riveles sad. “It was a long time coming and you could see how excited all the kids were to be out there together. Last year was awful and getting back on the field just feels so good. We know it can still be taken away or shut down but every day we get to be out there is just awesome.”
Greenwich also played in its first scrimmage last week.
Both teams have just two players apiece with any varsity experience and no starters from two seasons ago.
That has left both coaches reaching out to travel coaches and attending games last summer for scouting reports.
“We have two kids back with a combined eight at bats,” Arango said. “Luckily I know some of the coaches they play for in the summer and reached out to them. I just watched a lot of baseball last summer. Went to Greenwich Cannon games, Babe Ruth games, Clubhouse, Baseball U. If our kids were playing, I tried to go see them.”
Arango, a Stamford High graduate, was an assistant at New Canaan and coached in the Stamford American Legion system for years before coming to Greenwich.
Despite the lack of a high school season, most varsity players coming out for the team not only played last summer but spend time training indoors during the offseason.
That leaves them sharp at the plate but maybe lacking some team fundamentals.
“The kids have worked extremely hard on their own,” Arango said. “For the kids it was pretty seamless. We just spent time in the first few days of practice going over little stuff like double cuts, first and third situations, bunting and infield rotations on plays. The kids though were ready to go right from the first day of pitchers and catchers.”
Still, not having playing in FCIAC games is not easy to prepare for no matter how many hours you put in during the offseason.
“None of our kids have seen varsity innings and that’s hard,” Riveles said. “We have a good idea about the kids after talking to their Clubhouse or Baseball U coach but playing in the FCIAC is a different animal and the only way to prepare for it is to play in it. Every game in the FCIAC you could be facing a college-bound pitcher. We have very smart kids, hard-working kids and the good thing is every player did something to improve. Nobody did nothing. The kids put in work.”
Westhill opens its season Saturday when it hosts Norwalk and its first-year head coach Ryan Mitchell at 1 p.m. while Greenwich will travel to Fairfield for an 11 a.m. game against Ludlowe.