Mickey Hanagan has been a Babe Ruth coach for 49 seasons and will be making his 11th World Series appearance beginning Saturday when his all-star team opens play in the 14-year-old tournament in Moses Lake, Wash.
It doesn’t matter if it’s regular season, district, state, regional or World Series competition, Hanagan has always maintained there’s only one way to achieve success on the playing field.
“You’ve got to make the simple plays,” he said. “The goal is to get 21 outs in a seven-inning game. From a good pitcher, you’re going to get anywhere between eight and 10 strikeouts. The other 11 or 13 balls hit will be handled by the defense. If you make the routine simple plays, you’re golden. I’ve been saying it for years.”
What Hanagan has said this summer and, for the first time since 1976 when the 13-15-year-old Manchester Tom Woodlock All-Stars won the World Series in Pueblo, Colo., is a team that has grasped his message.
“After our first practice together, I knew right then this team was going to go far into tournament play,” said Hanagan. “This is the first team I’ve coached since 1976 where I can say we have the right balance with pitching, defense and offense. Everything just clicks.”
The Hanagan All-Stars begin their four-game pool play Saturday at 8 p.m. (Eastern time) against Southeast Region champion Longwood, Fla. On Sunday at 5 p.m., Manchester will face Westchester, Calif., the Pacific Southwest champion.
After a day off Monday, the Hanagans resume play Tuesday against North Washington champ Puget Sound, Wash., at 8 p.m. The final pool play game is slated for Wednesday at 2 p.m. against Pacific Northwest champion Tualatin Hills, Ore.
If Manchester finishes pool play either first, second or third in its five-team division, it will qualify for the single-elimination phase of the World Series next Thursday which continues into Friday with the semifinal round. The championship game is slated for 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24.
“We’re in a tough division with some teams like Florida and California who play year round,” said Hanagan. “But we’ve been playing well and the way I feel, there’s not a team that we can’t beat.”
The Hanagans are 11-0 this summer, having won their last four games in the New England Regionals in Westfield, Mass., by one run.
“I really liked the way we battled and fought in the regionals,” said Hanagan. “Actually in the state and regional tournaments, I felt we were getting stronger and playing with confidence after each game. Our first goal in the World Series is to earn a berth into the single elimination round. If we do that, we’ll be in good shape to make a strong run at the title.”
The pitching staff is strong behind righthanders Pat Swanson, Matt Reynolds, Drew Merrick, Garret Olivar and Nick Salcito. Hanagan also has a pair of lefties, Jake Carrier and Ryan Wickey, at his disposal.
Swanson and Reynolds each had a pair of complete-game wins in the regionals. “The pitching and defense has been working hand in hand,” said Hanagan. “We’re not walking many batters and our defense has not made many errors.”
Infielders Reynolds and Wickey at first base, Olivar at second; John Robinson at short and either Salcito, Swanson or Joe Davis at third base have been making the plays.
Hanagan praised the outfield manned by Joey Silva, Jason Derome, Kyle Jutras, Merrick, Carrier and Nick Sullivan.
“It’s starts with Silva, who can track anything hit out to him and beyond,” said Hanagan. “Robinson, Salcito and Olivar have great range in the heart of the infield. And you can’t forget about (catcher) Nate Hall, who blocks the balls and plate well and has a strong arm.” Jake Poitras is another key player coming off the bench to back up Hall and to pinch-hit.
The assistant coaches are Nick Cenatiempo Sr. and Peter Bissonette.
“If everyone plays to their potential like I know they can, we’ve got a good shot of winning the World Series,” said Hanagan.