Duo making presence felt again with Greenwich Cannons

When you hear the combination of Ricky Riscica and Ryan Carr is again paired with the American Legion Cannons, it’s easy to think back to when the duo helped the junior legion team win the Zone IV championship, the state title and the New England regional crown.

Or when they were both key contributors to the senior legion teams that were Zone IV champions and were inches away from capturing the state championship.

While their time playing for the Cannons has passed, that doesn’t mean that the dynamic duo is finished with the program that they’ve grown to love.

This summer, both Carr and Riscica are back with the Cannons, but facing a new challenge. Instead of patrolling first base or firing a fastball down the middle of the plate, they are now coaching the Greenwich American Legion 14-U Cannons team.

“It’s definitely great to be back in the legion program,” Riscica said. “This is one of the premier teams in the town. It’s the first year with the 14-U team and they are having a lot of fun with it. I’m having a lot of fun with it and now I appreciate what the coaches did for me. Being on the other side of it, I now understand what they had to go through and how sometimes coaching can be difficult. I am having a great time with these kids and they make it a lot of fun for me to coach.”

“I can’t believe I am at this point,” Carr said. “It’s a great opportunity to get out there and help the kids and to get them ready for the high school. That’s one of the key things. A couple of them are freshmen and some others are going to be freshmen, so I want them to get the maturity level that you need to have when you continue to play at a high level. I think a lot of these guys already have that done.”

Originally Riscica and Carr were going to enjoy their summer break from college down in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, playing in the Myrtle Beach Collegiate Summer Baseball League. However, an injury to Riscica and Carr, recovery from two hip surgeries prevented the duo from playing ball.

Myrtle Beach’s loss was Greenwich’s gain. When the duo decided to stay in town for the summer, they were both perfect candidates for the 14-U legion team.

“It was our good fortune that both Ricky and Ryan were unable to play baseball this summer,” American Legion baseball co-president Peter Henkel said. “We reached out to them. Both are alums of this program and both are Greenwich High standouts. It’s a great opportunity for our younger kids to be coached and taught by people not too much older than they are and by two young men that all the players look up to.”

With Carr’s and Riscica’s success playing on both the Greenwich junior and senior Cannons, they were given the opportunity by the Greenwich American Legion to coach that inaugural 14-U team. And their decision was an easy one to make.

“When they asked me to take over as head coach, I was honored,” Riscica said. “It’s a big responsibility, but I definitely accept it and was honored that the guys above me decided to pick me as the head coach. We run our practices just like our college practices are run, so these kids are getting college coaching and drills that we use in college.”

Being the team’s first year in existence, the numbers on the roster are smaller than Riscica and Carr would like. However, they aren’t doing too much complaining.

“Numbers are limited, so a lot of guys are getting a lot of time at different positions,” Riscica said. “The toughest thing was not knowing these kids and having to assess the ability and what kind of talent we had,” Riscica said. “Once we figured that part out, it was smooth sailing. The practices have been great and the kids want to learn. The kids come ready to play every day. It’s really a blessing to have these kids who are out here, loving baseball.”

Riscica and Carr both believe that having college baseball on your resume, as well as playing for the junior and senior Cannons, has made it easier for them to be effective coaches.

“I know the entire program stresses not having parents coach and I agree with that,” Carr said. “It helps the kids because the kids like myself and Ricky who have been there and played for the exact same team. They seem to listen a little more because we did what they are trying to do. Ricky and I are in a really good situation, where these kids can learn a lot from us.”

“I think when you have coaches that have no relationship with you, other than being a coach, it helps out a lot,” Riscica said. “It’s not dads out there or parents that they know, but it’s two college kids that went through the ranks and have been through what they’re going through. They can kind of look up to us because they know that they are going through the same things we did. For the most part they listen to us and it does help out that we played for the Cannons and have been successful with the Cannons.”

Working the majority of the time with coach Carr, Greenwich’s pitching staff has been one of the team’s biggest strengths. Corey Bancroft, Brennan, Kyle Gillick, Colin Kelly, Will DeTeso and Connor Langan.

“I was very surprised at how much the entire team already knew,” Carr said. “At 14-years-old, I didn’t know what I was supposed to know, but I think these guys are ahead of the game. I’m working with pitchers, but also impressed that everybody wants to pitch. We have enough guys where everybody can pitch and play a couple of positions. It gives me a chance to work with a lot of guys and see who has what.”

“We have a lot of very good arms out there,” Riscica added. “We could also put in numerous kids throughout the game that could help out if needed.

Greenwich’s infield consists of the duo of Patrick Ryan and Kyle O’Brien at first base. When Gillick isn’t on the mound, Brendan Santini, DeTeso, Alex Loparco and Kelly could be at either second or shortstop. At the hot corner will be the duo of Tyler Petrone and Langan. Behind home plate, Greenwich has Carson Brennan, Bancroft and Glenn Saperstein.

In the outfield, Sandro Mariani will be playing every day in left field, while Ricky Columbo will be patrolling right field. Ben Shaver and Ryan King have been seeing time in center field.

“They all make my job look very easy out there,” Riscica said. “They make all the plays for us. Our defense is unbelievable and they have made some SportsCenter plays for us. Our pitching has been strong as well, but our defense has been why we have been winning all those games.”

Although Greenwich was hitting the ball well throughout the early portion of the season, they were unable to come up in big spots. That’s changed recently, as the Cannons have been coming through with runners in scoring position or with a two-out clutch hit.

“It’s great to see the guys coming together as a team,” Riscica said. “The morale is definitely there and the kids are having a great time. It’s a good thing to see and a great experience. They are doing the little things better. They are running the bases better, knowing where to go with the ball and backing up each other.”

The 14-U Cannons started the season on fire, beating the New York Swarm 14-U team, New York Swarm 13-U team and Team Pride Select 13-U team and upping its record to a perfect 4-0 to start the season. However, Greenwich lost both games on Saturday to Yorktown Heights to bring its record to 4-2 on the season.

With the team’s 7-2 loss to the New York Swarm 13-U team, Greenwich sits at 4-3 on the season as of press time.

“It’s getting to the point where we are opening a lot of eyes in the league and people are wondering where this Greenwich team has come from,” Riscica said. “As a first-year team, a lot of teams are kind of backing out on playing us and it’s tough getting a schedule together, but the kids here are great. We’ve got a lot of talented kids here and a lot of kids came from the 13-U all-star team and 14-U all-star team. They are talented, willing to learn and trying to get better. As a coach, that’s our goal. We don’t really care too much over the wins and losses. It’s all about how the kids progressed throughout the summer and if they are playing baseball the right way.”

With a round-robin tournament coming up at the end of the season, Riscica and Carr both agree that the sky is the limit for the Cannons.

“If they keep playing baseball and want to get better, then I think we could win it all,” Riscica said. “We need to stay healthy and try to get better every day.”

“This team could be as good as they want to be,” Carr said. “At this level, it’s about putting the time in after practice, working on things and listening. There is a ton of talent on this team and it’s going to be fun working with them for the rest of the year.”

While watching the team improve every day is a thrill for both Carr and Riscica, every now and then they get that urge to put on the Greenwich American Legion uniform one more time to try and help the team gain a victory.

“It’s very tempting,” Riscica said. “During practice we would do inter-squad games and I would get on the mound and throw some fastballs and curveballs. It’s very tempting to get out there and swing with these guys. But ultimately it’s all about the kids and it’s a great time.”

 

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