Jim Barr’s first year at the helm of Upper Darby didn’t exactly go as planned.
The Royals managed just one win, but more frustrating were the numerous near misses: Three-run losses to playoff teams like Garnet Valley and Penncrest, a three-run defeat at the hands of Ridley, a two-run loss to Lower Merion.
A key hit here or there, especially early in games before the pressure truly got ratcheted up, a more heady defensive play, and perhaps the story of the Royals season reads differently. But the team has grown together, from the coach to the players.
“It was a lot different than being an assistant coach,” Barr said. “I still talk to (former coach) Frank Nunan, and we were talking the other day about how different it is. There’s the added pressure, the expectations that you have, and the organization is a lot different.”
With a year under his belt, though, Barr is hopeful that better days lie ahead for him and his team.
He is encouraged by the late-season progress of Chris Rossiter, who recovered from a slow start after skipping the baseball season of his sophomore year. He’ll anchor the lineup next season along with outfielder Nick Rotandi and first baseman Tom Harrison, who separated himself from a crowd of players at that position.
The rotation will be in the hands of Rory Bellwoar, who took a bit of step back on the mound this year, and his brother Kyle, who took a commensurate step forward in his last four starts. Both will be seniors next year, and have experience throwing to A.J. Lerro, just a sophomore, behind the plate.
There are meaningful losses, even if it’s from a team that drastically underachieved. Consummate leader Kevin Coleman, who went from second base to occupy the catching position to fill a need, Doug Ward, Tom Gillin, Richard Lu, Tom Kitain, Brad Houston and Tim Durante all contributed this year and will be moving on. But the lessons of 2013 – and many of the players who learned them – will remain.