Orbe's successful run with Mystic Schooners comes to an end

Phil Orbe, who managed the Mystic Schooners through their first six seasons in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, has resigned. He led the Schooners to their first NECBL title in 2016. (Tim Martin/The Day)
Phil Orbe, who managed the Mystic Schooners through their first six seasons in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, has resigned. He led the Schooners to their first NECBL title in 2016. (Tim Martin/The Day)

Phil Orbe, who helped the Mystic Schooners rise from the cellar and become a model New England Collegiate Baseball League franchise, has resigned from his job as manager.

During his six seasons, Orbe guided the Schooners from a league worst nine-win season in his first year to an NECBL championship in 2016. His highly-successful run included 136 wins — 13 in the playoffs — and two trips to the finals.

"If you think about where the franchise was six years ago and where it is now," Orbe said. "I never went into it with a two or three year plan. I was just trying to make the summer a great summer for the kids. Through a lot of perseverance and some luck, things turned out pretty well.

"I'm proud to say that I'm leaving it in a better situation than when I took it over. And that's the ultimate goal."

Simply put, Orbe felt the time was right. He came to that conclusion about midway through the 2017 season. The Schooners went 27-17 during the regular season and reached the playoffs, owning the longest active NECBL streak of postseason appearances with five.

Orbe was more than just a manager for the Schooners, spending countless hours off the field recruiting and planning for each season.

Now he can focus on his duties as Montville High School athletic director and spend more time with his family.

"Obviously, there's a great deal of commitment time-wise between my professional responsibilities at Montville High School and my family responsibilities," Orbe said. "I was always able to juggle all these different things going on. But it got to the point where I was missing out on some stuff with the family."

The 47-year-old Orbe added about the Schooner job: "It's kind of a young man's thing. Believe or not, my energy isn't what it once was."

He greatly appreciates the support that he's received over the years from people in the Mystic organization, including co-owners Don Benoit and Dennis Long, who also is the pitching coach and general manager.

"My entire baseball coaching career has truly been nothing but a blessing," Orbe said. "A prime example of this is my last six summers in Mystic. I am not quite sure how a high school coach without any college or professional baseball playing experience was afforded the opportunity to manage in a prestigious league like the NECBL, but am certainly grateful to the good people of the Mystic Schooners organization, past and present, that have made my experience one that I will certainly cherish."

What Orbe will miss the most — no, it's not the marathon bus rides to Vermont and back — is building relationships with the players, who came from all around the country to play for Mystic.

The players arrived as a collection of individuals and left at the end of the summer as family.

"There's a lot of positives that I take out of the experience but it really is the relationships that you build with these guys who are only really there for two months," Orbe said. "I really feel blessed about it. It's something that not a lot of people get to experience. I just tried to appreciate it each year. I got to know these young men and saw them mature and get a little better at baseball but a lot better as people."

It's hard to imagine Orbe not involved with baseball.

Prior to coaching the Schooners, he was in charge of the Montville High School baseball program. His coaching days stretch all the way back to 1990 when he coached the Montville 16-18 Babe Ruth baseball program as a 20-year old.

"I don't know," said Orbe when asked what next summer will be like without coaching the Schooners. "It's one of those things where I'll know when it comes around. I didn't think I'd be able to give up the high school team. It was such a big part of me. I didn't know if I could exist without it. It seems to have worked out."

Orbe hasn't ruled out to taking another baseball coaching job down the road.

g.keefe@theday.com

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