Schooners hire 'perfect fit' in Rob Bono as new manager

Call it a perfect marriage.

For Mystic Schooner co-owner Dennis Long, hiring Waterford native Rob Bono as his next manager is a perfect fit.

For Bono, the chance to become run his own program for the first time is a perfect opportunity.

Bono replaces Phil Orbe, who resigned after six seasons that included 136 wins and a New England Collegiate Baseball League championship in 2016.

"I'm excited about it," Long said Monday. "I was really hoping for someone local, then Robbie called. Not only is he local but he's as strongly qualified as anybody I know. We've got a good one, no doubt."

Bono has experience beyond his years. He grew up playing baseball in Waterford, became an all-state selection in high school, and had a five-year professional baseball career in the minor leagues before entering the coaching ranks.

Last spring, he completed his sixth season as an assistant coach at Central Connecticut State University. He had a four-year run as an assistant under legendary coach John Schiffner for Chatham in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

The timing was right for Bono to pursue the Mystic job. Schiffner retired at the end of the summer season, then Bono heard that Orbe might be leaving the Schooners.

"I let (Dennis) know I'd be interested if Phil leaving was true," Bono said. "It turns out it was. He just said he thought I'd be a perfect fit being a local guy and it went from there.

"I wasn't necessarily looking to continue doing summer ball and I thought about taking a break. But being a head coach, building my resume and being close to home, this is the perfect opportunity. This will be my first head coaching job."

Long has known his new manager since Bono's Little League days. During the interview process, he came away impressed with Bono's baseball knowledge and maturity.

Bono is well-connected to pro scouts and college coaches — a must for anyone in charge of a summer league team.

At 28, Bono will also relate well to his players, Long said.

"We are fortunate to have someone who has the coaching pedigree and baseball background as Robbie does to take over for what Phil Orbe has built the last six seasons," Long said. "Robbie has a baseball IQ that is beyond his years.

"He has hit the ground running utilizing his many baseball connections from his professional playing days to his time as an assistant to John Schiffner. ... To have another in the long line of enormously talented baseball people from southeastern Connecticut running the Schooners makes us all proud."

Bono already is involved with the planning for the 2018 summer season.

He'll follow the same philosophy that helped build Chatham into a highly-successful CCBL program.

"I've learned so much from Schiff in last four years," Bono said. "We have a saying up there the kids are our number one priority, to make sure they are happy, comfortable and they are getting better and we're taking care of them. And then we worry about the program they're coming from and making sure they're happy as well.

"Then we will worry about the Mystic Schooners. ... I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait."

g.keefe@theday.com

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