The Pope John Lions baseball team has been one of the strongest teams at Pope John throughout the 21st century. Long time Head Coach Vincent Bello helped to build the program into what it has become and with new Head Coach James Manco, the Lions are ready to set out for a championship, even if that means running for it.
Coach Manco wants to drill motivation and a drive into his team this season because that’s what wins championships, he explained one day at practice. The coaching staff, filled with highly experienced people that have all played professional baseball, added that the team should have a purpose of playing the game.
Coach Manco’s older son, senior Chris Manco, wants to help his dad, along with fellow captains, senior Anthony Bubba and junior Mac Tufts, to make sure the family feel of the team is always there because that would create a winning team.
“My fellow captains and I want to help keep this team together as a family,” said Manco. “We want to make sure that we stick together and put the team’s success before individual success because that will be a leading factor into our success this year.”
After finishing 16-11 last season, the Lions look to do even better as their pitching staff is very good as the preseason nears its ending point. The Lions have come up shy in the HWS (Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex) final in the last couple of years, but Manco, Bubba and Tufts all have high hopes for this season.
“Coach Manco and the rest of the coaching staff know a lot about the game, and their guidance will help us go far this season, including HWS and the state tournament,” said Manco. “We can also go far because of the players that we have this season. There is a lot of potential for this team.”
With a strong senior class this season, the Lions want to be able to capitalize before it is too late. Even though they will leave at the end of the season, Tufts and his fellow underclassmen are excited for the future of the program in which the seniors will carry on the legacy throughout this season.
“Having the right coaching in Coach Manco will help us put together a 20-win season,” said Tufts. “With all the players we have such as seniors Mike Gallaway, Brian McKenna, Ayden Alexander and so many more, I like our chances against anyone. We just gotta play our game. If we don’t beat ourselves, we’re going to win.”
The regular season opens for the Lions on April 3 when they will travel to Delbarton School to face off against the Delbarton Green Wave.
With a promising season approaching, the entire team is excited for what could be the year to win it all.
Andrew Nowel, Contributing Sportswriter
Currently enrolled at Canisius University in Buffalo, New York, Andrew Nowel is an up-and-coming journalist/photographer and broadcaster. He wrote sports' articles for his high school, Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Andrew has worked with Morris Sussex Sports in sports broadcasting and analyzes professional sports in his free time. Andrew and his friend Ryan have a podcast that talks about professional sports and Canisius Athletics. Andrew also runs his own website about Canisius Athletics. He strives to inform the people about local sports and the young athletes of our communities from Buffalo to New Jersey and everywhere.
Andrew has provided previous and remarkable sports stories and photographs for the Ridge View Echo since he was 16 and enrolled at Pope John High School.