Archive for June, 2010

The State of Baseball in Ottawa

May 24th - Toronto Maple Leafs - 3,602 in Attendance

Back in 1992, baseball was the big thing in Ottawa. Some say that the Lynx’s first few years even over-shadowed the Senators’ return to Canada’s Capital. It’s hard to imagine that baseball would even come close to the popularity of Hockey at any time in Ottawa. Well, at least now that’s a hard thing to imagine.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 2010 is definitely not the lowest point in Ottawa’s baseball history. I would definitely say that that prize would belong to the late 90’s, where attendance plummeted despite the fact that in 1995, the Lynx won their league championship.

You would think that winning the top prize possible would give your baseball team’s fans a motive to come out to games, however instead, 1996 was the year when it became apparent that the Lynx wouldn’t last. After ’96, the Ottawa Lynx average  attendance would never again reach 5,000, and slowly but surely, they drifted into oblivion.

Others may suggest that the lowest point in baseball history for this city, was the last year that the Lynx were around, 2007. After all, at that point all the interest and energy that AAA Baseball had brought to this city was gone, plus attendance and sales were the worst in the franchise’s 15 year history.

However, while baseball wasn’t exactly the hottest ticket in town, one Lynx game showed me that Ottawa Baseball still had some life in it. Ironically enough, it was the last game that the Ottawa’s AAA ball team ever played. September 1st, 2007 was just another ordinary day, however with 7,468 fans in the stands, it was a great day for Ottawa baseball. In fact, when you looked at the Lynx demise in a positive fashion, it was a door opening to reveal a closet full of possibilities.

It wasn’t the same thing as AAA, but the next spring, Ottawa still had baseball in town. It was in the form of the Can-Am League’s Ottawa Rapidz. The Rapidz were an Independent ball club, which meant that they weren’t affiliated in any way with the MLB. This was another positive step for baseball in Ottawa, as the The Rapidz opened up to a crowd of 4,246. This was a great feat, considering the weather that day, and it seemed like a lot more then that were on hand to root for the Rapidz.

Despite the 6-0 loss, and the dismal 31-63 record that season, baseball had found new life in Ottawa. After the end of the season, the Rapidz were in the middle of the league in Attendance and seemed to be looking forward to another great season in 2009.

But then, the unthinkable happened.

Rob Hall, the team owner at the time, declared bankruptcy about 3 weeks after the season’s end claiming that the Can-Am League and the City of Ottawa owed him 1.4 Million dollars. Great season finale.

However, Miles Wolff managed to save Ottawa’s baseball team and the Can-Am League took over ownership of the Rapidz. They too, were looking forward to a great 2009 and even started to make some trades. One trade even included a ‘future considerations’ stipulation on Ottawa’s end, so it was clear that the now-Voyageurs meant business.

Or, at least, that’s what I thought.

In March of 2009–a few weeks away from opening day at the Stadium–the Atlantic City Surf had declared bankruptcy and handed the team’s ownership into the league. Wolff and the Can-Am League said that it was too much to run 2 teams, so the Surf ceased to exist after all that drama. It didn’t end there, either. According to the TEAM 1200 among other local news sources, Wolff and his cronies decided that it would be much easier schedule-wise, to go with 6 teams in the Can-Am League, rather that 7.

Since the Voyageurs were a League-owned team, Wolff had the power to shut the team down, and that’s exactly what he did.

So, once again, there were more questions than answers, and Ottawa Stadium was without a tenant. I expressed my interest in how this situation would be handled by the city council, by sending a letter to my riding representative at City Hall. I expressed my concern at possibly losing one of the best baseball stadiums in Canada, for a shopping mall.

In the Councillor’s reply, he agreed with me, stating that we have a beautiful stadium here in Ottawa, and that he’d hate to lose it. That, plus the efforts later in the year from Bob Monette and the Acting Mayors proved to me that this council is fairly pro-baseball.

Earlier this year, the doors of possibility opened again, and for a few weeks it looked like the Voyageurs were coming back. Ottawa and a couple other cities were in the hunt for a Can-Am league team. Those other towns included Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Trois-Rivieres, Quebec; and Burlington, Ontario. If you add Ottawa to this list, it’s pretty clear that Can-Am is trying to emphasize the ‘Can’ in their name–if you know what I mean.

While Ottawa didn’t get the team–which went to Pittsfield–a second ownership group looking to bring baseball back, managed to find a gem of a league, called the IBL. OSG and Duncan MacDonald found this semi-pro league, and in 2010 we would have baseball again!

The Fat Cats aren’t having the greatest year on the field, but off the field, it’s a completely different story.

See, most IBL Ballparks can barely hold 1,ooo people. Do me a favor and Google, “Jack Couch Baseball Park”. That is what Ottawa Stadium is up against. So, the Fat Cats obviously lead the IBL in attendance, but taking a look at the average attendance for the Can-Am League in 2010, Miles Wolff didn’t make a very good decision shutting down the old Voyageurs franchise.

If the Ottawa Fat Cats were an Indepedent ball club in the Can-Am right now, they would be in 2nd in league attendance, only behind the league’s powerhouse, Quebec. Oh, and the Pittsfield Colonials? They’ve pulled in a whopping average of 593 people per-game. Imagine how much more money that Can-Am could be making in Ottawa right now. It’s quite mind-boggling.

However, take a look at the positive side of this. Baseball in Ottawa has undergone a complete rebirth, and could be a star in the Indys in the near future. Another interesting fact, is that the Cats’ current average attendance–2,261– is the best in Ottawa’s baseball history since 2005. It’s a sign that baseball is alive and well here.

While I hope to see a Can-Am, GBL or SIB team call Ottawa Stadium home in the future, I definitely don’t want our current baseball team, the Ottawa Fat Cats to leave the city. What could happen to the Cats’ if a pro team returns to Ottawa? I would think that we could squeeze 2 teams into Ottawa Stadium. After all, the 10-home-date schedule that the Fat Cats had this year, isn’t exactly taking up this stadium’s time. We could even manage two games a day if they’re a few hours apart.

If keeping the Fat Cats at Ottawa Stadium would be seen as competition for the new Pro team, or other reasonings that could kick us out, I would like to tell you guys about a nice little place called Heritage Park. It’s a nice ball field in Orleans, that could have it’s bleachers expanded, a ticket office added, and bam, you’ve got the Cats a new home.Oh, and that’s only an example. There are so many expandable ball fields in Ottawa, that would and could welcome the Fat Cats with open arms.

Bottom line, is that Ottawa Baseball is in great shape to keep both the Fat Cats, and add on a little bit of Pro action to the mix.

BREAKING NEWS (to me, anyway..): Fat Cats actually have acquired Eitan Maoz

Contrary to what I had said in my last post, it seems that the Ottawa Fat Cats’ GM, Duncan MacDonald, had used the Doubleheader against the Mississauga Twins a few days ago as a chance to scout the Twins. The day that the Cats’ got walked over by the Toronto Maple Leafs, MacDonald acquired the Twins’ catcher Eitan Maoz for future considerations.

This seems like a fairly nice acquisition. The one thing that it makes sure of, is that Dan Baribeau won’t be getting much playing time, and will pretty much assume the role that Rudy Vallejos had filled, up to just recently. Maoz would become Ottawa’s Backup Catcher, second in line to Marsh.

With Missy up to now, Eitan Maoz has displayed an average of .233, including 1 home run and 10 hits. One interesting note, is that Maoz played a vital role in keeping Ottawa “in the game” if you will, against the Leafs on Sunday. He put an RBI on the scoreboard for Ottawa a few times, as well as 2 hits.

Earlier today, the Cats’ also announced the release of 1B, Matt Sauve. He had 5 hits on 32 at bats this year, however I really liked him on the field. He was one of the stronger members of Ottawa’s basemen and had no errors this year.

So tell me, Ottawa, who will play 1st Base for the Fat Cats for the rest of the campaign?

I’m thinking that Chris Latimer will assume starting duties, while Marshall MacDonald or possibly Maoz, Baribeau, McGovern, or one of the outfielders could sub in every now and then. I’m pretty sure that that is what MacKenzie will do. I doubt that he wants players like Dan Baribeau and Tony Farago to rot on the bench.

On another peculiar note, Zach Staniewicz has been moved to Ottawa’s pitching staff from the outfield. Mombo is taking his place in the outfield. Yet another crucial part of the fairly successful Ottawa Infield has been moved. We will have to see how this new lineup performs against the Guelph Royals on Canada Day. The Royals are only one position ahead of the Fat Cats in the standings, so this should be a fun match-up.

Leafs Climbing up the Standings, brush off the Fat Cats

Christie Pits - "The Dungeon"

In case your wondering about the nickname that I’ve given the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the photo to the left of this text, please let me elaborate.

Just one month ago, the Ottawa Fat Cats were part of a game for the record books at Ottawa Stadium. They played the same Toronto Maple Leafs team that they played this afternoon, and absolutely pulverized them. The Cats swept the doubleheader by winning 20-1 and 5-3.

Now, as I said earlier, those wins for Ottawa came just one month and a few days ago. The only differences between the games earlier this afternoon and the ones that day in May, were a few roster changes, and the location of the games.

However, the results completely changed. The Toronto Maple Leafs must’ve had that DH Sweep at the hands of Ottawa, fresh at the front of their minds. They walked all over the Fat Cats, winning 9-2 and 17-2. Apparently, the Cats’ take Christie Pits as an intimidating ballpark.

Kern Watts kicked off the scoring for Toronto in the Bottom of the 1st, almost directly after Drew Taylor and the Leafs’ fielding put out 3 Ottawa Batters. That was his 1st of 2 hits in the ball game. Raul Borjas contributed in the 1st as well, also adding 2 RBI’s to the stat count later in the game. Him and Dan Gibbons were the only ones that managed 2 RBI’s on both teams.

The result after the first inning was a 3-0 TO lead, and this offensive performance from the Leafs was repeated again in the next inning, and in the next.

In no time, Toronto had a 9-0 lead headed into the 4th Inning. This was a sign that the Leafs had changed since Ottawa’s last meeting with them. Were the Fat Cats overconfident headed in? I find that hard to believe, since a second-last place team has no business being cocky.

Ottawa didn’t quit though. You have to admire their perseverance, as they did trim a bit of the fat off of the Leafs’ lead. Dave Valesente was one of the runners that came in to score, however–unless I missed a trade–Pointsreak was wrong when it came to the second Ottawa scorer. It says that Eitan Maoz, the Mississauga Twins Catcher, came in to score for the Fat Cats. I assume that this was a mistake, and that the run was actually made by Dan Baribeau.

The final result was a 9-2 Leafs win. The Cats were definitely looking for a different result in Game 2. Sadly, it was more of the same.

Jake Gallo pitched the whole game for Toronto, and definitely helped the Leafs pick up the victory. He held the always dangerous, Joe Stone off the bases and recorded a solid 6 KO’s. Out of the 6 hits that Ottawa did manage, only 2 scored. It was a great defensive effort from the Maple Leafs, altogether, and when you get 17 batters home as well, I think that you may win games.

I wish that I could say that Ottawa had the same type of fielding, however if I did, I’d be lying. The only word that could accurately describe the Cats this afternoon in game two, would be “Suck”.

Matt McGovern started on the mound, but needed to be replaced after the 4th inning. After the 4th, the Cats were down 7-2, but theoretically, were still in the game. Cue Durward.

Tyler Durward came into the game, and walked the first batter he faced. After a few more walks, many singles, a double and a home run, Toronto led 12-2. After that, er, if you could call it an inning, Durward came out of the game in favor of Joel Richard. Him and Josh Soffer finished off the game for Ottawa.

Maybe it was the fatigue of playing 5 games in 3 days, or maybe it was the fact of being away from home all week. I truly have no clue for why Ottawa played like they did today. In their defense, however, the Leafs are currently on an absolute roll. They’ve been easily brushing aside established ball clubs, like the Barrie Baycats and the Mississauga Twins. These wins put the Leafs within a game and a half of the league lead, and the Ottawa Fat Cats 12 and a half games behind the league lead. They are also the 1st IBL team to reach 20 losses this year.

Ottawa will have to dig out some Canada Day magic from their closets, when they take on the 9-13 Guelph Royals at Ottawa Stadium this Thursday. It’s the Fat Cats first home game for quite a while, so let’s give them a warm welcome back, and hope for a win!

Fat Cats and Mississauga Split Doubleheader

It wasn’t a good time to be an Ottawa Fat Cat around this time last night. The Cats were fresh off of a loss to the Hamilton Thunderbirds, the only team behind the Cats in the standings. Ottawa looked to redeem themselves at Medowvale Field in Mississauga, as this lengthy road trip starts to come to a close.

To do so, they would have to fend off the hungry Twins, in doubleheader action.

If you’re on the Twins, then the start to this game couldn’t have gone better. The 1st inning was fairly uneventful, however in the second, the Twins managed to get Seven men to the plate. Despite that, the only run that came in was a Branson Joseph shot, that brought Ottawa native Eitan Maoz home, to score the first run of the ball game.

In the 3rd, Mississauga got 7 to the plate once again. Tyler Durward’s pitching wasn’t great, however the Fat Cats’ fielders bailed him out well. No runs managed to score.

This has really been the story of the season for Tyler Durward. Quite frankly, you don’t belong in the IBL when you can’t throw strikes and you give up 9 hits in 5 innings. Am I the only one that sees this? He’s pitched 23 Innings this year, which is 2nd most on the team. I’m not really sure how he got to those kinds of numbers.

Once Durward’s day was done, an unlikely suspect stepped onto the mound for Ottawa. Zach Staniewicz has impressed from all positions this season, including Pitcher. This was his second appearance on the mound, and he pitched fairly well. 2 hits in 2 innings isn’t stellar, but it was enough to hold down the fort.

This was a neck-and-neck ball game, all the way to the 7th Inning. That was where the game changed completely.

Bill Martin had been throwing out the Fat Cats for the whole game, until the 7th Inning, when Twins’ Manager Scott VandeValk, put Kyle Benoit into the game. Benoit walked Matt McGovern with 4 straight pitches on his first at bat, Joe Stone then pounded a double into the deep Outfield to put both himself, and McGovern in scoring position.

The bases were then Loaded when Benoit walked new Fat Cat, David Valesente, and things only got worse from there. Benoit than walked Jon Dale, to score Matt McGovern. The next batter was Mark Charrette, who was hit by a pitch. Joe Stone scored on that play. As you could probably imagine, Kyle Benoit’s day was over after that. The relief for the relief, was Franco Pace.

Pace didn’t last long. His 1-0 Pitch to Mombo, was singled out and drove in Jon Dale and Dave Valesente to make it 4-1. At that point, you could tell that VandeValk wasn’t fooling around with his team. Pace’s day was done, and in came Kurtis Robinson. Robinson finished the game, however the damage had been done.

Ottawa finished off the Twins in the bottom of that 7th inning, to record another win.

You have to say that this game was kinda, sorta handed to the Fat Cats (6-18). While that may be true, you have to give the Ottawa fielders the credit that they deserve. They kept their team in this ball game, only allowing one run to come in, out of the 11 hits that Missy (12-11) mustered up.

In game 2, the Twins wanted to shake off that 7th Inning loss, and they did it well. Ian Choy, Branson Joseph and Darryl Pui scored for Missy in the bottom of the 1st, and they didn’t relinquish their lead from then on, winning game 2, 7-4.

Ottawa did attempt a little comeback  near the end of this game, and definitely didn’t let the Twins walk away with this one.  With a 7-2 lead headed into the Top of the 7th, Mississauga didn’t make the the same mistakes that they did in the first game of this series. They stuck with Starting Pitcher, Luis Castillo for the whole game, and eventually took the win, however there was no doubt that there were shades of last game going through the heads of a few Twins.

The Fat Cats didn’t play like the Second-to-last-place team that they are on paper this evening in Mississauga. They definitely seem ready for the Maple Leafs tomorrow afternoon. Start time is 1 PM from Christie Pitts, in the heart of the G20 Summit.

Last Place Thunderbirds upset Ottawa

Ugh.

That is the only word that can decsribe the Ottawa Fat Cats’ performance earlier this evening. They took on the last-place, Hamilton Thunderbirds at Bernie Arbour Memorial Stadium in Hamilton. The result was a 2-1 loss. A very disappointing performance from Ottawa this game. We just couldn’t seem to capitalize on the opportunities that the Thunderbirds gave us. The sense of urgency was not there.

Ryan Van Spronsen was on the mound for Hamilton, pitching reasonably well. Pointstreak is not working for this game, so I don’t have exact stats for anybody, however Van Spronsen had at least 10 Strikeouts in this game. A few 1-2-3 Strikeouts and Innings on the scoresheet was courtesy of Van Spronsen. Nino Fasulo got the save for the Thunderbirds.

On the other side of the mound, we had Danny Desclouds. Desclouds was solid early as well. He went 9 up, 9 down in the first 3 Innings of the game. After that, he didn’t do much else for the Fat Cats, but didn’t really contribute to the loss in any way. He pitched soundly, seeing the whole game, while the Ottawa Infielders did most of the work defensively.

Speaking of the Fat Cats Infield, if there was one thing to be happy about it was just that. Zach Staniewicz, Cody Mombourquette and Matt McGovern were stellar for Ottawa, not giving any errors to the Thunderbirds at all. While that may not seem to impressive, it is still a win on it’s own considering the dismal season that Ottawa’s infield has had up until this point.

The next step is winning games consistently.

At the plate for Ottawa, Kyle Barclay was great as usual. He even managed to steal 1st base in the 6th Inning of the ball game. Something that MLB Players struggle to do.

Taking a look at the big picture, this was hardly a good performance from the Fat Cats in Hamilton today. There was just no sense of urgency, and not enough effort. Listening to the game on INDI 101, it sounded like Ottawa didn’t really care much for this game. I hope to see a better effort against Mississauga and the 3rd Place, Toronto Maple Leafs later this weekend.

New Signings and Releases from Ottawa

Today, the Ottawa Fat Cats announced some new signings and releases, just hours before their doubleheader tonight in Hamilton.

The releases include C, Rudy Vallejos and RHP, Matt Hummel. Valejos’ release came without much surprise, since after all, he did only play in 10 games this year mostly as a DH. He fell in the shadow of Marcel Levac and Marshall MacDonald frequently at the position of Catcher.

The downside to this release is that we are now left with just 2 Catchers. Bill McKenzie will have to rely heavily on Marsh and Dan Baribeau at that position.

Our second release of the day, was that of Matt Hummell. Hummell was middle of the pack in Team ERA, which–looking at our team’s average–is not a good thing. Matt was unfortunately is the odd one out, as the Fat Cats signed a new pitcher that has Pro Ball experience.

That man would be Jose Aquino. This RHP played the 2009 Season with the Quebec Capitales, in a league that Ottawa baseball fans are all too familiar with. Until now, his 2010 Campaign has been with the New York Rip Tide of the NYCMBL in New York City. His 0-2 record is complimented by an ERA of 2.21, and if the quality of ball in the NYCMBL is anything similar to the IBL, then this was one gem of a signing by Duncan MacDonald.

The Second of the two newest additions to the Ottawa Fat Cats is David Valesente. This St Joseph product was near the top of most stat counts for his school team. He led the St Joseph Hawks in doubles with 12, and managed 32 RBI’s on 172 at bats, including 4 Homers. I particularly like this signing, because the Fat Cats were in dire need of another infielder, and Valesente more then fits the bill.

I doubt that we will see these two new players in action tonight against the Thunderbirds, but in my opinion, this roster shake up is a win for Ottawa. We will have to see how these new players perform in the next few weeks leading up to the playoffs.

Cats’ Release Two Players

Ross Graham - Former Fat Cat

I was aiming to get this out as soon as I saw it, however, a certain earthquake prevented me from doing so.

This morning, I was making my way through the Ottawa Fat Cats’ website, when I noticed a change. In the “Latest News” category at the bottom of the page, it now lists the Fat Cats’ newest signings as well as their most resent releases.

In the newest signings category, it displayed the names of Zach Staniewicz, Tony Farago, Dan Baribeau and Ross Graham. I knew about those new signings, but one thing that really caught my eye was the releases section.

That section displays the Pitcher, Marc Charbonneau–a release that I had known about–as well as the releases of the OF, Kyle O’brien and the IF, Ross Graham.

O’brien had played 4 games with the Fat Cats, and did manage to score 2 runs on 10 at bats. However, I kind of saw the release of Kyle coming. After Ottawa signed Tony Farago, Ottawa had had 6 outfielders. 4 of which were in the Top 7 on the team in Batting Averages. Somebody had to go, and the only one that really stood out in our group of Outfielders was Kyle.

I wish him the best of luck in his “future endeavors”.

The second release by the Fat Cats was the freshly signed, Ross Graham. In 2009 and this spring, Graham played for Genesee Cougars, his school team. This year for Ottawa, Graham did only play in 2 games, amassing 1 RBI on 4 at bats, but I really liked the way that he looked out on the field.

When Graham did get on base, he was always a threat. Much like Joe Stone or Cody Mombourquette, you always had to keep an eye on him, because he may make a move. He was a nice addition to Ottawa’s Infield, and there doesn’t seem to be a good, valid reason for him being let go–unless Ottawa plans on signing a 5th Infielder.

Like Kyle O’brien, I wish Ross the best in his “future endeavors”.