Archive for April, 2013

Moving on: Fat Cats playing elsewhere

One of the many Fat Cats moving on is P Josh Soffer (photo courtesy Freedom Photography)

One of the many Fat Cats moving on is P Josh Soffer (photo courtesy Freedom Photography)

Another IBL season is set to get under way on this coming Saturday with Barrie facing Brantford and Burlington taking their talents to Hastings Stadium in Guelph. However, even though the Fat Cats have been forced out of Ottawa Stadium for what will hopefully be just one year, there will be some former Cats in action on Saturday.

Indeed, there have been a couple signings around the IBL as teams look to improve their staff before the first pitch of the season. These signings include some former Fat Cats, of whom we’ll highlight in today’s post.

Josh Soffer – Barrie Baycats

Barrie’s stock has definitely gone up this off-season, acquiring the rights of some of the Fat Cats’ best players. Soffer was 2nd in the IBL in saves last year, only trailing IBL veteran Stefan Strecker. “I’ve been told that I’m in the mix for closer. At very least being a late inning guy” said Soffer in an interview over Facebook. “Honestly though, I’m going to do the same thing whether I’m starting closing long relief. That gets outs.”

If Angus Roy and the Baycats brass want the best from their pitching staff, I suggest they place Soffer in the closing role. After a bit of a rocky start last year, he came back to show why he’s one of the best pitchers in this league, posting a 3.57 ERA which was the best out of the top 5 closers in the IBL last season.

James Amelotte – Barrie Baycats

This sensational young pitcher will most likely get a shot at pitching for an affiliated club in the future, but for now he joins Soffer in Barrie.

I was very impressed with Amelotte in the games that we saw him pitch in, where on one occasion he held the perennial powerhouse Brantford Red Sox to just 3 runs in a complete game effort. He seems very strong mentally and is only going to get better. He’ll be another solid addition for Barrie.

Jason Coker – Barrie Baycats

As one of Ottawa’s imports, it looks as though Jason Coker enjoyed last year’s experience in Ottawa enough to make a return to the Great White North this season. This was confirmed when I asked him about it; “Let me start by saying that I love Canada. I had a blast last summer stepping out of my comfort zone.”

Not only does Coker want to be in Canada this year, but his will to be the best is also still there and he’s clearly looking forward to this coming season. “I still have the drive to compete on the field. I have a genuine passion for the game. It’s something I would never give up if I didn’t have to.”

“The Barrie Baycats organization extended me another chance to live out my dream. They have a solid fan base and it presents a great atmosphere for us on the field.”

Brandon Huffman – Brantford Red Sox

The Red Sox are already a club that could most definitely compete with the best of the Can-Am indy pro league. This Huffman acquisition only bolsters the accuracy of that statement.

“[Huffman’s] success last year in the IBL spoke for itself but after we were able to touch base with Brandon his desire to continue to get better and personality made us feel he would be a perfect fit in Brantford” said Brantford GM Mike Bonnano. “The staff in Ottawa did a great job finding Brandon and we are hopeful by seasons end he will have a chance to play affiliated baseball”.

Huffman not only led the league in strikeouts last year, he blew away the competition, posting 94 Ks in 12 appearances. His closest competition in that category was Marek Deska of Toronto, who was still 16 behind Huffman.

As GM Bonnano said, hopefully we’ll see Huffman get the chance to play in an MLB system by the end of the year. The intensity of his game and his ability to throw heat should get him there sooner than later, but until then, the 5-time defending champions just got quite a bit better.

Bryce MacDonald-Wilson – Guelph Royals

I guess Guelph Royals GM Dave teBoekhorst did some scouting during last year’s IBL Quarterfinal. Bryce MacDonald-Wilson has had his playing rights acquired by the Guelph Royals.

MacDonald-Wilson was never used to the extent that he could’ve been – for whatever reason that may be – however from what I’ve seen from him, he’s a capable swing man and can definitely contribute to the Royals.

He’ll definitely play a part in the Royals’ bolstered pitching staff, as they also added former Barrie Baycat Scott Price who has thrown for an ERA of under 2 in his past 2 seasons. Look for Guelph to be even better this season.

Brett Sabourin – London Majors

Another team looking to add some playoff performers in an attempt to move on is the London Majors. 

Sabourin played a key role in the Cats’ run to the IBL Final in 2011, posting a 3.99 ERA in the starting rotation alongside Matt McGovern and William Sebastian (ah yes, the good ol’ days).

It’s no secret that London has looked to improve in any way possible and a playoff performer like Sabourin will no doubt be a positive addition to their starting rotation – assuming that’s where manager Roop Chanderdat puts him.

Matt McGovern – Kitchener Panthers

It took about a week, but Matt McGovern has signed on to play with the Kitchener Panthers. Last season seemed like a rehab season for Gov, where he didn’t see much action on the mound but manned first base for Tim Nelson. We’ll see what the plan is for McGovern in the coming year, as he has now had a two years to recuperate from his beaten and battered 2011 playoff season.

Currently, Kitchener has him in their DH slot under “other” on their roster. He shares that category solely with Jeff Pietraszko.

If I had to guess, that will likely change. Gov did hit as the DH a few times in Ottawa, but it’s pretty absurd to have a set DH from the beginning of the year, so he’ll probably move around in the lineup. Whether that is to the mound or not is still to be seen.

Cody Mombourquette – Toronto Maple Leafs 

The IBL wasn’t Cody Mombourquette‘s first choice when it came to league play earlier this year. It was brought to my attention a little while ago that this happened:

Frontier League Transactions May 10, 2013

FRONTIER GREYS: Released RHP Dakota Laufenberg, RHP Jeff Lyons, INF Cody Mombourquette, OF Austin Newell, RHP D.J. Stinsman, and RHP Brandon Thielk.

It appears that Mombourquette attended a tryout for the Frontier League road team this year and even may have been signed originally. The Greys eventually ruled against keeping him around, for whatever reason.

Regardless, Mombo should have another good year in the IBL, this time wearing a Leafs jersey. He’s notorious for being a tough out for pitchers and could bring some youthful energy that Toronto has been missing for the past few years now.

I’ll be following these guys around throughout the summer – if anything notable comes up, I’ll be sure to post it here.

I wish all former Fat Cats the best of luck in the future. Hopefully we’ll be seeing them in a Fat Cats jersey once again in 2014.

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RE: “Ottawa Stadium plan must not evolve in secret”

Caption

According to Citizen columnist Joanne Chianello, Ottawa Stadium should sit empty for a long time, as it did for an entire summer in 2009 (photo courtesy Canadian Baseball Network)

We have some breaking developments in the Ottawa Baseball world. Take it away, David Reevely:

Any scheme to pay for a sports stadium with a nearby land development will draw obvious parallels with the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park, a $400-million project that’s to bring a Canadian Football League team back to a revamped Frank Clair Stadium, partly funded by commercial and residential development on the north and west edges of the city-owned Glebe property. The city agreed to a deal with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, composed mainly of developers, and had to fight several rounds in court to defend its legality.

A deal around Ottawa Stadium would be a bit different: the site doesn’t have a hundred-year history as a fairground and public gathering place and hasn’t been left to rot since the Lynx left after the 2007 baseball season, though it does need several million dollars’ worth of work to modernize and upgrade it. The city last year pledged to spend $5.7 million to retrofit the stadium if a team can be nailed down.

The Ottawa Stadium project being compared to the similar one at Lansdowne would have happened eventually and I’m not really bothered by that. However, it’s the idea of Joanne Chianello that is troubling me, as she wrote in her Citizen column yesterday morning.

It’s believed now that the city is dealing, not with Beacon, but with Mandalay Sports Entertainment and Professional Sports Catering. And not only will Ottawa not be getting a new baseball team this year, there likely won’t be one in 2014 either.

But here comes the most unsettling part, brought to light by Citizen reporter David Reevely: the city, the Eastern League and the potential franchise owners, have all been discussing options for funding the team that could include developing city lands.

Naturally, these revelations invoke uncomfortable comparisons to the divisive — and not exactly transparent — process that led to the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park.

Have our top city politicians learned nothing?

Perhaps they have. Although it certainly appears that the players in this baseball deal are hatching plans behind closed doors, it seems their machinations are still at the concept stage.

But it’s not too late to do this right, for a change. This latest discussion about developing land around Ottawa Stadium still seems to be in its early stages. In other words, exactly the moment when the public should become engaged. Many of our elected officials have said that one of their priorities for this term of council is to consult more meaningfully with the people of Ottawa. Here’s a prime chance for them to show they’re really ready to play ball.

From what I’ve read here, the opinion of Ms. Chianello is that there should be public consultation before a decision is made on what to do with the Stadium. This is the wrong way to go about things.

Chianello is right in a way – the city can indeed learn from Lansdowne Park with this new Stadium project. If they wish for the Stadium’s revitalization to be completed in time, I suggest that they refrain from public consultation.

We don’t need unnecessary delays here and while the public’s opinion is important, what good would it do? It would further delay the process of bringing a Double-A baseball team to the city. If they did go ahead with this, I would be surprised to see a team hit the field by 2017 or 2018.

This would do more damage than good to the prospects of off-field success. The reason that investors had their eye on Ottawa in the first place was due to the fans that the Fat Cats were able to draw. If this city goes 5+ years without a team – and you know that we would if a public forum is opened – that momentum that OSG and the Fat Cats brought could very well simmer off into nothing.

If they do follow the route that Ms. Chianello is telling them to, I would hope that baseball would continue to be played at the Stadium during the long and drawn out process, preferably in the form of the Fat Cats. Having Ottawa Stadium empty for that long would be an absolute disaster.

Taking the public’s consideration into account in this situation isn’t adequate. Given prior record, the review process could take years. If the renovations to happen to go ahead as planned, they’ll be handled well and the public will enjoy the new facility – those in charge know what they’re doing.

The city is pretty adamant that Double-A ball is what they want and it appears with these talks that things are on the right track (why would be even be discussing this if gaining a team was a long shot?). Let’s aim for 2015 as a first pitch date and stop the avoidable concern for public consultation.

 

Talks heat up as Watson meets with Jays

I’ve had a couple recent inquiries into what’s been going on with the Double-A situation. With talks heating up considerably as of late, I have trouble offering any sort of analysis – which could turn out to be a good thing for the sake of your reading pleasure.

I’ll let Ken Gray take things away from here with an excerpt from a recent post on Bulldog Ottawa:

Meetings in Toronto and Ottawa today [Thursday] and Friday have come about because negotiations have reached a critical point, baseball insiders say.

The negotiations include Rogers Communications, the Toronto Blue Jays (which are owned by Rogers), Mandalay Sports Entertainment and Professional Sports Catering (two companies interested in bringing a Double-A team to Ottawa), Mayor Jim Watson’s office and the Eastern League.

Despite published reports to the contrary, the team that would be expected to move to Ottawa would not be the Eastern League Erie Sea Wolves, sources say.

Plans to sell Mandalay are making negotiations trickier than expected, but are not expected to prevent the company from being part of a potential Ottawa franchise, insiders say. The same sources said they were surprised that Watson announced the Toronto negotiations because the situation is very delicate. Mandalay and Pro Sports are two of the most successful and innovative operators in Minor League Baseball.

The talks are expected to result in a decision on the future of baseball in Ottawa. Sources would not speculate on their outcome but would only say the negotiations had reached a critical point. The principals to the deal are looking for financial support from Rogers and the Blue Jays.

I honestly have no idea what to expect from this. What a whirlwind ordeal.

Firstly, I don’t think anyone with a casual knowledge of the situation would have expected Mandalay to go on the market. It makes the situation tricky, but more importantly, the sale of a Double-A team can still happen regardless.

Judging by the vocabulary of the quotes here from certain insiders in Gray’s post, it appears that this is gut check time for negotiations. In the few weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some hints as to what direction we’re headed in.

Considering that there’s still another two months that have been allotted for the deal to materialize since the original April 1st deadline was extended, I’m expecting them to take all the time they need – maybe even working into the summer.

That’s all for now, hopefully I’ll be able to write about baseball soon.