Sounding off: Fans unreasonable in Can-Am protests

Today, Ottawa’s Can-Am baseball bid fought its way through city council chambers and passed overwhelmingly, 20-3. With the proposal passing, it’s almost a guarantee that we’ll be seeing a very good level of professional baseball back in Ottawa.

This is unfortunately being misinterpreted as a bad thing by many people around the city – and I’m not talking about those who aggressively discourage public funding of pro sports stadiums and franchises, I’m eluding to actual baseball fans.

Yes, there are baseball fans in Ottawa who don’t want to see independent professional baseball occupy Ottawa Stadium. This doesn’t make any sense to me, especially considering that they have no legitimate case in calling the Can-Am League a bad quality of baseball, if they look at it objectively.

The main complaints that I’m seeing is mostly due to the absence of a Jays affiliation, which is what would’ve been included in the original plan for Double-A baseball. While there is indeed no affiliation with the Can-Am team, which is unfortunate, there is no need to be involved with the Jays for success in Ottawa.

I’m not going to go deep into this as it feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but with the different business model that the Can-Am League comes with, the team can be successful without the help of a major league team. Why do you think indy leagues have the staying power that they do?

You don’t need 4,000 fans for the team to be viable. The Rapidz did just fine in their only season, drawing approximately 2,500 fans per game and that was before establishing any kind of identity with the fans in Ottawa.

The whole identity thing came to fruition with the Fat Cats, as they drew well over 3,000 fans per game after connecting with their supporters during the playoff run of 2011.

One of the fans who hasn’t been able to shake off the attraction of Double-A baseball is Ken Gray, whom I’ve mentioned on this blog previously.

Gray runs a blog called The Bulldog, which covers city issues. He has been very active on the baseball front and wasn’t exactly happy when the Can-Am League was announced as the winning bid. Here are a few gem quotes from his multiple pieces on the subject.

Here’s what Mayor Jim Watson and his city staff are implicitly telling people in Ottawa who are even remotely interested in baseball:

If you want even moderately good baseball in your life, leave town. If you are someone who has good talents to choose a good job in a good city and you like to watch a bit of good baseball, pick another place than Ottawa.

Not a good way to attract topnotch talent to Ottawa.

If you have a young family or you’re a senior looking for inexpensive entertainment, try somewhere else.

 

One club in the five-team loop draws fewer than 500 patrons per game. And all the years the Quebec Capitales have not won the Can-Am championship (the Tin Cup it is called or at least we are led to believe) since 2005, those winning clubs are no longer in the league.

The Can-Am League is a great option for Ottawa if your goal is to tear down Ottawa Stadium.

 

Here is what will happen. Ottawans won’t go to the Can-Am League because they have no identification with the team. The team will fail.

Perhaps that’s what the city wants. Guaranteed that within seven years there will be a shopping centre or office towers or condos being built on the site of the Coventry Road stadium. Look I’m a baseball fan and it’s unlikely I’ll go to an Ottawa Can-Am’s game. The team will be a bunch of no-names going nowhere. Who cares.

With Double-A you get to see the Blue Jays of the future. With Can-Am you get to see the nowhere players of the past. It’s a waste of time.

I’m not sure that I’ve seen such an unreasonable position full of assumptions and accusations. I once thought of Gray as a supporter of baseball’s future in Ottawa – but not now. His public degrading of the Can-Am League has closed that case.

Unfortunately, we have to face the displeasing reality. Gray’s position is apparent among many, and it’s sad to see. Fans have been led to believe that the Can-Am League is bad quality baseball. News sites have been putting a negative spin on the subject and are not giving the full story, thus resulting in unreasonable protests against Can-Am baseball.

The reality of it all is this. The Can-Am League is good quality baseball that has found success in many many markets and has rejuvenated professional baseball in Quebec, with its two teams in Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City.  Not only that, but they’ve produced many current major league players.

The league failed once before due to bad ownership courtesy of Rob Hall and nothing else. With Miles Wolff leading and knowing this time around that any old guy who has the money to own the team isn’t necessarily the best option, the team will succeed.

Have I made myself clear?

I fail to see the logic of those who say that the new incarnation of Can-Am baseball won’t stick around because it is a “glorified beer league”, as has been said multiple times. If you’re a baseball fan in the city of Ottawa, don’t be an elitist, support your local team.

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Can-Am League handed Ottawa’s baseball dreams

Jared Lemieux gets set to bat for the Ottawa Rapidz in a 2008 Can-Am League game (photo courtesy Nicolas Rouleau)

Jared Lemieux gets set to bat for the Ottawa Rapidz in a 2008 Can-Am League game (photo courtesy Nicolas Rouleau)

In an unprecedented turn of events, the city of Ottawa has ruled against pursuing a double-A team at Ottawa Stadium.

It has been recommended that an independent Can-Am League team moves in to Ottawa Stadium.

Here is a portion of the press release from the city, full version can be found here:

 

Ottawa – A staff report to be considered by the Finance and Economic Development Committee on October 1 and by City Council on October 9 recommends approval of an offer from the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball to lease the Ottawa Stadium and return professional baseball to the capital.

If the offer is approved, international pro baseball would begin in May 2015 with an Ottawa team joining five others in the Can Am league – two in Quebec and three in the northeastern U.S. – including 50 home games at the Ottawa Stadium.

“I am pleased that this challenging two-year process is coming to fruition,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “Our goal was to secure a long-term professional baseball tenant for this important purpose-built facility, and do so while getting the best value for taxpayers.”

Through this process, the City has refined its vision for the long-term use of the Ottawa Stadium in a way that will preserve the facility, see professional baseball return to Ottawa, and open the doors for a variety of other community uses. In addition to being reanimated with 50 baseball home games in a professional international league, the Ottawa Stadium would also be used as a recreation and entertainment venue with 50 to 75 additional days of programming each year.

“The City has worked hard to find a solution that is fair for taxpayers, sports fans, community groups and the public,” said Orleans Councillor Bob Monette. “If this plan is approved, I hope all residents will join us in supporting our new Can-Am team and attending new activities at the facility in order to make the most of this important community asset.”

As you can most likely tell from my previous posts, this is a gigantic step in the right direction for Jim Watson and the city. Double-A baseball was not the way to go, as the cost for taxpayers was significant. A Double-A team would have been a decent investment of these tax dollars, however when handling the money of residents, less is usually better.

You’ll note that I italicised the word ‘usually’, as there are some obvious exceptions.

Miles Wolff stated that the cost for renovations under Can-Am requirements is much less than the term of approximately $30 Million that was announced as a possibility if affiliated baseball was chosen. “With the money that has been spent thus far on the stadium, I think it will take a lot less than $5 Million to bring it up to shape” Wolff said in an email.

Given that, and using the ‘less is better’ analogy in this situation, it really seems like a win-win. The other ‘win’ being that we still get good quality baseball in Ottawa.

I was in Quebec City earlier this summer and had the pleasure of taking in a Capitales game at the old Stade Municipal. The calibre of baseball was surprisingly good – I don’t remember the Rapidz being able to play at the level of Quebec and the visiting St. Paul Saints (albeit, these squads are a little better than the Rapidz were).

For the many in Ottawa who have not been to Double-A baseball games before, this calibre will be more than suitable, just as the Fat Cats were when they drew over 4,000 per game on average during the 2011 playoffs.

In terms of an ownership group, I wouldn’t worry too much. While we should see investors step into the role, Miles Wolff would run the team in the short term. Who knows, maybe he’d take the reins and run with the team himself in the event that there is no potential buyer in the first season or two. Wolff did the same thing with the Quebec Capitales, leading them into a championship dynasty that is now in its 5th year.

Another point to make – you can be sure that Wolff will be careful in choosing his new ownership group for this Can-Am team following the Rapidz fiasco in 2008. Zip.ca boss Rob Hall was handed the Ottawa Rapids franchise, butchered the branding and bailed after just one season leaving Ottawa Stadium to rot.

It appears that the majority of reaction from baseball to this development has been negative, as expected. Many were excited about the Double-A possibility.

I understand that Double-A baseball is a primary developmental league full of big-shot prospects and would be a great addition to Ottawa’s sports environment, but in the end it comes down to what works in this market.

The Can-Am League is a low-cost option with a business model that fits with the Ottawa market for baseball. Hopefully most fans that are caught in the moment step off their soapboxes and support this new club, if it does indeed materialize. With the right people in charge, the Can-Am League will find huge success in Ottawa.

News and Notes: Fat Cats around the IBL, Welland expansion/relocation?

Former Fat Cat Brandon Huffman pitches for the Red Sox (photo courtesy R.S. Konjek)

Former Fat Cat Brandon Huffman pitches for the Red Sox at Christie Pits on June 2nd (photo courtesy R.S. Konjek)

It’s been too long since I’ve addressed the Fat Cats on what used to be primarily a Fat Cats blog. I feel slightly guilty about that and I’d be lying if I said that nothing was going on, so here’s a little rundown covering what’s been going on with all Fat Cats related stories around the IBL, and a little blurb on some IBL expansion prospects.

Cats around the league

Another former Fat Cat joined the likes of Jason Coker and Brandon Huffman among others, signing with an IBL team looking to make a run at a championship. At the signing deadline, the Brantford Red Sox inked Eitan Maoz as a depth acquisition in an effort to defend their title again.

As of July 22nd, Maoz is batting .286 in 4 games played. Obviously it’s a small sample size, so we’ll see if he’ll continue to bring Brantford the energetic punch that Fat Cats fans knew him for over the course of his 2 and a half season stint in the red and white.

He’s played the majority of his games as the DH or in the outfield. You may recall Maoz being the go-to catcher for Tim Nelson last year. However, with IBL veteran and former Frontier League pro Wayne Forman in their catcher slot, it’s hard to find a fit for him in that position. Regardless, Maoz brings a hot bat and a charismatic persona to the Sox locker room, two qualities that are valued by a team looking to claim a championship.

With the arrival of former London Rippers pitcher Jamie Richmond in the IBL, Brandon Huffman has been dethroned as the best starter in the league. He does, however, continue to carry a very low ERA of 2.10. While his strikeout count is down, that is most likely for the better, as Huffman often went deep into counts looking for the K, driving up his pitch count.

Having a lower strikeout number is a good thing for him in my opinion and he’s settled into what looks to be a big role in Brantford’s starting rotation – not that they need his help, being 9 games ahead of the pack. It’s safe to say that the Sox have all but clinched a sixth straight championship – if you’re looking for parity in the IBL, halt your search now.

The team that was slated to challenge Brantford for the Dominico Trophy at the beginning of the year was the Barrie Baycats. There are a few people who believe that the Baycats’ phase as the “heir to the throne” is over, replaced by the Kitchener Panthers.

This is plausible, but I’m not buying it. Jason Coker and Josh Soffer have helped the Baycats into a dog fight with London for 3rd place, and while the Panthers do have the stats (and the help of a subdued Matt McGovern) I find it hard to believe that the Barrie team is done.

Coker and Soffer have both settled into their Baycats uniforms nicely. Soffer has posted a team-high 2 saves and a 2.22 ERA while appearing in 21 games this year – the next closest competitors in that category are Jake Hines and Brett Lawson at 10 appearances each. It’s clear that he’s one of the go-to pitchers for manager Angus Roy.

Jason Coker’s surprised many with an IBL career-high 9 home runs – very impressive for a guy who was not known as a power hitter with the Fat Cats, as Nelson went with more of a small ball game. This new dimension to Coker’s repertoire enforces what a valuable player he is.

Another pitcher with what we thought was terrific value is the young gun James Amelotte, but his play has stalled this year. Ever since a disastrous appearance in Guelph during the 2012 playoffs, it’s been downhill for him, where he’s walked 8 and given up 15 runs in just under 13 innings worked for Barrie, adding up for an ERA of 10.65, not much better than the 7.06 he had at SUNY Canton in 2012-13.

Given that this is the same 19-year-old that held off the powerhouse Red Sox in a complete game effort among other performances last year, it’s surprising to see him drop off. Hopefully we’ll see more of a rebound toward the end of this season and wherever he plays in 2014.

One last note from Toronto – Cody Mombourquette has left that organization after spending some time in the Leafs’ outfield and at shortstop. This was confirmed when I came across this tweet:

Potential relocation

Switching topics to some off field headlines, I’ve been in earshot of rumblings that the Fat Cats were contemplating a move to Welland Stadium in the Niagara region and that Duncan MacDonald was involved in the process – he won the IBL Executive of the Year for both years he was the man in charge for the Fat Cats.

A St. Catherines Standard article published on July 9th added fuel to the fire when it stated that “a second group wanted to put a team in Welland” other than the other local group, however Commissioner Smith shot down that proposition early.

I contacted Smith about the second group, where he denied the Ottawa/Welland rumours while also confirming other whispers that the Fat Cats would currently be unable to move due to outstanding payments.

“Even if the Fat Cats were in good standing with the League, which they are not, they and all other IBL teams have no right of relocation” said Smith via email. “Each franchise is assigned territorial rights; any expansion or relocation requires approval from the existing owners and the IBL has not received such a request.” Smith added that if the Welland area does gain an IBL team in 2014, it will be expansion and not relocation.

Nice to see high-quality baseball return to Welland and the Niagara area, it’s been way too long since a team occupied that ballpark and as one of the nicest in the country, that shouldn’t have been the case. I’m surprised that the Can-Am League hasn’t looked into placing a team there with the market of St. Catherines just 20 minutes away.

If the new ownership group wants to make the team viable, they will have to do their best to draw from outside Welland as well as from within. A “Niagara” brand scheme would work well in this situation.

I’ll hope to catch a few games in Welland next year if the team does in fact come to fruition. It would be nice to take in IBL baseball once again and in a stadium that has formerly hosted affiliated baseball to boot. This would be the nicest stadium in the league behind London and technically Ottawa.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Before I go, I’ve started a new sports blog called Under Review Sports, designed for me to express my opinion on all things sports while the Ottawa Baseball dilemma is sorted out. Check it out; I plan on updating it frequently!

 

Think again: Double-A bid not the end

Collision at the plate takes place during a Rapidz game in 2008 (source)

Collision at the plate takes place during a Rapidz game in 2008 (photo courtesy Pearl Pirie)

Local media outlets had recently been reporting that the latest restart of the Ottawa Double-A baseball bid (yes, the process has been restarted) is the last shot at seeing baseball in Ottawa. A report out of the Montreal newspaper La Presse suggests that the Can-Am League is ready to give Ottawa another shot and is armed and ready in the case that the Double-A baseball bid falls through.

Une annonce officielle concernant cette expansion sera émise en septembre prochain. Les marchés potentiels comprennent les villes d’Atlantic City et Sussex au New Jersey, Worcester au Massachusetts et Montréal et Ottawa au Canada.

En ce qui concerne Ottawa, M. Wolff a précisé : «Les responsables de la Ville ont envoyé une demande d’offres à la ligue Can-Am et nous ont demandé d’y répondre. Nous comprenons que la Ligue de l’Est (Eastern League) est actuellement le premier choix d’Ottawa, mais nous sommes prêts à intervenir si la proposition de la Ligue de l’Est échoue.»

The latest reports on Ottawa baseball have garnered the interest of Jays blogs with Drunk Jays Fans – a prominent Blue Jays news and analysis site – picking up the story last week, as it looks as though a deal to bring a Jays Double-A affiliate to Ottawa is closer than it’s ever been. I’ve also heard from a source that the city and Mandalay are very close to striking a deal to move an existing EL team to Ottawa – however let’s not jump the gun once again, as the possibility of the deal falling apart is still there. In the event that it does, many are reporting that baseball in Ottawa will have seen its last glimmer of hope washed away.

This is clearly not the case, as noted above and I’m not sure as to why some seem to think that this is the last chance for baseball.

There is clearly interest from the Can-Am League and according to the La Presse report linked above, there could be other leagues inquiring to the city about utilizing Ottawa Stadium in the event that the Double-A bid falls through such as the new independent Diamond League and the revamped Northern League. I believe these leagues are just as good if not better options for the future of baseball in this city.

If you’ve been keeping track of the baseball situation through the news, just know that the Double-A bid is not the last chance for baseball to succeed. If the Can-Am League came in to Ottawa Stadium under the guidance of Miles Wolff, it would thrive. Add in the new rivals from Trois-Rivieres and potentially Montreal, and things could get as heated as a Saturday night Fat Cats-Majors game.

Another plus for Can-Am baseball would be the cost to taxpayers. As opposed to the cost being tossed around now, Miles Wolff stated that they would only spend the money needed to bring the stadium to operational standards. Far less than the current price tag of $10-30 Million, which we all have to admit is a little pricey regardless of our stance.

While things are looking pretty solid at the Double-A camp right now, if the deal does end up falling through I hope the city opens themselves to other opportunities. Councillor Bob Monette is already on our side, going on record saying that he wants “the stadium open for decades” – so let’s hope that some other council members are of the same opinion, as the indy route is more than viable.

While uncertainty continues to rule, one point that isn’t subject to change is that I can’t wait to write about baseball once again.

The Fat Cats should be playing this season – and beyond

Rick Howroyd puts away the final out of game 3 in the 2011 IBL Championship (photo courtesy Freedom Photography)

Rick Howroyd puts away the final out of game 3 in the 2011 IBL Championship (photo courtesy Freedom Photography)

Back in 2011, the Fat Cats were the talk of the town as they made it all the way to the IBL final, drawing over 4,000 people per game consistently during their run, rivaling the storied Ottawa 67’s in terms of crowd size.

Now, due to the success of the Fat Cats, we’re looking at an empty stadium for two years. Ironic, isn’t it?

Of course, this wasn’t the original plan. If things went as they were planned at first, we’d quite possibly be getting ready to head out to a renovated Ottawa Stadium right now to watch the Ottawa Blue Jays – while not missing a single summer of baseball.

The Fat Cats, assumingly, would’ve had their final season inside Ottawa last year during renovations.  That’s right, it would’ve been possible for the team to play ball through the ongoing construction in and around the stadium.

So my question to Mayor Watson is this – why isn’t Ottawa Stadium being used for Fat Cats baseball right now?

The reason that the Cats and OSG weren’t allowed to play this year in the first place was because they couldn’t fit them in under the schedule. If the Fat Cats were able to fit in to the schedule before, what caused that to suddenly change? It doesn’t seem to make any sense.

The easiness of the Cats’ schedule reaffirms the strangeness of the sudden change. If they were in the IBL this season, they would play a 42-game schedule, with 21 of those games being at home. If you include Friday nights and add in a couple double headers, the entire Fat Cats schedule could be played in around 6 weekends.

This equals out, obviously, to 12 days. 12 days without construction and 75+ days with isn’t a major hoop to jump through for the city. It seems like they could accommodate the Fat Cats if they really wanted to – the first devised plan shows that.

Jim Watson clearly has a plan for the stadium this summer. He’s alluded to it in tweets and rejected an offer from Duncan MacDonald’s new group in order to go ahead with this plan. Not only that, but the city is not allowing the charity fundraiser Home Runs for Autism to utilize the stadium for their event. They’ve been forced into Carlington Park for this year.

I would like to know what that plan is and what it consists of. Now, obviously I’m not going to jump to conclusions and suggest that it’s a bad plan before I see it, but if it doesn’t involved a competitive level of baseball being played at the stadium, I would hope this plan isn’t in place until the current negotiations are settled.

Let’s see the field used for what it was built for – baseball. If it isn’t, we could see interest for baseball dwindle, as the momentum that the Fat Cats brought to town is slowly fading away.

In fact, why doesn’t the city welcome back the Fat Cats for 2014? We’ve already established that the Cats’ schedule is easy and can be worked into a construction schedule and that there won’t be Double-A baseball in 2014, so why not? If anything, it would boost the fading interest for baseball in this city as the stadium sits empty.

Give it some thought, Mr. Mayor! In the meantime, I hope the current proposal you’re mustering up doesn’t involve grass achieving waist-high levels.

 

News and Notes: IBL’s interest hasn’t faded, new message board

The new Ottawa baseball message board, Ottawa Baseball Fans

The new Ottawa baseball message board, Ottawa Baseball Fans

Here’s a few quick noteworthy items to discuss on this beautiful Saturday evening.

IBL still interested in Ottawa

I received a comment on my WordPress bio page from Litter Box reader Rob Alexander regarding the IBL’s interest in Ottawa. He contacted the league’s commissioner regarding Ottawa’s future in the league and had this to say:

I contacted the IBL Commissioner a month ago in light of the fading AA baseball effort. He stated that the league’s position is that the league and the Fat Cats’ ownership wish to return to Ottawa and are awaiting the City’s decision as to the future of Ottawa Stadium. Both parties seek a multi-year agreement rather than a season-at-a-time lease. Stay tuned.

Good to see that there’s still interest from the league, which is expected. It appears that OSG hasn’t given up either, so that’s encouraging. It’s always a good thing when there’s a willing group to take on a project if Plan A falls through and there does appear to be a possibility of that happening. It’s even better when you know how good of a job OSG has done over the past few years and would do if they stepped back in.

The question is – will the city be willing to give them a multi-year deal?

New forum for baseball discussion

Back when the Rapidz were around, a message board was set up by a few fans in an attempt to start some dialogue. Ottawa Rapidz Fans was a pretty big success and now with professional baseball seemingly making a comeback around here, I figured I’d start one up.

Check out Ottawa Baseball Fans, and if you have anything to add to the discussion, make an account and do so!

Future of the blog

This blog will most likely continue to be in operation over the next few years unless a decision is made here to axe baseball altogether, however there won’t really be any order as to when posts will come out. If news breaks regarding Double-A, I’ll update the blog. Other than that, I’ll only add anything if I feel it’s necessary – and that could be at any time. Keep checking back every now and then!

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.