Monday, October 21, 2013

Not Bad at All

The last two years have been pretty interesting for our family sports-wise.
With the exception of an incident last hockey season which is also affecting us this season (I’m not going into it here), I believe the boys are doing well and having a great time.

In the winter of 2011-2012 both of our sons were attending the practices/tryouts for the New Brunswick Junior Selects baseball team. Pretty early in the process T decided that he would rather not continue the process and stepped out which was perfectly fine.
B stuck with it for a while but eventually realized that it may not be for him either. We weren’t too fond of all the travelling that we were doing and was going to come if he made the team.
No worries.
We did agree though that the boys wanted to play a higher level of baseball than the Recreational level at New Maryland. So we said goodbye to our beloved New Maryland baseball and headed to Fredericton to try out for the Bantam AA team.
Both boys made the team and the season began.

It was going along really well for B. He’s a leftie that pitches and plays first base so he was always right in the action.
I wish I could say the same for T. He’s a great player with a great arm and good hitting skills. Unfortunately a great arm like his is best utilized in the outfield where he can rocket the ball back to the infield to make the play.
He wasn’t having a lot of fun and was often bored out there. I can’t say that I blamed the poor guy. It’s a long game when nothing is coming your way.

So T came to us and said that he didn’t want to play anymore. Initially I was of the mind that if he made the team and was on the team he has to stay on the team. But I realized that no good would come of that and he would come to despise the game. He talked to the coach and there were no hard feelings.

Both guys still played summer hockey at Base Gagetown in Oromocto.
If I haven’t mentioned it before it’s a great little league that runs for 10 games. The players are made up of all skill levels from first timers and Rec players to AAA. The main rules are that they have fun and that no one player is allowed to score more than 3 goals in a game. If they do they get a penalty.
I love that rule. It ensures that the stars on the team pass the puck and involve the other players.
We’ve done this for a few summers and I love coaching. I just open the doors and the kids play the positions that they want. Great fun.

So with B’s AA ball last year we were pretty busy and did a fair amount of driving. Nothing crazy though. We had long weekends off from games. The team did pretty well.

In the fall 2012 the boys started high school. B decided to try out for the Fredericton High School Men’s AAA ball team and made it. That’s pretty good for a guy in Grade 9 who has played Rec and AA ball.
The coach of the team is a really nice young guy named Phil who plays on the Fredericton Senior Royals as well as being a substitute teacher.
Our family has always enjoyed watching the Senior Royals play. It’s as close as you’ll get to a professional baseball game in Fredericton. These guys are really skilled and put their hearts into the game.

We haven’t been to a game in a while though. I’ll tell you why just because I’m in the mood for a REALLY long blog entry today.

In the summer of 2012 my best pal Mike was visiting us from Ontario for a week as he does most years.
One evening we decided to take in a Royals game over at their home field on Baseball Hill in Marysville. They were barely able to start the game before the clouds rolled in and a massive storm ensued.
The game was rained out and everyone was given a raincheck to be used for another game.
We were pretty busy and didn’t get a chance to get over for another game in the regular season.
The senior playoffs rolled around and we decided to get over to see one of the games.

Cheryl knew the guy who looked after the tickets and administration of the team so she sent him an email asking if the playoff game that night was going to be in Fredericton of away. We wanted to head over and use our rainchecks.
Nope, he replied. We weren’t allowed to use the rainchecks for the playoff games.
Oh, okay. No big deal. We’ll just use them next season then and pay for the playoff game.
Nope, they’re not good for next year he told her.
Pardon?? It didn’t say that anywhere on the raincheck that it wasn’t good for playoffs or the following season!

That’s just the way it is.
That left a bad taste in our mouth so in the summer of 2013 we saw exactly zero Senior Royals games.
Think about this.
We paid our full admissions to see a game that wasn’t played.
By refusing to allow us to use the rainchecks they saved the price of 2 adult and 2 student admissions that we would have used.
In doing so they lost a chance to gain the numerous admission fees that we would have paid in the summer of 2013 to see several games.
That doesn’t seem like very good business sense to me.
Maybe they didn’t even notice that we weren’t at any games in our usual spots that we watched the games from?
Perhaps someone did notice but has no idea of this backstory? Oh well.

Anyway, Phil has a great baseball mind and a really good style of coaching. If there’s a screw up he’ll deal with it but in a calm manner.
The boys had a pretty good season and a good time. They didn’t make it to the Regional playoffs or the Provincials but that was something to strive for again next season.
The best thing about the FHS ball was that B had a chance to play with and against guys that are AAA level and up to 4 years older than him. He did a good job.
Also, he made new pals in various grades at his new school.

The 2012-2013 hockey season was a wild ride. For the most part the boys had a good time and made more new friends.
These things are good for Cheryl and I as well for meeting new folks and making new friends.

One really cool thing during the season was that the coach of the Fredericton AA Canadiens saw B play and asked him to be an affiliate of the team for the season. This would allow him to play on that team if they ever needed a spare player for a game.
As it turned out they only called him up for one regular season game and the Provincial playoffs series.
Keep in mind that B had NEVER played in a game before that had bodychecking in it. The recreational levels don’t allow checking here.

He held his own pretty well though and wasn’t hurt at all. He gave some decent checks and took some doozys.
During the final Provincial playoff game a kid from the Oromocto team came over when B wasn’t paying attention and smoked him with a dirty shot to the head that put B on his back on the ice. It still hurts to watch the video I have.
Amazingly though, B stood right up and skated along as if nothing had happened and wasn’t injured at all!
The Oromocto kid got a major penalty for the headshot though.
Oh, the Canadiens won that game and became the Provincial champions!
What a great experience. That was the biggest sports victory our family has been involved in to date.

This spring B tried out and made the AA Bantam Royals team again.
T decided that he would play the summer hockey at Base Gagetown again but would sit the baseball out.
He did this a few years ago and came back to baseball so I wasn’t worrying about it. If he decided to come back to the game that would be great but it’s up to him.
As a matter of fact, T was dragged around all summer with us watching B’s games and decided that he will try out for the Midget AA team with B as well as the FHS team. He said that he had to go to the games anyway so he may as well try to get on the team to play.

This year the Bantam AA Royals came even closer than last year to winning in the Provincials.
Close doesn't count though and it doesn't make a kid feel better to tell him that “close” is pretty great too.
As the expression goes close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades.
Holy cow were we busy this summer though! We were everywhere.

I don’t know how or why but it seems that we had so many more teams to play against than last season. We played regular games in Taymouth, Miramichi, Saint John, Moncton, Sackville, Lancaster, Oromocto as well as tournaments in Sackville, Nova Scotia and Oromocto. I can’t imagine how much more travelling we would have done if the weather hadn’t been so lousy this summer. It seems that we were getting rained out constantly.

This year's Fredericton High School ball team was fantastic. There were a few of Grade 9 and 10 kids but unfortunately much of the stronger players were Grade 12 guys who will be leaving the school after this year.
This season was the last kick at the can for these guys and we were really hoping it would be the season they went all the way.
To tell you the truth, the division that FHS is in is very mismatched.

The strongest team for the last few years has been Leo Hayes High School which is in Fredericton as well but is across the river on the north side of town.
The rivalry between FHS Black Kats and the Leo Hayes Lions in everything has been thick for many years now.
Matches between the two schools are affectionately known as "The Battle of the Bridge" events.

We had a very difficult time against them last year. I don't believe we were able to beat them at all.
FHS didn't make the playoffs in 2012 but Leo Hayes went all the way to Regionals where they were beaten out.

I'm pretty certain that they were following the same path this season and won every game they played.
They beat us pretty soundly a few times.

When it came time for our division playoffs this year the games were to decide which two teams from our division would be heading to Saint John the following weekend for the Regional playoffs.
Leo Hayes being the division leader played the 4th (last) place team from Woodstock.
Woodstock didn't put up much of a fight. We beat them in every game we played against them.
It was sad to watch really. Woodstock would start off a game pretty solidly but when it came time to move into other pitchers and switch they just didn't have any real depth in their bullpen.
A game would just fall apart after a few innings for them.

We had a tougher time on our plates.
FHS was 2nd in the division over Oromocto but not by much.
In fact, last season Oromocto beat us in the playoffs and went to Regionals where they were beaten out in the first game.
One nice thing about these playoffs is that there was no "best of five" or "best of seven". The season is too short for all that and the weather is always a challenge.
When a team lost out they were done for the season. With the exception of the second Regional game. Both teams in this game were already heading to Provincials in Moncton the following weekend but the game would determine where each team would be placed in the ranking.

Our game against Oromocto was a close one and a tough battle.
One thing I find about most Oromocto teams we come up against is that they seem to be somewhat abrasive. There is far too much heckling and trash talk from their bench than I feel is warranted in these games. This has been in the AA summer ball as well as hockey too.
Thankfully, our guys don't retaliate. Rather than chirping the other team in a bad way our guys yell support to their own players. I've always been very proud that all of the teams our boys have played on have usually been this way.

In the playoff game Oromocto was loud and obnoxious for most of the game.
It made it that much sweeter when we beat them. They became pretty quiet after that.

So for the first time in several years the Fredericton High School Men's AAA baseball team was heading to the Regionals.
What would happen there was anyone's guess really. There were going to be two other very strong teams from the other Division to battle. It was not going to be easy.

On the Monday before the Regionals I was at a Parent School Support Committee meeting at the school.
I mentioned to the school principal how exciting it was that the baseball team was heading to Regionals!
He didn't have a clue what I was talking about. He, like most of the people at FHS, didn't pay any attention to the baseball teams. I should also mention that the school has a pretty great girl's softball team on which B's girlfriend is a player. They also headed to Saint John the same day but unfortunately were beaten out.
If it wasn't hockey or football most people in FHS didn't have a clue.
Which prompted me to send this tongue-in-cheek letter to the Editor of the Fredericton Daily Gleaner.
I tell people that I was "seriously joking" or "jokingly serious".

03 OCT 2013 04:32PM
Re: FHS baseball

Here is a conversation with almost every student/staff/administrator at Fredericton High School.
“Hey! Great news about the FHS baseball team!”
“Oh yeah! Everyone at the school is totally thrilled about our football team.”
“No, the baseball team. After all these years, the FHS AAA men’s baseball team is going to the regional playoffs in Saint John this weekend!”
“No, you’re mistaken. They can’t be going to the playoffs already. The hockey season is barely getting started.”
“Baseball! I’m talking about baseball!”
“Ohhh right. Baseball. Yeah that’s awesome... Uh, FHS has a baseball team?”
Good luck guys! We’re proud of you no matter what happens.
I am a proud baseball dad.

Tim Scammell
New Maryland, N.B.

So off we went to Saint John.
Our game was against the Kennebecasis Valley Crusaders.
Just like the game against Oromocto, it started out very close.
Fortunately, our pitcher was a grade 12 guy who had been playing on the NB Selects for a few years as well as on a AAA team plus, had pitched for New Brunswick this past summer in the Canada Games.
He pitched a solid 6 innings but reached his pitch limit and had to be pulled out. We were well ahead by this point and it looked in the bag.
The reliever came in and everyone became a little nervous when he started out by walking several batters.
Eventually he settled into his groove and took care of business.
We ended up winning 7-2. B had a hit and an RBI.

I was wondering if B would perhaps consider pitching if it ever looked like the team would be strapped for pitchers.
He said that he would probably not and was happy being a great first baseman.

A strange thing happened with B this year with his pitching. I don't mean good strange either.
He had been a pretty solid pitcher for several years.
While playing for the AA team in the summer one of the coaches told us that he was going to have to change his pitching style or he would never last to pitch in Midgets next year.
He told B that he was going to have to change certain things in his pitching technique.
He told us that there was most likely going to be a rough spell where B would probably not throw very many strikes. It would get better though.
This didn't really happen. B had his rough spell but it didn't seem to ever end!
Even when B tried to throw his usual pitches as before he was not having much luck.
I'm afraid that this period has made him gun shy and he has lost his interest of pitching. I'm not going to force the issue with him. It will be a shame if a great leftie thrower like him never takes the mound again but if he chooses to hone his skills and be the best first baseman he can be then good for him. As long as he enjoys himself.

Anyway, we had locked in our spot for the Provincials in Moncton!

Leo Hayes played their game against a team that was lower than us in the ranking and actually came close to losing to them. The other team was starting to roar back with a nice rally before Leo Hayes managed to finally shut them down and win.

That meant that we had to play Leo Hayes that afternoon to determine where we would each be in the Provincial's ranks.
You know what? We almost beat them! We were ahead for most of the game when an error in our outfield allowed them three runs to take the lead. In the end they won 6-4.
We gave them a nice scare for the first time that I had seen in our games against them.

The Provincials the following weekend in Moncton were a Fredericton vs. Miramichi battle.
The ball field was the nicest one we have ever played on. I was very impressed. It's the field where Moncton's senior men's team plays their games and was completely renovated and refurbished fairly recently.

We played against James M. Hill in the first game of the day.
We had another of our grade 12 pitchers who had also played in the Canada Games. He did a great job.
Unfortunately we had six errors which ended up hurting us. There were also a few calls which raised many eyebrows and several tempers.
It was a really close game but we couldn't quite pull it off. We lost 5-4.
Of note, Leo Hayes ended up playing James M. Hill if the final game and lost 7-3.
What a great job our guys did though! For the first time in 14 years the FHS Black Kats went to the Provincial playoffs.
That's a heck of a lot to be proud of.
B played a great game and had the best baseball experience of his playing career.

That's B in number 6 heading to the plate.

This year for the first time we were still involved in a baseball season in the middle of October and enjoyed it!

Next year T has said he wants to try out again for the AA summer team and the FHS ball team. I was glad to hear this.
This will be very important since so many of the team will be graduating this year. We will need a few players to make a proper team. At least Leo Hayes will be in much the same boat with their senior players so hopefully the season will be a close matched one next year for FHS.

By making it to the Regionals and Provincials I am hoping that the school awareness of the baseball teams has increased and next year more people will show an interest in them.
B has just played his best season with the highest caliber of players that he has ever played with and against. He rose to the occasion and although didn't pitch he was the best first baseman out there.
He made a bunch of new friends and played for a great coach.

Plus, it's looking hopeful that next year I will finally get to see both of my star boys play baseball together again. I've missed that so much.

That's not bad at all, is it?

Stay well,


Steve Boyko said...

Not bad at all, Tim!

Your love of your boys, the games, and your good sportsmanship shines through. Good on ya.

Steve Boyko said...

Not bad at all!

Your love of your boys, your love of sports and your good sportsmanship all shine through. Good on ya!

Tim Scammell, PTech said...

Thanks Steve. :)