An Era Comes to an End

by Ryan Eakin

BARRIE - In May of 2013, Barrie Baycats general manager Doug Dimma reached out to me asking if I would be interested in writing for the team website.

14-year-old me was ecstatic, as I felt as though it would be an upgrade on dressing up as the team mascot in order to get my community service hours for high school.

Little did I know what would happen next.

They made it to the league championship series in 2013, only to blow a 3-0 series lead to the Brantford Red Sox.

The core, of course, responded by winning six straight championships, which has been well chronicled by yours truly.

So today, I am not going to write about the championships.

I am going to write about the last seven years and what happened off the field.

And I am writing this because as many know by now, our run with this core has come to an end.

I wish just as much as anyone else that this group would have stuck together for another seven years, but all good things must come to an end, so let's write about the people who were behind the greatest run in franchise history.

General and Field Manager Angus Roy: The success of any organization starts at the top and there was no better example than Roy's leadership over the past six years.

The most genuine human being that I have ever met in my life, I'll forever be indebted with the time 'Goose' afforded me over the last seven seasons.

He had a job to do and he also knew I had one to do.

There was no better example than this when I emailed him after game four of the 2015 league championship series.

The Baycats held onto win the game and took a 3-1 series lead as a result.

The game was in Kitchener and I was not able to attend, so I sent him an email asking him if I could do an interview with him in the morning.

He not only agreed to the interview, but he also did the interview the nears seconds after he got home from the game, which was around 1:00 AM.

That sums up Roy the person perfectly.

There is no doubt in my mind that no one will ever wear the number 31 in Barrie ever again.

Brad Bissell: The greatest pitcher in franchise history, his family has been a staple at every home game ever since I started volunteering with the franchise and there is no denying that home games will feel different without the Bissell family present.

An unbelievable husband and father, we would all be better off with more Brad Bissell's in the world.

Kyle DeGrace: The Kyle Lowry of the Baycats.

Period.

His attendance, leadership, and passion was always on display, but never more so than this past August and September when he played through what he played through in order to bring this franchise one more championship.

A Baycats legend forever, I can't help but think of my favourite DeGrace quote from one of my many interviews with him.

I interviewed him after the Baycats swept the Burlington Bandits in 2016 and I asked him how he thinks his team matches up with the powerhouse Kitchener Panthers.

He interrupted my question mid-answer, answered "I think they match up with us just fine," smirked and ended the interview.

The Baycats went onto sweep the Panthers in the semifinals.

Playoff DeGrace was something different, man.

Jordan Castaldo: The most clutch hitter in franchise history, it still amazed me every time he stepped up when it mattered most.

A cold-blooded assassin, I started writing for the Baycats on the night that he played one of his last games as a Maple Leaf.

Little did I know that night that I would end up interviewing him more than any other player over the course of the last seven seasons.

And he was gracious with his time every time.

Best of luck in Toronto, MVP. Not that you'll need it.

Conner Morro: An integral part of half of the Baycats' last six championships, I am glad he was able to enjoy one dogpile before leaving after missing the 2016 and 2017 dogpiles due to being in school.

He seamlessly fit into the team and its culture perfectly from the second he joined the team in 2016.

Kevin Atkinson: Maybe lost in the shuffle behind the Ryan Spataro's and Castaldo's of the world, but Atkinson will go down as one of the greatest players in franchise history.

His home run in game three of the 2016 league championship series against the Toronto Maple Leafs is still as loud as I have ever heard Coates Stadium.

Stevie Lewis: The Bill Russell of the Intercounty Baseball League, Lewis will probably go down as the most underrated player in franchise history.

He and his nine championship rings will probably be okay with that title, though.

Glenn Jackson: I have always believed that you can judge a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him and number 10 is the perfect example of that.

I'll cherish my friendship with him forever.

The 2017 season was my favourite season writing for this team but covering his 2018 postseason performance was my biggest thrill. 

A true legend.

I highlight these players because they will not be returning this season -- along with Adrian Salcedo, Darren Shred, Brandon Catena, Jacob Douglas, and Jon Waltenbury.

But I also want to thank Frank Garces, Claudio Custodio, Adam Rowe, Dan Meyer, Brett Lawson, Chris Nagorski, Enerio Del Rosario, Jaspreet Shergill, Josh Soffer, Chris England, Matt Proctor, Jason Coker, Jonathan Fernandez, Luis Diaz, Brandon Dhue, Tim Smith, Darryl Pui, Jeremy Walker, and Kyle Nichols, all of whom I interviewed over the years.

Especially Roy, Rowe, Bissell, DeGrace, Castaldo, Atkinson, Jackson, and Dhue.

I would not be the person who I am today without having all of you in my life over the last seven years.

Spending this summer without you guys is something that I still can't quite fathom and that is because it is all I have ever known since I was 13-years-old.

Thank you for letting me being apart of this family, even in my own small way.

I hope this piece shows all of you how much I appreciate everything you did for me over the last eight years but if I am being honest, it probably won't, and that is because there are truly no words that could express how much all of you have meant to me.

I'll forever be indebted for the brotherhoods, friendships, and memories over the last eight years.

The championship rings are just a bonus (a nice one, I may add!)

I remember being so caught up in the wins and losses when I first joined this organization and while that remained true right until the end, it is everything that happened off the field that I'll remember the most ten, twenty and thirty years from now.

That is why in September of 2018 when we had a chance to win the championship in game six in Kitchener, I went to the game, even though I had to be at work for 7:00 AM the next day.

I didn't get home until 2:00 in the morning and I did not finish writing my article until 3:00 AM.

Yet, if you asked me if I would relive that night over again and the tired next day that followed?

A thousand times, yes. 

Thank you, Baycats.

Thank you, Brocats.

We Dem Boyz forever.

And with that, we now turn our attention towards a new era.

And as we do so, the goal remains the same.

We understand that not everyone may know who Evan Chenier, Royce Ando, or JT Patterson is, but know that we are building our future core with some of the best young Canadian baseball players available.

There will be growing pains with such a youthful group, but as we did in the offseason of 2011 when we dealt with massive changes, we ask you to trust us as an organization and that is because top to bottom we are doing everything we can to bring a seventh straight championship to Barrie, led by the best ownership group in the league and our new general and field manager in Josh Matlow. 

The greatest era in franchise history is over, but we are committed to making sure that the dynasty is not.

We hope you join us for our home opener on Saturday, May 9th when we host the Guelph Royals in game one of our title defence.

You can buy tickets for that game and all of our other home games here.

For more information, follow the Baycats on Facebook and Twitter at @iblbaycats and on Instagram at @barriebaycats. 

Photo: Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography