Baycats 20/20 Vision: The Past, Present, and Future: Inskeep the Baycats' Unsung Hero
BARRIE - Just months before the Barrie Baycats were going to enter the Intercounty Baseball League [IBL] in 2001, their team owner at the time went bankrupt.
Scrambling to find a new one, team president David Mills turned Gary Inskeep, a friend of his, in order to save the team.
Inskeep says he remembers that phone call like it was yesterday.
"David Mills contacted me and said to me that he needs an investor because the one that they had at the time ran into financial problems and went bankrupt," said Inskeep, a former Grey Cup winner for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
"We had known each other as friends in Barrie and they were in desperate need to find a financial guy because he, Gary Calvert, and Paul Marley were already getting things approved by the IBL only for things to go south on them."
Mills said Inskeep was one of the first people that he reached out to.
"One of the first people that I called was Gary Inskeep, who at the time was the owner of Western Star, a truck company. I asked him if he wanted to own a baseball team and he laughed because he didn't know anything about baseball.
"But after a few days thinking about it with his wife, he told me he was in, saying he will pay the league fees, expansion fees, and everything else."
After pondering the opportunity for a bit, Inskeep informed Mills that he was in, with one exception.
He wanted the team to be not-for-profit
"That is the main reason why I told Dave I would invest in the team," said Inskeep, who is still apart of the Baycats ownership group to this day. "I didn't want it to be a money-maker. I wanted people to get involved by volunteering and being a part of the community."
Inskeep said only in his wildest dreams could he have imagined the Baycats becoming what they have become today.
"You could only have hoped so," said the former Toronto Argonaut. "To win six championships in a row, no, but I certainly knew with our ownership group and staff that we had that we would be competitive.
"But I don't think any of us have imagined tying the league record for most consecutive championships wins in a row.
"However, I knew we would be able to put a good product on the field for our fans to enjoy at an affordable price and that is all we were concerned with at first because at the time it was too expensive for a regular family to go to a Toronto Blue Jays game and it still is today."
Winning six championships in a row is no easy task and it takes a full organizational effort.
Inskeep was apart of that effort by recruiting players to come to play in Barrie.
Inskeep said he believes his recruiting skills come from his playing time in the Canadian Football League.
"I think by being a former professional athlete I knew what it took and what kind of dedication that it took to be successful. I think by having that kind of relationship with players of any sport they know that you have that same type of competitive feeling that they do and the same understanding of what it takes to achieve the type of accomplishments that we have.
"It doesn't just happen overnight. It takes years of dedication, training, and commitment.
"There is no better example than our guys. At this point, they are playing for the love of the game and to get out their competitive nature despite having a family and despite having to raise children.
"We have seen so many examples of guys starting off with us as single men only to now have their four or five kids come to our games to see their father play."
Inskeep says that is was he is most proud of.
"During the summer, all of us spend as much time together as we do with our own families," said Inskeep. "That is a huge commitment, especially for guys who have wives. Think of the amount of time and the number of summer weekends that they have gave up so their husbands can go and play baseball.
"We have more than just an on-field relationship with everyone.
"I think that will be the biggest thing Angus [Roy] all of the guys who we have lost to retirement will have to adjust to and that's not seeing their teammates as much as they did throughout the last six or seven years.
"I am sure they will stay in touch, though. I'm sure they will."
Up next week in our "Baycats 20/20 Vision: The Past, Present, and Future," we will feature team president David Mills and his tenure with the Baycats.
To read and watch our entire series, click here.
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Photo: Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography