Baycats 20/20 Vision: The Past, Present, and Future: Mills the Baycats' Leader From Day One
BARRIE - Every organization has someone who is the backbone of their franchise.
And when it comes to the Barrie Baycats, there is no denying that team president David Mills is that person.
One of the founding fathers of the Baycats, Mills recalls the birth of the Baycats as though it was yesterday.
"In 1999 the ball got rolling on bringing an Intercounty Baseball League [IBL] team to Barrie," said Mills. "It was really the City of Barrie and [team owner] Gary Calvert who were instrumental in bringing an IBL franchise to Barrie.
"We went to the IBL headquarters in Cambridge and made a proposal of getting Barrie a franchise and the league accepted that with the intent that we would begin operating in 2001.
"And that gave us a year because at the time we had no place to play in Barrie so the city started negotiating to buy property in the Midhurst/Nursey area and that took place as there was enough space out there to build a ball field."
Having to build a stadium on their own, Mills truly started to get involved with the Baycats after moving back to Barrie in 2000.
"I attended a meeting at city hall and it seemed as though the plans were coming together.
"We had an owner in place and we were starting to look for a manager but then in October of that year it was made clear to us at a meeting that the owner we had and the owner who was going to build our stadium went bankrupt."
It was then that Mills made a move that altered the course of the franchise's history forever.
"We were in a situation where we had no owner and no stadium, which was a bit of an issue given our season was supposed to start seven months later," chuckled Mills.
"...I volunteered to go after a couple of my friends to see if they would have any interest in putting a team together and my first stop was Gary Inskeep."
As written last week, Inskeep was all-in on being a part of the Baycats and from there they managed to build a stadium in time for May of 2001, with help from another friend of Mills.
"I had another friend at the time named Alfred Hambsch who owned Barrie Metals at the time and he was interested in doing something for us.
"He said to me 'hey, I don't know anything about baseball but let me think about how I can help you guys. I'm a community guy so give me some time and I'll think about how I can help out.'
"We gave him a week and he said 'okay, I'm in,' and for $150,000 he put the money right up front and wrote a cheque.
"And with [team owner] Paul Marley and his great involvement in this he was able to get different contractors throughout the city and a bunch of different supplies.
"We didn't start building the stadium until March and it was built in time for May," recalled Mills, still amazed at how they did it all these years later.
From there, Mills had to find a manager.
It didn't take him long to find one.
"From there I had to find a manager and one of the first names that came to mind was Nick Owen.
"Nick had played in the league and was an All-Star, so we approached him and he was open to the idea of giving it a shot and getting on board.
"We then had to get a name for the team, so we put in an ad in the Barrie Examiner -- our old paper back then -- and a person came forward.
"Alex Nastaiuk was his name and he put forth the name 'Baycats.' Our board of directors came together and say 'hey, that's a great name, let's go with it.'
"We then had to put together a volunteer base that at the time as made up of Viv Faulkner, Jack Kenwell, Mike Clark, and a few others.
"And from there, we the Barrie Baycats Baseball Club was born on May 12th, 2001."
From there, the Baycats have become one of the most successful franchises in league history and he said it couldn't have happened without the team's sponsors.
"Our sponsor base is second-to-none in the league," said Mills. "We got great sponsors with our programs and everything. Just a bunch of great people who want to help out. We have no real national sponsors, it's just local advertisers who want to help out.
"A lot of our sponsors have been with us for all 19 years. It's incredible."
The Baycats truly introduced themselves to the league in 2005 when they stunned the powerhouse Toronto Maple Leafs to win their first league championship.
Mills says he still remembers how it felt to win their first championship.
"I think that was one of those years where I don't think we had the best roster but we had the best team," said Mills.
"That night -- game six at home -- is probably the highlight for me in my nineteen years. The place was jammed and it was hopping.
"Being down early and coming back to win it with 1,500 people jammed together, that would probably be my highlight."
Since that night, though, the Baycats haven't been lacking for special nights and that is because of the players who have come and played for the organization.
Mills said for every great thing this franchise has accomplished, none of it would be possible without the players.
"They are the product and we try our best to credit them wherever we can, whether it's through our program, through your work, or wherever.
"I have built just some incredible relationships with some of the players over the years and one of the things I wanted to do this season and we'll now have to do it next season is have an alumni day.
"We have four or five pages of players who have played for the Baycats and they are all going to be invited to come back just so that we can recognize them.
"The area that I truly feel great about is the number of players who have come to the Baycats and have stayed in Barrie. These are players that now have great jobs and families here.
"At last count, I counted 18 or 19 players who have come to play in Barrie and have actually stayed and become part of our community.
"That is what I'm most proud of. It's something that a lot of people don't know but a lot of players would say to you 'hey, becoming a Baycat is the biggest break I have gotten in my life.'
Inskeep -- who has been with Mills since the Baycats were born -- said everything the Baycats are is because of Mills.
"I think every owner and every volunteer would tell you that the Baycats are what they are because of David Mills," said Inskeep. "He has set the bar for the rest of the league when it comes to what it takes to become successful.
"I don't think anyone truly understands all of the work he has done and all of the time and effort he has given to the Baycats.
"There's me, there's [Gary] Calvert, and there's Marley, but he is the true hero of the Baycats.
"He sets the bar so high that the players and volunteers all look up to him.
"They see how hard he works and they don't want to disappoint him."
To view the lineup sheets and cards from our first game in franchise history, click here.
And to view the lineup sheets from our first win in franchise history, click below.
Up next week in our "Baycats 20/20 Vision: The Past, Present, and Future," I chat with Baycats announcer Mike Clark, a volunteer with the franchise since day one.
To read and watch our entire series, click here.
For more information, follow the Baycats on Facebook and Twitter at @iblbaycats and on Instagram at @barriebaycats.
Photo: Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography