Baycats 20/20 Vision: The Past, Present, and Future: Calvert Has Seen it All for Baycats
BARRIE - When it comes to wanting to understand the birth of the Barrie Baycats, you don't have to look that much further than Gary Calvert.
Calvert recalls the birth of the Baycats -- and his involvement in the process -- quite well.
"Some guys from Barrie had gone down to a meeting -- three guys, one was a city employee -- and they made a proposal to the league but they wanted to do it under Barrie Minor Baseball, which wasn't going to work.
"So after they came back from that meeting the director of recreations called me in because I had been involved with hockey and fastball for most of my life and from there I actually made a phone call to [Toronto Maple Leafs owner] Jack Dominico, who I knew was the owner of the Maple Leafs. I actually went to school with his brother.
"From there we had another meeting and in October of 1999, we got approved.
"The league wanted us to start in the year 2000 but I worked for the City of Barrie at the time and I knew how slowly things worked from a red-tape perspective so I said that wasn't going to work.
"I wanted to try for the year 2001 and we did get things going but even that was pretty difficult to do as you know."
From there, the Baycats threw out their first pitch on May 12th, 2001, and did so with Calvert as the team's general manager.
On-field success did not come right away for his team but it came in a massive way in 2005 when the Baycats upset the powerhouse Maple Leafs to win their first-ever league championship.
Calvert recalls the night they won as though it was yesterday.
"The atmosphere was incredible," said Calvert, who was the general manager of the team from 2001 to 2008. "Angus [Roy] was really hot and so was [Maple Leafs starter Paul] Spoljaric.
"I think Toronto took us for granted that year and I'm going to give you an example.
"In the middle-innings, one of their guys hit a single to right field -- it was hit hard -- and he lollygagged from home to first base. [Baycats right fielder Ryan] Spataro picked the ball up on one bounce and threw him out at first base and it wasn't close. He had him by a step-and-a-half.
"What's most amazing about that is the next batter hit a home run, so instead of having one more out to work with and one extra run, it was a solo home run and nothing more.
"We ran the bases well that night, too. I remember we had a runner on second base when we hit a base hit to left field and their left fielder didn't misplay the ball but he didn't think we were going to send our runner from second home and we did. And he was safe.
"Toronto also made a couple of errors too but that biggest error they made was that runner hitting a single to right field and not running it out to first."
Calvert said winning their first championship in 2005 cemented the Baycats as a true force in the Intercounty Baseball League.
"I was sitting in our bullpen that night and as the players ran to the mound I walked in and just said 'here we are. Six years after putting this all together we have won it.'
"It was great and I can still remember the last pitch of the game and who it was against.
"It was a slider from Angus that got their guy to strike out swinging."
Calvert said if Baycats' championship win in 2005 was his proudest moment, signing Angus Roy is the move he is most proud of.
He said it was a move that would not have been possible if the Maple Leafs did not turn Roy down from playing there.
Think about how that altered the course of the two franchises for the next 20 years.
"Signing Angus Roy for sure. Believe it or not, he had an opportunity to play in Toronto, and Jack kind of brushed him off, if you will. I can think of better words for it.
"In that game [game six of the 2005 finals] I just remember talking to Angus about what it meant to him to win and win against Toronto.
"I knew he was special when earlier in the season we were in Kitchener and they at the time were a really good ballclub and Angus with the bases loaded struck out their best hitter. I forget the guy's name but he is one of the icons of the IBL and Angus struck him out with the bases juiced.
"I just thought that with the bases loaded and a really good batter up that it was a really cool moment.
"He was the backbone of our franchise alongside Ryan Davis and Jared McCord."
Calvert -- always known as a player's manager -- would actually take players in to live with him while they settled into the city.
Davis and McCord were two of those players.
"McCord and Davis actually lived with me in their first seasons here," chuckled Calvert. "I can tell you that was interesting, having those two birds living with me but they were such a close-knit group and they still are today.
"Even a guy like [Kyle] DeGrace thanks me for bringing him in and it's just nice because they are a close-knit group of guys who had all the talent in the world."
After the Baycats won their first championship in 2005, they went on to go nine years without winning one, in large part due to running into the Brantford Red Sox dynasty.
That's why Calvert said it was such a great feeling to see the team win in 2014, even though his role was not as extensive as it was in 2005.
"Seeing Brantford win for all those years was educational for all of us," said Calvert, bluntly. "It was heartbreaking but it was educational. They knew how to win and they taught us how to win as a result.
"When we won in London, I was still doing some personnel related things but I had stepped back.
"But it meant the world to me to go into that clubhouse and see the guys and see the guys who played in Toronto, which were many.
"To see them as happy as they were was important to me because I don't know if they were ever all that happy in Toronto just because of the atmosphere there.
"I could feel the electricity in the clubhouse and it made me feel good to see the guys do what they could do.
"I took a lot of self-satisfaction in it because I was apart of building the program."
Build the program he did and with it came many incredible relationships.
That, Calvert, says, it what he cherishes the most.
"I don't get to all the games now since I live in Washago but I still have great relationships with the owners such as [David] Mills, [Paul] Marley, and Keeper [Gary Inskeep.]"
"The players, too. I have a great relationship with the players and I have always had that great relationship with them.
"I don't know where that comes from but it's there and I still speak to all of them regularly.
"It's been a great number of years and I have all the respect in the world for [former general manager Doug] Dimma, DeGrace, [Jordan], Castaldo, and all those guys that I know you are close with as well.
"Those relationships will continue, just from an afar now."
Up next week in part three our "Baycats 20/20 Vision: The Past, Present, and Future," we will take a look at Gary Inskeep, a member of the Baycats ownership group who saved the franchise before they even threw out their first pitch in 2001.
To read and watch our entire series, click here.
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Photo: Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography