Baycats 20/20 Vision: The Past, Present, and Future: Q&A: Eakin Reflects on Time with Baycats

by Ryan Eakin

BARRIE - In the last part of our series, Barrie Baycats manager Josh Matlow asks me about my time with the Baycats organization. 

Matlow: Ryan, becoming a volunteer. How did it happen and what were you expecting coming in?

Eakin: In early 2012 I was in grade eight but I began thinking about my community service hours and how I may end up acquiring them. I reached out to the Baycats and in April of 2012, Viv Faulkner sent me an email saying they are looking for a mascot. I happily accepted and was the mascot for the 2012 season along with my best friend.

Then in early of 2013, Doug Dimma -- who was the general manager of the time -- reached out to me and asked me if I'd like to write for the team website. I didn't expect it at all, as I didn't know Doug at all and I had no experience in writing articles. But I was obviously intrigued by the idea and I met up with him at the next home game, which happened to be against Jordan Castaldo, Glenn Jackson, Branfy Infante, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is a bit ironic, I guess.

At the game, he told me I had locker room access, bus access, and the whole nine. The rest from there is history, I guess. 

Matlow: As a writer, what is your favourite type of article to write and do you have any favourite ones from the past seven years?

Eakin: The feature stories that I write on players for sure. I have two that come to mind.

Back in 2015, I think everyone knows Glenny really wanted to win the championship that season. The entire postseason centred around his quest to win it. Sure enough, they did, and the story that I wrote on him afterwards is still to this day one of my favourite articles ever.

The second one is the one I wrote on Brandon Dhue in 2016. He suffered a season-ending injury in the second or third game of the 2015 season and we were all devastated as a franchise because there is not a nicer human being that you'll ever meet in your life than Dhue. The fact that he was just two seasons removed from another season-ending injury made it even worse.

But he came back in 2016 and in May of that year I wrote an article on his comeback. He shared it to his socials for all of his family and friends to see and he got a lot of love for it, which was more than deserving. 

Matlow: What have been some of your favourite on-field memories over the years?

Eakin: Oh man. Beating Brantford in 2014 and slaying that dragon was amazing. I remember walking into the park that night as if it was yesterday. Seeing Mada do what he did during the 2014 playoffs, seeing Atky go off against Brantford in game six and seven in '14, seeing Dragon dominate in '14, and winning at home in 2015 and the celebration after the game was great, too. Seeing Castaldo go off in 2016 against the Maple Leafs was a treat, and seeing the dominant 2017 team do their thing was something I'll never forget either. Glenny going off against the Panthers in 2018 and Starlin's bat flip is probably the highlight, but being in Kitchener last year to see them tie Brantford's streak was really special, especially in hindsight, knowing that it was the last game that everyone was together. I could go on and on but those are the main ones.

Matlow: What have been some of your favourite off-field memories over the years?

Eakin: My favourite memory is definitely calling games two and four of the 2017 finals with Dante in Kitchener. That team was just so dominant and being able to call their games rather than just writing postgame articles was pretty cool. I remember completely hijacking his call in game two when Branfy threw a bullet to DeGrace at the plate to throw out Nivins. To this day, that's probably the most fired up I have ever been for a single Baycats play and I think it's the most fired up I have ever seen Angus, too. They were winning the championship no matter what that year but that play is the play that all but won them the championship. If you go back and look at that series, it was pretty damn close for the first 16 or so innings. But Kitchener never recovered from that play.

Being in the clubhouse and on the bus after they won in 2017 and 2018 was great, too, as was last August when our bus driver went down with kidney stones and Spatty drove the bus for a bit before the bus driver came back and drove us home. That was a wild night. 

Matlow: What are some of the great relationships that you have developed over the years?

Eakin: DeGrace always keeping me in line, Stevie always having my back, Glenny always showing me love, Dimms taking a chance on me, Goose always affording me his time, Millsy being an incredible leader, seeing games in the press box with Mike, Tim, Brayden, and Coop, becoming friends with Dante and Ben, and guys such as Biss, Hawesy, Castaldo, Rowe, Dhue, Kittsy, Spatty, and Cowan showing me what it takes to be a great person.

I can name almost everyone from you, Viv, Sandy, Jack, etc, etc, but over the years those are the guys that have changed my life forever.

Matlow: Moving to the present, what are some of the things that you are seeing today that you haven't seen in the past with this organization?

Eakin: The online shop is the biggest thing. That is a game-changer for us and our fans and something that I have been wanting for a while. Besides that, having a great online ticket presence and having an in-game host is big too, as is doing way more events in the community. 

Plus, there are so many things that we have planned for next season that I am really looking forward to. An online stream of our games is going to happen and some of the advancements that we are going to have with our scoreboard will be pretty cool, too.

And I'm personally going to be putting together game highlights as well as game shows with our players. Pregame video analysis and pregame on-field interviews with you are all things that I am planning as well, on top of having a weekly podcast.

I know a lot of what we have planned is small in the grand scheme of things but it's important to me. I want to see this franchise maximize its off-field potential and I think we are getting there for sure. There's no reason why our online presence and our game-day operations can't be of the quality of a professional baseball team.

I like to think that we have had a great website, gameday program, and written content for many years now, but it's not enough. 

Everything we do next season is going to have a professional vibe to it, from our game broadcasts down to our social media graphics.

Matlow: Lastly, what are some of the things that you are most looking forward to as we head into the 2021 season?

Eakin: Winning a seventh straight championship! It is not going to be easy -- it never is -- especially now as the league has so much parity but I think you have done a great job at revamping the lineup and while the pitching staff as of right now doesn't look great relative to past years, that's going to change in a big way as we head into the fall and winter.

So many people are counting this organization out and that excites me. It really does. This organization is still full of people with rings on their fingers and at last check, you never doubt a champion. 

Matlow: Thanks, Ryan. I want to thank you for putting together an incredible series. As a Baycats fan, it was fantastic and I loved reading it every Monday. I am a big fan of your work and I think you have a lot to offer. I'm excited about the new era and what you can bring to it, so I think I speak for everyone in the organization when I say you do quite a job. Thanks again.

Eakin: Thanks, Josh, I appreciate it.

This concludes "Baycats 20/20 Vision: The Past, Present, and Future of the Baycats."

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. 

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Photo: Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography