Baycats Duo Hang Up Cleats Following Six-Peat

by Ryan Eakin

BARRIE - In the 2011 semifinals, the Barrie Baycats got upset by the Ottawa Fat Cats.

To make matters even worse, the roster in the offseason was getting torn apart with departure after departure, some expected and some not so expected. 

The franchise was kind of left in no-mans land.

That is until they made a pair of signings that changed the course of the franchise forever.

They first signed catcher Kyle DeGrace from the Toronto Maple Leafs, and soon after signed first basemen Jon Waltenbury from the Maple Leafs.

The Baycats, instantly, had two new stars to build around and the results came immediately, as the Baycats made it all to the way to the 2012 Intercounty Baseball League Final before falling short to the Brantford Red Sox.

However, in June of 2013, Waltenbury requested a trade back to the Maple Leafs so he could be closer to home.

Then Baycats general manager Doug Dimma complied with Waltenbury's request, trading him to the Maple Leafs for a pair of players.

The pair of players were Jordan Castaldo and Brett Lawson.

Castaldo, of course, became the greatest hitter in franchise history, while Lawson played a pivotal role in five championship victories before requesting a trade to be closer to home.

He ended up being traded to the Guelph Royals this past offseason.

Ironically enough, the player the Baycats received from back from the Royals for Lawson was Waltenbury.

Waltenbury considered himself to be retired last offseason until he was traded to the Baycats.

Once he was, it was a no brainer to rejoin his former team with the hope to finally win a championship.

And he did.

Waltenbury -- after Saturday's championship-clinching victory -- said his first and only championship was worth the wait.

"It's great," said Waltenbury. "It's everything that I could have imagined it to be. 

"I'm super blessed right now; I just couldn't be any happier. I have been chasing this for ten years but the last few years I was telling myself I was done but this [winning a championship] was just something that irked me.

"I came so close so many times so I couldn't be happier to get this one. I couldn't be happier to share this with all these guys because they are great guys."

With a ring soon to be in his possession, Waltenbury -- in the only way he knows how to -- made it clear that he is now officially retired.

"This is 100 [expletive] per cent the end for me," said Waltenbury, with DeGrace laughing in the background.

DeGrace, meanwhile, also announced his retirement after Saturday's victory.

DeGrace was considering retirement at the end of last season but decided to come back for one more season.

And he had to go through hell and back to end this season in a dogpile, as he was playing through a torn right rotator cuff and a sprained Achilles.

He not only managed to play through his injuries, but he was one of the Baycats' best hitters all postseason long while managing the plate in the final. 

DeGrace said he played through his injuries because he wanted to go out on his own terms.

"I was playing with a sprained Achilles and a torn right rotator cuff," smiled DeGrace, as if he finally realized how absurd that is to say out loud. "I can finally release those injuries to you now.

"You know what, this season was my last ride so there was no way I wasn't going to play. I couldn't even throw two weeks ago but got a little juice [a cortisone shot] shot into my arm and I just came back.

"My goal was to catch at the start of August but I literally have a torn rotator cuff so I wasn't able to. I just rehabbed and received a cortisone shot. That seemed to do the pinch.

"I dealt with a lot of shit this year that was out of my control and it actually all happened here [in Kitchener] by falling into a dugout. 

"But I wasn't going to go out like that, so I rehabbed and did everything I could to catch in the playoffs and Goose [Baycats general and field manager Angus Roy] trusted me.

"I think deep down he knew I was always going to catch in the final."

The heart and soul along with side co-captain Ryan Spataro, DeGrace said he is going to miss playing the game he loves so much.

"Man, I'm going to miss this a lot but these guys are my family," said DeGrace. "We are still going to hang out and we are still going to do all of the things with our families, wives, girlfriends and kids. 

"We are always going to find a way to be together."

Outfielder Glenn Jackson, meanwhile, has not officially made a decision one way or the other but said he considers himself retired as of right now.

He said if he is indeed retired, he is going to miss everything that goes along with being a Baycat.

This franchise has become his second family, he says.

"Coming to the yard, they made me feel like a superstar," said Jackson. "They treated me like a star here and I appreciated every second of it.

"Like I told [some of our volunteers] Cathrine, Viv and Sandy, this doesn't end. We are still going to meet up for lunch.

"I am going to miss Alice [another volunteer]. She has given me a collection of ten to twelve years worth of photos. I am going to miss [clubhouse manager] Douglas; he has always been pure and straight from the heart.

"I am going to miss Lisa and John Donley, and I am going to miss Millsy, hearing my walkout song, drinking beers in the clubhouse, hearing Clarky say my name, seeing Backland at the yard and I am going to miss my interviews with you. 

"But you know, I think I have maximized life. I think that I have gone hard and I think I have done the best I could. 

"I am always going to be thankful for the spread, the beers, the gas money and I will always be thankful for the great rings we get.

"I am very humbled and thankful for everything, Eak."

This concludes my coverage for the 2019 season.

As always, I want to thank president David Mills, Angus and the players for letting me do this.

I also want to thank Brian Backland and RJ Rose for allowing me to use their photos this season.'

And lastly, I want to especially thank DeGrace and Jackson for everything they have done for me over the years.

DeGrace -- over six years ago -- was the first player that I had ever interviewed and while not every interview over the years went smoothly, I always appreciated the time he took to speak with me, especially at the beginning when I had no idea what I was doing.

Jackson, meanwhile, is one of the greatest human beings that I have ever met in my life.

I am going to miss our postgame chats greatly. 

Stayed tuned to this website throughout the course of the offseason for news on the 2020 season.

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

Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography