Baycats Win Sixth Straight Title; Make History in the Process

by Ryan Eakin

BARRIE - On Monday, September 9th, 2013, the Barrie Baycats lost 9-7 to the Brantford Red Sox in game seven of the 2013 Intercounty Baseball League [IBL] championship series.

The franchise, top to bottom, was devastated.

The Baycats led the series 3-0 at one point, and as a result, they were on the verge of dethroning the -- at the time -- five-time defending IBL champions.

But it wasn't meant to be.

They lost game four at home in extra innings -- stranding the winning run at third base in the bottom of the ninth inning -- before losing a nail-biting game five in Brantford.

They returned home for game six only to be blown out by the Red Sox, before squandering a lead late in game seven to complete the collapse. 

The Red Sox, as a result, set the IBL record for most championships ever won in a row with six.

What happened next was even worse.

Baycats general manager Doug Dimma resigned -- leading to field manager Angus Roy calling it 'the biggest loss in franchise history' and then Baycats pitcher Adam Rowe and catcher Kyle DeGrace -- as well as infielders Jordan Castaldo and Kevin Atkinson -- were expected to take their talents elsewhere.

The franchise, suddenly, looked as if was about to hit rock bottom.

But Baycats president David Mills named Roy the team's new general manager, doubling his responsibility.

Things, from there, have been nothing but up.

The core returned for the 2014 season and set franchise records across the board.

They went 30-6 in the regular season, defeated the Red Sox in the semifinals, and then swept the London Majors in the IBL Final to finally get over the hump.

They repeated in 2015 -- this time at home -- against the Kitchener Panthers, leading to fan favourite Glenn Jackson finally winning a championship.

They then won again in 2016 -- in Toronto -- which was rewarding for so many of the players who grew up playing at Christie Pits.

They then swept the Panthers in the league final in 2017, capping off the single greatest season in IBL history.

They then, of course, five-peated last season, with shortstop Starlin Rodriguez hitting the most iconic home run in franchise history during the championship-clinching game six in Kitchener.

Then there was last night.

A night the entire Baycats organization has dreamed about since at least 2016.

They defeated the Panthers 15-0 in game six to win their sixth league title in a row, meaning the 2008-2013 Red Sox no longer stand alone as the greatest dynasty in the 101-year history of the IBL.

Roy said this championship means everything to him.

"... I don't think people realize how hard this is and how much work from a lot of people it takes to make something like this happen," said Roy moments after the dogpile last night. "It takes a special group of men to dedicate their summers to baseball and to rearrange their personal lives and their work lives to drive up and down the 400.

"It takes a special group and we are fortunate enough to have a very special group, These guys are some of the greatest men I have ever met in my life and I am just really happy to be a part of it."

Up 3-0 in this series, the Baycats lost games four and five.

As a result, some started bringing up 2013 when the Baycats, of course, blew a 3-0 series lead in the league championship series.

But you never doubt a champion, and Roy most certainly didn't.

"I never thought we were going to lose this series," said Roy. "... For the first time in any of these [championship wins], I actually took a moment before the game was over to take a step back and look around the crowd, to kind of soak it in.

"I never usually do that, but I never doubted it. I was expecting a pretty good performance tonight. Obviously not something like this [a 15-0 victory] but we knew that we had a really good arm on the mound [in ace Adrian Salcedo] and we knew that offensively, we were at some point going to break out and it just all came together tonight."

Winning 15-0 last night, it was the Baycats' unofficial team captain that led the way.

Outfielder Ryan Spataro hit two home runs last night, including a leadoff home run in the top of the first inning.

He won the most valuable player award [MVP] of the playoffs as a result.

Roy said this franchise is what it is because of Spataro.

"Our franchise took off in 2005 and our franchise took off in 2005 because Ryan Spataro showed up," said Roy. "I have said this to anyone who will ever listen to me and that is he's been the best player since he showed up here in 2005 and he still is.

"What he can do to impact a baseball game offensively, defensively, on the bases, and with his arm is unmatched.

"... He's the best player that I have ever seen play in this league and he is one of my best friends in the entire world. 

"He's an even better human being than he is a baseball player. I love him until death."

Another longtime Baycat who enjoyed a special moment last night was southpaw Brad Bissell.

The greatest pitcher in franchise history, Bissell and his wife Ali had their fourth child on Thursday morning, and Roy called on him to throw the ninth and final inning of last night's ballgame.

Roy said Bissell has meant everything to the Baycats.

"Bringing him out to pitch the ninth inning was the only selfish move I have ever made in the history of managing the Baycats," said an emotional Roy.

"If anyone deserves [to throw the final out] it's him because as you said, it was a no-brainer.

"He's one of those guys who put this franchise on the right trajectory. Without him being here and without him doing what he has done for this franchise over the years, we aren't where we are today.

"He deserved it. I mean, the guy had a kid at 7:40 AM on Thursday morning and was at the game that night. It's incredible, man.

"That is the type of family they are. That's Ali too. He never would have left but she said 'you have to go because of what it means.'

"He has given eighteen years of his life to this league and it's the only selfish move I have ever made and that's because he's one of my best friends in the entire world. 

"I love him."

Roy, in conclusion, said he was just thankful to make history and is thankful to everyone who made it happen, from ownership down to the volunteers.

"As of right now you can't mention the IBL without mentioning us," said Roy. "So anyone who is a historian of this league has to bring this team up.

"What we have done, eight finals in a row and six championships in a row, it's amazing.

"Then you look at some of the players who are on our team and they are historically great. Look at a guy such as Spatty who is one of the best players to ever play in this league and capped it off with an MVP tonight.

"This is the one that takes a really, really special group of men and you can't do it without the nine guys who have been here for all six years. 

"We have a really special organization. Our owners are fantastic and give us the resources that we need in order to do this, such as bringing guys in from the Dominican [Republic].

"Our volunteers too, man. They come to every single home game and get the field set up and get the merchandise booth setup. 

"They sell tickets and they do everything that they do.

"It's a full organizational effort to be this good and I am just happy to be apart of it."

More coverage of the Baycats' seventh championship win in franchise history will come tomorrow. 

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

Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography