IBL Legend Spataro Announces Retirement
BARRIE - With a tremendous amount of bittersweetness, the Barrie Baycats Baseball Club announced today that right fielder Ryan Spataro has retired after a legendary 15-year career.
The greatest player in franchise history and the most impactful, complete player in Intercounty Baseball League [IBL] history, Spataro retires after 429 regular-season games played in which he recorded franchise records all over the place.
His 1,806 at-bats, 667 hits, 106 doubles, 20 triples, 225 bases on balls, 918 total bases, and 211 stolen bases are all franchise records that will never be topped again.
His 211 stolen bases are also an IBL record.
A former draft pick of the Minnesota Twins, Spataro joined the Baycats in 2005, winning the regular-season MVP and batting title in his first season while leading the Baycats to their first-ever Jack and Lynne Dominico Cup that same year.
Spataro would go on to win the MVP again in 2010, the same year he won his second league batting title.
The right fielder, who possessed the best arm in IBL history, added to his resume in the 2019 playoffs when he captured his first-ever playoff MVP award.
In the 2019 playoffs, which turned out to be Spataro's swan song, the legendary right fielder, who was named among the IBL's top 100 players of all-time in 2017, batted .519-.581-.907 with three home runs, including a lead-off home run in the championship-clinching game six in Kitchener.
Spataro, who also hit a lead-off home run in the championship-clinching game in Kitchener in 2017, tallied a staggering on-base plus slugging of 1.448 in the 2019 playoffs.
The unquestioned leader and heart and soul of the Baycats for the last 15 years, Spataro leaves the Baycats with seven championships, two regular-season MVP awards, a playoff MVP award, two batting titles, and 13 all-star nominations, with eight of them being first-team nominations.
Spataro, whose iconic championship-winning catch in London in 2014 will forever go down in Baycats history as the greatest catch in franchise history, thanked the Baycats while reflecting on a legendary 15-year career.
"It is with mixed emotions that I will be announcing my retirement from my baseball career. It has been an amazing 15 years with the best organization of the IBL, the Barrie Baycats. I can still remember my first practice with the Baycats at the Sports Dome, where bonds were formed instantly with well-known Baycats legends and hearing about the dominant Angus Roy, who would soon be joining the 2005 team. It was that year that I fell back in love with baseball. Playing with guys like Bissell, Borgo, Davis, Newitt, Lundberg, McCord, Latour, and many more enabled me to realize this game was about emotion and fun, and not necessarily a job. That 2005 year was a prime example of when you have 25 guys who all get along, love the game, and play as a team, is stronger than a team full of superstars that just come to play. We were a 'misfit' team that was able to beat a team full of legendary ex-big league players, ex-minor leaguers, and great college players. One of the highlights of my career was helping that 2005 Baycats team win their first IBL championship.
"Over the next few years, I saw many players come and go. Each one of them took on a part of the Baycats culture. I prided myself on making sure that not one person was left out and everyone was part of the team. Whether, on the field, off the field, in the clubhouse, or at Spatty shakers, it didn't matter if you were 19 or 38 (sorry Spolly!), or from the Dominican or the US. We were a team and ensured everyone was included. I believe the way we were as a team off the field was the reason for our success for 15 years.
"Between 2006 and 2013, there are some years that I would like to forget, possibly the continuous Brantford and Barrie battles that we were always on the wrong side of, except Stevie who seemed to always be on the right side! Those are also the years that I will never forget. Those were the years that so many personal memories were made with my teammates and friends. I was fortunate enough to marry the love of my life, Joelle, and have so many of my Baycat family attend our wedding. This was one of many weddings that were celebrated in this group, including Latour's wedding which was 'decent' (what, when a guy throws 90, that's decent!), the Bissell wedding which led to the growing population of Midland, the Newitt wedding, how perfect it was to see one of the best closers and one of the best trainers get married, the Proctor wedding, standing beside one of my favourite people and his beautiful wife Katherine, the England wedding, watching a legend Chris marry 'hot' Kelly, the Cowan wedding which led us over the border and established that Stevie and 11 other people could fit into a Ford F150, another trainers wedding, Carolyn, where Mrs. Cowan learned how to bartend, the DeGraces wedding where the Baycats signature drink was created (Batters Up), the Hawes wedding which led us overseas and I got to stand beside one of my best friends when he married, Lord Nikki, JAMROCK. These are just a few of the many memories over the years. Of course, all these weddings led to extending our Baycats family, some more than others (thanks, Bissell's). And of course, our own family extending within these years with the birth of our two beautiful girls, Callie and Shay! I am so grateful that my girls got to watch me play and so happy at how proud they were that their Daddy was a Baycat.
"2014, getting over the hump! Semifinals, Barrie against Brantford, enter the dragon! One of the best trades in IBL history, saw Brett Lawson and Jordan Castaldo come to the Baycats. Little did the Baycats know, this would bring said Dragon, a Baycats legend, Adam Rowe. One of the players that helped the Baycats finally get over the hump and put away the Brantford dynasty and started the Baycats onto their own dynasty. Over the next six years, the Baycats became accustomed to winning. This was in big part to one man, Angus Roy, more well known as 'Goose.' He was the man behind the machine. Goose did not only take on managing all us misfits and keeping everyone's ego and crazy personalities in check so they can play the game with no distraction, he was also the guy that built this Baycat dynasty. Starting with a couple of BC boys, one a bonified Ninja, and one of the Baycats best-ever hitters, Atkinson. As well as bringing in one of the best teammates anyone could ask for, Brandon Dhue. Also bringing in the likes of Glenny J. I loved roaming the field with you. Once Goose had his core built, he was able to add guys to fill holes from retirement or guys that had to move on from the game they love. With the help of another Baycats legend, Branfy Arias, Infante, or whatever his last name he has now)! That's when the Baycats started to dig into the talented baseball country of the Dominican Republic. It brought the signings of guys like Guerrero, Santos, and the best ever bat flip in Baycats history, Starling Rodriguez. These guys were all part of the success the Baycats had in the past six years. But none of this would have been without Goose and the countless hours that we, the players and fans never saw. From finding players a place to live for the summer, to going to league meetings, putting in bat, uniform, and equipment orders for the upcoming year, organizing guys to go to charity events to represent the Baycats, and answer phone calls from the media and some of our Baycats owners after a loss to discuss what happened. Goose took on all these jobs and more, so guys like myself only had to worry about one thing: playing ball. Angus was the main reason behind the Baycats success and deserves a lot of credit. And huge credit to the owners for allowing him to run the team as he sees fit.
"When it comes to the Baycats organization, it would not be as successful if it was not for the front office. From all the volunteers, to the ticket takers, scorekeepers, and announcers. I will miss hearing Clarky announce my name and having the ladies of the park greet me with a smile and asking if Joelle and the ladies would be coming to the game. I also want to thank Gary Calvert for all his help, not only on the field but off the field as well. He always went out of his way for us players and our families. Whether it be a reference call or assisting with finding family doctors. Thanks as well to Dave Mills and Gary Inskeep and all the other owners, for putting in the hours to make this organization as great as it is. I will miss hearing Millsy and the boys hazing us from the booth and forgetting the mic was on. Sorry for all the foul balls, Millsy! These people are the reason that the Barrie Baycats is the greatest organization in the IBL. My family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
"To my teammates, I want to thank you for all the years on the field and off. For all the laughs, clubhouse freestyles, dance-offs, and bus therapy. Thanks for going to battle with me and helping us win 7 championships. See you at the next Spatty shaker!
"These past 15 years were the best of my baseball career. I have many memories to cherish and many rings to wear! Although I am retiring from baseball, I won't be a stranger around the yard. Looking forward to seeing if the Baycats can win that 7th straight title and start a new dynasty. See you in the beer tent!"
Baycats president David Mills, whose "you're killing me Spataro" will be missed by all, thanked Spataro for everything he has done for this organization.
"Since 2005, Ryan has done it all. League MVPs, league batting titles, a seven-time champion, recognized by Barrie Sports Hall of Fame, and so much more. Ryan has been the face of the Baycats organization for these years and he has been the heart and soul each and every season. Just as important to on-field successes, when asked to participate in events within the community on behalf of the Baycats, Ryan was always the first to step up. There will never be another player and person that exemplifies the skills, abilities, and personality that Ryan Spataro has demonstrated in a Baycat uniform. He is truly a class individual. On behalf of ownership, volunteers, and fans, thank you Ryan for many great memories, those leadoff home runs, stolen bases, and throwing out an opposing player from right field. Please do not be a stranger at future games, you will always remain a part of the Baycats organization”.
Former Baycats manager Angus Roy also showed his appreciation for everything Spataro has done for him and the Baycats.
"Ryan Spataro is not only the best player in Baycats history, but he is also the best player in the history of the Intercounty. No player in the history of the league has been able to impact a game in more ways than Spatty. The Baycats organization would not be where it is today without the contributions of Ryan Spataro. He helped build a culture, made Barrie a desired place to play, shaped Barrie into a winner, and was at the forefront of all seven championships. But to me, the best thing about Spatty is he is an even better person than he is a baseball player. My appreciation for him goes far beyond the baseball field. I consider myself lucky to have him in my life and I hope that he knows how much I love him."
Former Baycats outfielder Glenn Jackson, who manned the Baycats' outfield for years with Spataro, congratulated his longtime teammate and friend on his career.
"Ryan Spataro, aka 'the Stallion', the straw that stirs the drink and the 'host with the most.' I am happy that Ryan is able to retire and enjoy his beautiful family and continue to keep Barrie safe as he dominates the fireman game.
"To me, he was the best outfielder that I ever played with, From his arm, to his stick, to his smarts -- his warm-up routine never changed. The best part about Spatty is his personality, his heart, passion, kindness, and honesty. Such a humble man, yet confident in the right ways.
"Times have changed as life changes and we no longer get to play together but I will forever be thankful for himself and Joelle hosting me through the years, making me feel at home. I’d do anything for Stallion as I am forever grateful to have had the chance to play the outfield with him, to turn the lineup over for him, and in the end, have one of his great burgers relaxing at his home living life.
"Here is to a great career and memories. I leave you with this. In the last game we played together we shook each other’s hands and said it was 'great to go battle with you and play with you.' It was simple and sweet just like the Stallion."
Baycats media director Ryan Eakin, who covered Spataro from 2013-2019, reflected on his career.
"Outside of his unbelievable kindness, leadership, and worth ethic, what I will remember the most about Ryan Spataro is his performances in game five and six of the 2019 league finals. Call it recently bias, but in the last home game he ever played in a Baycats jersey, he hit a game-tying home run that sent Coates Stadium into a frenzy, and an inning or so later, he threw a runner trying to turn a single into a double out at second base. Then, in game six, the night the Baycats won their sixth title in a row, he hit a lead-off home run.
"Sending our fans into a frenzy with a clutch hit, throwing a runner out who did not respect his arm, and hitting a lead-off home run to start off a ball game. For that is what I will remember about Spatty, as for that is what stood out the most.
"Thank you for everything, Stallion."
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Photo: Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography