Matlow Ready to Guide Baycats

by Ryan Eakin

BARRIE - The Barrie Baycats have found their man.

Josh Matlow, who played for the Baycats from 2005-2009 -- sans 2007 -- has been hired to be the team's next general manager and field manager.

Matlow said his hiring came out of nowhere.

"To be honest with you, it came out of nowhere," said Matlow in a phone conversation recently. "I wasn't even thinking about it, even when Angus [Roy] stepped down it wasn't even a thought in my mind. I was just happy to be apart of the organization in the way that I currently was with selling tickets, volunteering my time and helping the organization grow that winning culture. 

"They [David Mills and the Baycats Board of Directors] were doing their due diligence when they put out a filler and asked me who I thought would be great [to hire.] I mentioned a couple of the players who know the organization, have been lifers and have been playing for a while and then afterward, they shocked me an email saying 'we think you would be excellent for the position of both field manager and general manager.'

"It came as a surprise to me because again, it wasn't even a thought in my mind. 

"I was humbled by it, though at the same time, I couldn't sleep at night and it was always in the back of my head. It was one of those things where you don't see the opportunity until it is right in front of your face.

"It was an offer definitely on their end, and while I don't want to say that they pushed me to do it, they said they would be 'very excited' to have me, so after a little back-and-forth, I graciously accepted, because I thought it would be a great opportunity for myself. 

"The biggest thing, honestly, is I had to let my wife know that I am going to be out at ball games. We are about to have our first baby girl, so it is going to be a hectic time in our life. I had to make sure we all understood what this all meant and entailed, so I made the decision on Wednesday after I was informed that the board had universally agreed to offer me the position."

Mills said that after an extensive search, the decision to hire Matlow was an easy one.

"We had six other candidates, some from outside province and country.

"Josh fit the criteria that we set out, importantly knowing the culture of the Baycats organization, knowing the caliber of IBL play, having played with the Baycats and living in proximity.  

"In interviews with Josh, it became clear he wanted to build on all the excellent things Angus had accomplished, not change things."

Having accepted the job this past Wednesday, Matlow said that it is not lost on him that this is a pressure-packed job.

"There is a lot of responsibility," said Matlow, who returned to the Baycats organization last season in a marketing role. "There are big shoes to fill; following Angus' act.

"I think I can do a great job though, as my heart is fully in it. I love the Baycats, I am a big fan of this organization, and I want to make a lot of people proud. 

"I think it is obviously a little different when you are handed a team like the Brantford [Red Sox] coach (Matt McGovern) where he is taking on a team that finished at the bottom of the league. 

"I think that is much more of a challenge than this one, as we have a great group of core players still.

"There is obviously going to be a little bit of change, but I feel blessed to be handed a championship team and a team that knows how to win."

Matlow said that while the goal is to win a championship in 2020, he understands the core group as it currently stands is not getting any younger.

"Some guys are retiring and others are near the end of their careers, so whether we want to admit it or not, there will be a rebuild at some point, and we spoke about that as a management team. 

"I will be excited about that challenge when the time comes for that, but until then, I just want to keep that winning culture, keep that good vibe and keep people coming out to the ballpark. 

"If it doesn't work, it's on me, so I just want to keep everything going in a positive direction."

Matlow said that while the 'R" word can be a tough word to say in sports, ignoring it can be deadly for a management group.

"It's just a matter of time, let's be honest. Our core group is getting older.

"It's one of those things that no one wants to talk about but I am a realist. It will happen at some point and I expect it to happen in the next few years.

"But not this season. We still have a great core and we still have one hell of a chance to run this thing back for a seventh straight championship. There's no reason why we can't.

"I do, however, want to bring in some younger players now so that they can see how some of our older players go about themselves.

"We would love to have our future core learn about our culture from the guys who are currently here, as it would make for an easy transition."

Mills says that he expects most of last year's roster to return this season.

"Josh is now contacting all members of the 2019 roster. I personally believe most of those players will want to come back and make IBL history for a seventh straight championship."

Matlow said his number one focus is going to be on bringing in players who want to make Barrie their home.

"I want to bring in players who are going to play with us long term," said Matlow. "A lot of the kids who come from college come here and play well during the summer when they need to play summer ball, but then they might go onto the draft or they might play in another league down in the States.

"We want to find guys who are going to be long-term lifers like your [Ryan] Spataro's, [Brad] Bissell's and [Jeff] Cowan's.

"I think that is going to be my biggest challenge; bringing in guys who will play here consistently so that we can build a core with during our eventual rebuild."

First, though, Matlow said he wants to connect with all members of the organization, including who he is succeeding.

"They (the board) want me to sit down with Angus and discuss things with him, and I want to pick his brain a little bit at the same time.

"There are a few things on the list to get done and I am pretty excited to get started. 

"But yeah, I am first going to sit down with Angus to make sure I know everything that I need to know moving forward."

Matlow said his coaching style is going to depend on the team he has.

"It really depends on the players that we are going to have.

"The team we currently have can hit and can hit for power, and that matches what you see in today's game, as there are a lot more home runs hit today than there was when I was playing.

"Everything is a happy medium, though. You want your big hitters to hit but I would like to add some more speed and youth to the squad. 

"I know that base stealing is not the hot commodity that it once was, but I think that putting pressure on a defence by putting guys in motion can still be effective. 

"You want guys on base for when your big boys come up."

More than anything, though, Matlow wants one thing.

A seventh straight championship that would set the Intercounty Baseball League record for the most championships won in a row by one franchise.

"I legitimately got chills as you were asking me that question," said Matlow. "It would be a dream to be apart of.

"I feel the pressure to keep the winning ways and I think we are in a great position to run this back, not just for this season, but beyond, as there is no reason why we have to stop at seven. Why not eight? Why not nine?

"Ambitions are high and that is because the front office wants to keep winning."

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

And remember that you can buy tickets to all of our home games here.

Photo: Brian Backland/Brian Backland Photography