In New Brunswick Senior Baseball League play, the Charlottetown Islanders entertain the Chatham Ironmen Saturday in their home opener doubleheader at Memorial Field beginning at 2 p.m.
The Islanders split a doubleheader last week in Saint John, losing the opener 10-9 and winning the nightcap 9-6, which was a good start considering the team was without all-star shortstop Andrew Macdonald. To compensate for the loss of Macdonald, who may be back towards the end of the season, the team is expecting to be playoff bound thanks to additions to an already sound pitching staff.
Right-handers Jacob Beck and Jordan Stevenson both had losing records last year, but were picked up by New Brunswick teams headed to the nationals. They would be starters on any of the league‚Äôs teams and both can win on any given night. The Islanders have added lefties Brody MacDonald and Mark MacLean, who can start or come out of the bullpen. Stevenson and Beck will start today and I expect both to keep the games low scoring.
Charlottetown will try a new middle infield combo with Jordan Duffy at short and standout Dillon Doucette, who is also the team‚Äôs best hitter, at second base. Young Josh Kelly had four hits in last week‚Äôs games and Morgan MacLean, Adam Smith, Mark MacLean, Sean Corcoran and Taylor Larkin each added two.
By the way, registration forms for the July golf tournament at Avondale, in support of the Islanders, will be available at the game. Let‚Äôs get out and support the Islanders, admission $5, the best entertainment value in the province.
The Toronto Blue Jays are better than .500 and in a division where each team has an Achilles heel, they should remain at, or near, the top of the AL East throughout the year.
The Jays have the best attack in the league led by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera, plus a solid bullpen that can only get better with the return of Casey Janssen. The starting staff is precariously thin with Mark Buehrle (8-1), Drew Hutchison and R.A. Dickey but is good enough to win the division even with the bungling GM Alex Anthopoulos and air-head manager John Gibbons.
The New York Yankees are without ace C.C. Sabathia, who is not expected back until mid-July, and Robinson Cano is in Seattle. The Baltimore Orioles may have the best everyday lineup and the return of star third baseman Manny Machado and Chris Davis will certainly help. Their bullpen is without a real closer, so they‚Äôll remain close to the front and contenders until they solve that problem.
Tampa Bay lost three quality starters in Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson and second baseman Ben Zobrist is still on the shelf with a thumb injury. If they could get back to near .500 they‚Äôd be in the hunt, but nine games under is a big hole.
The Boston Red Sox don‚Äôt have divine intervention on their side this year and centre-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is gone to the Yankees. David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia are keys on offence but the supporting cast is back to their lifetime stats and not playing over their heads like last year. If the hitting comes around, they could stay in the pennant race right to the end.
The Red Sox series this week against the Blue Jays offered an interesting matchup: the two worst managers in all of baseball - Dumb and Dumber, Boston‚Äôs John Farrell and Gibbons. I am well aware Farrell won a World Series, but let‚Äôs not forget John Tortorella and Ken Hitchcock won Lord Stanley‚Äôs mug. Miracles do happen.
The first major golf tournament of the season, the early bird goes Saturday at the beautiful Brudenell course in Kings County.
Ron Garrett, one of the best players in the province and who was a terrific football player in his high school days, is always tough to beat in any Atlantic Canada tournament. Among the competitors are brothers Craig and Andrew MacMillan and sharpshooting Chris Chaisson.
I asked Craig if he was playing with his brother Andrew and the answer was an amusing, ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs playing with search and rescue.‚ÄĚ I know that feeling, as I play with a couple guys, Roger MacLauchlan and Wendell MacEachern, who use S and R frequently at Avondale. If you stay out of the water and woods you will not need those folks.
Gary (Sput) MacDonald posted a recent 86 at Avondale but nobody at the Vernon River course is able to confirm the score and the scorecard has disappeared.
The Guardian featured a great story last Saturday on Erroll Nicholson, who has been playing the Green Gables course for a long, long time. I think Erroll, and his old golf pal Jack Hynes, played the beautiful Green Gables before the Second World War.
The Sport P.E.I. Hall of Fame golf tournament is set for Brudenell, June 12 with an 8 a.m. shotgun start. There‚Äôs a $25,000 cash payout for a hole-in-one. The cost is $600 per team and to register, contact Nick Murray at 902-368-4547.
Live harness racing continues Saturday at the city track with a 13-dash card, first post is 6 p.m. The $2,200 feature goes in race 12 and it has the likes of Sterling Seelster (Marc Campbell), Nobestbfor (Walter Cheverie), Tempo Seelster (Vince Poulton), Machinthesand (Jason Hughes), All Turain (Brodie MacPhee), Touch of Lightning (Earl Smith) and Perfect Escape (Ron Matheson).
At Mohawk Saturday night, the $34,000 feature goes in race 10 and eight horses go to the gate including State Treasurer, Lucan Hanover and Captive Audience. At The Meadowlands Saturday night, the $50,000 TVG series is the feature and it includes the Burke entry of Sweet Lou (post position 10), Betters Edge (nine) and Clear Vision (one), as well as Mark MacDonald‚Äôs Bolt the Duer (two), Warrawee Needy (three) for Tim Tetrick. At Yonkers, two eliminations of the Art Rooney at $40,000 headline the card and in the first, the American Ideal colt, He‚Äôs Watching, owned in Ontario and trained by Dave Menary, is less than even money in the six-horse field. The Ron Burke-trained All Bets Off is the heavy favourite in the other division.
The first major test of the season for three-year-old colt pacers was set for Friday night at Western Fair with three divisions at $70,000. Casey Gavin‚Äôs Silverhill Shadow had position six in a race with speedster Bugger Bruiser, who had drawn post seven. More on these colts next year.
Fred MacDonald‚Äôs column appears in The Guardian each Saturday. He can reached at email@example.com.