© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Morgan MacLean connects on a pitch during a recent game.
Morgan MacLean is back where he feels at home.
The third-year Charlottetown Gaudet’s Auto Body Islander is catching primarily full time after a couple of seasons of mixing in some work as a corner infielder.
He couldn’t be happier.
“That’s where I’m more comfortable,” said MacLean, who turned 22 on Sunday. “Behind the plate is sort of where I grew up playing.”
The comfortable level behind the plate has translated to success at the dish.
The Winsloe native has one of the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League’s best batting averages.
“He’s been our MVP on the field all season,” said pitcher Jacob Beck. “To see him hitting the way he has been, it’s incredible.”
It couldn’t have come at a better time for the Islanders, who lost Travis Gaudet and Dillon Doucette to work commitments this season and Andrew Macdonald to knee surgery. They were three of the Isles’ top hitters the past couple of seasons.
“You take pride whenever you succeed personally . . . but the focus is always the team success,” MacLean said. “We’re sitting fourth, and you obviously want to be better, but the playoffs are coming up and anything can happen.”
Macdonald, who has stepped into a coaching role this season, said MacLean has a good approach at the plate.
“He knows the pitches he can handle,” Macdonald said. “He’s able to hit a lot of line drives this year and just has a better feel, I think, for the pitchers in this league.”
MacLean is quick to say he is just one of many Isles to step up this season to help fill the void left by the trio.
Beck said MacLean’s high average is partially due to his ability to avoid slumps.
“If he goes 0-for-3, he’ll come back with two hits the next night. He bounces right back,” he said.
What makes MacLean’s hitting prowess more impressive, Beck said, is MacLean has caught the majority of the team’s games this season.
“He’s always ready to go,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of games where we’re going and he’s catching two games and putting three or four hits across for us, too.”
Beck said MacLean has a good idea of what his battery mate wants to do on the mound.
“I’ve always liked pitching to Morgan. I find we’re always on the same page,” Beck said, noting sometimes he shakes off MacLean’s signal to give hitters something to think about. “We have a lot of fun out there.”
MacLean calls a good game and his hustle can be seen on simple plays any given night. On a routine ground ball, MacLean will be busting down the line just behind the runner in case the ball is thrown away.
That hustle is partly due to playing the game the way he was brought up.
MacLean grew up the youngest of three brothers. Mark was the oldest and Mitch the middle child.
Mitch and Tanner Craswell were killed in a roadside shooting in Alberta in December 2011. Morgan and Mitch played ball together every other year, but Morgan said he never thought about giving up the sport after his brother’s tragic death.
“It made me more want to play for him and Tanner,” Morgan said. “Just (knowing) how much they loved it, you want to keep that going.”
It means giving it 100 per cent each and every game, even when you’re not at your best.
“You really have to battle because that’s what they would do,” Morgan said. “You go out there with them in your mind and you want to honour them by how you play.”
This season has brought Morgan the first chance to play with Mark, a pitcher and first baseman, who is seven years older than his youngest brother.
“It’s been great to play with Mark,” Morgan said.
And they hope to have more games to play together this summer. The Isles play their final home game of the regular season tonight and have two more on the road to conclude the regular season.
To be successful, Morgan said, the key is an improved offensive attack.
“The pitching has been really good for us this year. We’ve got to get our bats going,” he said. “We’ll get things going again. I’m not worried about that.”
Who – Charlottetown Gaudet’s Auto Body Islander catcher.
Age – 22.
Hometown – Winsloe.
The latest – MacLean has one of the top batting averages in the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League.
Season At bats Hits Average RBI
2014 82 28 .341 15
2013 91 28 .308 13
2012 52 8 .154 1
A look at the Charlottetown Islanders’ remaining senior baseball league games.
Hub City at Charlottetown, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 13
Charlottetown at Hub City, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 17
Charlottetown at Moncton, 7 p.m.
Charlottetown 12 17
Hub City 9 18
Charlottetown 8 Hub City 5
Charlottetown 2 Hub City 1
Charlottetown 4 Hub City 1
Charlottetown 3 Hub City 0
Charlottetown 6 Hub City 1