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Islanders trade hockey sticks for baseball bats for a night

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – There were some swings and misses, some solid contact, a few catches in the field and a lot of laughs Tuesday as the Charlottetown Islanders tried their hand at baseball.

The major junior hockey squad joined the Charlottetown Gaudet’s Auto Body Islanders senior ball team at Memorial Field for some batting practice (BP) as a team-building exercise.

“It’s pretty fun getting out with the guys and doing things like this, getting away from the rink,” said veteran centre Keith Getson. “It’s nice to be back (playing hockey), but it’s nice to do stuff like this with the guys, too.”

Getson was one of the few Islanders who played a lot of ball growing up. He was a member of the Bridgewater Bulldogs in Nova Scotia until first-year bantam when he concentrated on hockey.

“I loved it, so it’s nice to get back out on the field,” said Getson, who once hit a bomb out of a senior field during an Atlantic championship.

Goaltender Matthew Welsh was a catcher with a cannon behind the plate for Halifax in those days and led the peewee Atlantics in batting average.

“We actually had a pretty good rivalry going there,” Getson said. “I tried to snag a few bases from him, but . . . he had a pretty good arm.”

Matthew Grouchy, entering his sophomore season with the Isles, said he enjoyed getting some swings in and spending time with his hockey teammates outside of the rink.

“It’s good for building team chemistry. It’s pretty funny, too. Some of them can’t hit the ball very well,” he said.

And how did Grouchy perform?

“I think I need some practice,” he laughed. “I hit a couple that made it past the dirt, but other than that, it wasn't the best.”

His best decision may have come when he realized parking his car as close to the field as possible may not have been the best choice, as foul balls inched closer to his wheels.

“If I didn't move (the car), I think, I would probably have a nice crack in the windshield by now,” he said, standing in the outfield shagging flyballs. “I know Welshy came pretty close two times, so it was a good decision getting that out of the way.”

The hockey Islanders are in the midst of their training camp while the baseball Isles start their playoffs later this week.

It doesn’t appear any of the hockey players will be getting the call-up to the ball team this year.

“Being a season ticket holder for the Islanders and being the assistant coach of the senior men’s baseball team, I would strongly advise the Islanders hockey players to stick to the ice,” Ian (Tex) MacDonald said in providing his light-hearted scouting report.

He has followed some of the players’ junior careers for years, but Tuesday was the first time he had a chance to meet them personally.

“And you talk about gentlemen,” he said. “They’re well schooled not only in major junior hockey, but they’re well schooled in manners and how to handle themselves around older people – like myself.”

The hockey players were thankful for the invite, particularly with the baseball players getting set for the post-season.

“We appreciate it,” Getson said. “It’s nice these guys are letting us come out and have some fun during their BP and during their practice time.”

Veteran Islanders catcher Morgan MacLean said it was good to get the two teams together. He remembered the hockey franchise inviting them to a game and introducing them on the ice after they won the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League title two years ago.

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