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The Charlottetown Gaudet’s Auto Body Islanders are in unchartered waters.
The Isles have added two American import players for the first time in the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League team’s nine-year history. Infielder Kody Matthews arrived Thursday while outfielder/pitcher Jack Kraft will join them in early July.
The Islanders were looking for someone to play shortstop to solidify the middle infield and reached out to Matthews.
The 23-year-old Roseburg, Ore., native played at Marshall University in West Virginia in 2018. He was third on the team with a .321 average as a senior after transferring from Missouri Western State University.
Matthews coached a team last summer and was coaching this spring until he got the call to come north of the border.
“I just like to have fun,” Matthews said Thursday night at Memorial Field. “I play the game hard and I have fun doing it. You’re always going to find me with a smile on my face and probably a face full of mud, too.”
Veteran Islanders pitcher Jake Beck, who played a key role in connecting with Matthews, is excited by the addition, but said the team is not expecting him to be the saviour.
“We’re really excited to have him here. He seems like a great kid, and we’re interested in seeing what he can do on the field, too.”
The Chatham Ironmen released Kraft earlier this week after signing six-foot-five right-handed pitcher Ian Hardman. Kraft hit .377 for the Ironmen in 2016 and was attractive to the Islanders for his ability to play multiple outfield positions and give them a left-handed pitcher to bolster the staff.
“Adding another guy like Jack just gives us another shot in the arm, another boost, which we’re really excited for,” Beck said, noting the importance of being able to give teams different looks on the mound. “Sometimes those are the little things, in a seven-game playoff series, that really make the difference.”
Both players will be here for the remainder of the season and the playoffs.
The Islanders (5-8) are currently third in the five-team circuit in their first year back after taking a one-year leave of absence.
While the additions should bolster the squad, it will result in less playing time for Island players.
Beck said before exploring the possibility of adding players they spoke about it as a team and everybody supported the prospect of dipping their toe in unchartered waters.
“Everybody was on board right from the get-go, and that’s really the reason why he is here,” Beck said of Matthews. “As things got a little bit closer, you could really see the excitement in everybody.”
Teams are allowed to have two imports on their 21-man roster. New Brunswick teams have been adding players for a number of years, but for a few reasons, including financial, the Isles hadn’t gone that route. Charlottetown had the rosters spots available this year and a willingness to bring in some help.
“Everybody is committed to (the additions),” Beck said. “They’re all willing to go the extra mile with their fundraising and their sponsorships. Everybody is chipping in.”
The Islanders are in Chatham, N.B., today for a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. and then aren’t scheduled to play again until Tuesday, July 9, when they host the Moncton Fisher Cats.
The Islanders will soon submit their final 21-man roster to the league.
Beck said they would be adding lefty J.P. Stevenson, the younger brother of ace Jordan Stevenson, to the list. He is currently pitching in Germany but could be home for a few weeks this summer.
“We know what he can do with the ball, so we’d be excited to have him even throw just one game,” Beck said.