Senior baseball is alive and well in Charlottetown.
The Gaudet’s Auto Body Islanders’ season came to an end Wednesday night at Memorial Field, but the players were already thinking about the prospects of next year.
The Isles took a leave of absence in 2018 and some feared the team may not be resurrected. A young, scrappy squad had their ups and downs this summer, finishing 9-23 during the regular season as they learned the ropes in the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League. But the Isles showed they can compete, pushing a Fredericton Royals’ squad to the brink of a winner-take-all Game 5 in their quarter-final.
“We’re back,” veteran Jake Beck said as players left the bench for the last time this summer on Wednesday night. “We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do in the off-season and keeping it moving forward.”
While the players would rather still be playing, the longest-serving member of the squad said they were happy with the season and how players progressed.
“There wasn't one guy that wasn't buying in, that wasn't making sure he was getting out, getting the extra swings in and putting in the extra work,” Beck said. “In order to compete in this league that’s what you have to do.”
Myles Grady, Peter McDonald and Kevin McKenna handled the management duties while Doug Hines coached the squad on the field.
“Doug did a great job this year right from the get-go,” Beck said. “He gave every single person on that team a chance. There’s not one guy that can look back and say, ‘I could have done something with more opportunity’.”
Hines was a fan of the team in the past, but this was his first time coaching baseball at the senior level.
“You start really seeing how good these guys are in this league. It’s pretty impressive. It’s one of the best senior leagues in the country,” he said.
Hines, known for his strong communication skills and support for his players, watched his charges grow and mature during the season.
“They realize now they can play with these guys,” he said.
Beck said they were lucky to have Dave MacIsaac and Chris McGregor join the coaching staff for the playoffs. Beck said the duo, who are well-respected and knowledgeable ball men who coached the junior squad during the summer, brought good energy to the senior squad.
While there were many hugs as guys packed up their gear Wednesday, a sense of pride could be felt as the young men knew they had invested a lot to get the team back up and running.
“It was one heck of a season,” said catcher Logan Gallant. “We had a good year. We played hard right to the end.”
While there were holdovers like Beck, Jordan Stevenson, Dillon Doucette, Taylor Larkin and Jesse MacIntyre from the previous team, there were many new faces.
“We knew coming into the season we were going to be young,” said Gallant, who was named the league’s rookie of the year.
While some opposing teams may have wondered what the team would be able to field this season, Gallant said, “they definitely knew after playing us once that we weren’t a pushover.”
The Islanders experimented with the American imports for the first time. Beck said it was a good experience and they were fortunate to be able attract quality people in Jack Kraft and Kody Matthews, who fit well inside the Islanders’ dugout.
“They both came here and trusted our organization that we were going to take care of them,” he said. “We weren’t able to offer them some of the luxuries that the other teams offer these import players. Both guys came with great attitudes, good work ethics on and off the field.”