The First to Three

The irrepressible Yogi Berra said it best.  “Deja vu all over, again.”

The Thunder Bay Caribou won their division in 2025, again.

They advanced to the Finals, again.

They played the powerful Detroit Thunderbirds, again.

Finally, they won the series, four games to two…..again.

For Rob Larmer, it was his second time to the podium to collect his GLBL ring.  But, it was the third time the Caribou won the Championship, now more than any other franchise in the 11 year history of the league.

A League Taken by Surprise

No one saw it coming.  Nine seasons in the league, and exactly ONE winning record, and that was eight years ago.  The beleaguered baseball team from Kingston Ontario, with the 516-616 record was a team off everyone’s radar.  With not a single playoff appearance in the history of the franchise, Kurt Peterson, a.k.a. KP, was seven years into trying to solve the puzzle.  Coming off a year where the team batting average was a paltry .235, where was the offense going to come from?  Journeyman Jim (Copeland), a Comet career leader in RBI’s with 510,  smashed 34 dingers in 2021, but tailed off to just 22 in 2022.  He ended up hitting .221 (his highest batting average in the last 3 years), but he also stroked 46 home runs and batted in 102 runs.

 

SSecond year SS, Jordan Cannell, upped his game ripping 27 big flies while matching Copeland’s 102 runs batted in total.  Just 11 miscues all year long and an impressive +5.9 ZR, Jordan was the pitchers ‘best friend’.

Five time All Star, and the spark plug of the team, Nabhan ‘Wacky’ Ubadah hit .329 for the season and .340 in the post-season, before becoming injured in the clinching 6th game of the Championship Series.  Nabhan is one of those rare players who walks more than strikes out, 63/60.  He was the Canadian League Championship MVP and a Silver Slugger award winner.

 Credit the gutsy move at deadline time by KP, who did not flinch when handing over the goods to acquire Adrian Eacott from the Maples.  He was 3-2 during the last month of the season for the Comets, but more importantly 3-2/ 1.61 ERA in the post-season.  In another starring role, it was Ross Singleton who really saved his best for last.  The 34 year old pitcher, in his first post-season, put together a masterful 2-0/ 1.21 ERA, line, leading the team at crunch time.

  It’s worth mentioning Closer, Ken Lau, was tattooed in the post-season (1-2/ 2 BS) but it was this guy who saved 44 games during the regular season while posting a 1.27 ERA.  Toss in 7 wins and he played a part in 51 of the 85 Kingston wins.  And, while erratic, he still saved 5 games in the playoffs.

Congratulations to the 2023 Great Lakes Baseball League Champion Kingston Comets!  Man, what a year.

Waveriders over the top

 

The Owen Sound Waveriders have won their first GLBL Championship as they defeated the Toledo Neptunes in a very spirited and competitive six game set.  The 85 wins in the regular season were a franchise high for Owen Sound.  One of the stars now, and looking into the future, is Wilbert ‘Sleepy’ LeGrow.  He plays all the outfield positions and first base and mashed his way to an impressive .844 OPS over the course of the season.  The recipient of the Silver Slugger Award is now a two time all star, at the young age of 25.

On the mound the trio of Bonnefoy, O’Brien, and Wilson amassed a total of 38 wins.  Randy Costello notched 41 saves his lowest total in the last three years.  Up and coming 23 year old Nathan Yeo went 2-4 but gave us a glimpse of his upside with 0.98 WHIP.

Really, no weaknesses on this club as they were first in runs, second in runs against, and second in Team D in the Canadian League.

Riding High

It took just 6 games to win their first Great Lakes Baseball League Championship but then, again, it took 7 years to finally achieve that goal.  Perpetually knocking on the door only to come up just short the Mounties finally negotiated the last hurdle by leaping over the Chicago Architects with their 5-4 win at Lakeside Park.

The Architects and Mounties had identical 82-62 records but Hamilton owned Chicago in the brief regular season by winning all four games by scores of 2-0, 10-4, 6-4, and 3-2.  And, on this first day of October, catcher Joe Kelley made sure the Mounties would take home the grand prize as his solo shot in the 3rd inning was the difference.  So, the life time record of 536-452 (second only to Chicago) now has a championship banner to secure the reputation as one of the top teams in the history of the league.

For the Canadian League it was sweet stuff indeed to see the string of USA titles arrested at five in a row as Hamilton joins Thunder Bay as the only Canadian teams to win a championship.  Geoff Boyd won the Most Valuable Player award as his relentless hitting down the stretch of the playoffs propelled Hamilton to the title.

For Chicago it was another great season that saw them win the USA championship and then compete in their fourth League Championship having won two titles to date.

 

Extra Innings…and then some.

Written by Martin Abresch

Toronto tied the game, 4-4, in the bottom of the 7th. With runners on second and third, Jesse Stannard singled to left. The runner on third scored, tying the game, while the runner on second tried for home … but was thrown out. After that, there were some singles and walks, but a runner didn’t reach scoring position until the 10th (when Toronto’s Michael Howard got stranded at third) and then the 18th (when Windsor’s Harry O’Connell hit a lead-off doubled but was stranded at third). Runners reached second in the 20th (single and sac bunt) and 21st innings (walk and ground out that advanced the runner). In the top of the 26th, Windsor’s Christophe Sarrazin doubled with two outs and got stranded. In the bottom of that inning, Michael Howard led off with a triple and was driven in by Jesse Stannard to win the game.


Of Windsor’s 287 pitches, 180 came after the game got tied, 4-4, in the seventh. Of Toronto’s 371 pitches, 238 came after the game was tied.

Think of it this way: if the game had started in the 8th inning, it would have gone 19 innings, Toronto would have won 1-0, and the teams would have combined for 418 pitches.

Windsor’s Larry Brown came on to pitch in the 13th inning. He pitched 7.2 shutout innings in relief, striking out 6 and walking none.

Toronto pitchers struck out 29 Vigilantes.


Jesse Stannard was the last batter, singling in the winning run. He led off the bottom of the first, doubled, and scored the games first run. On the day he went 3-for-11, with a run and two RBIs.

 

Jesse Stannard, the hero, sending what few fans remaining home for an abbreviated sleep.

The Batting Crown Race

 Godzilla Garcia  is not only threatening to hit .400 but he is actually raising his average as this past week saw his batting line go from .420 to .423.  In last evenings contest he went 3 for 4 against the Neptune’s with a double.  Toledo managed to win 6-1 as their challenger for the batting title, Carl MacNiven went 2 for 4 with his own double to ease his average back up to .389, yet at the same time quieting conversation about whether he might hit .400.

Sourface MacNiven is hitting .107 points above his average for last season and still has a shot at .400.

 

 

If this were a horse race you might hear the announcer using the classic vernacular of the sport  something akin to ‘they are around the far turn’ and you would know that these two batting giants are about to head to the stretch.  But, if you were not paying attention you might miss some activity, say, ‘coming up from the rear’.

Not to be out done,  the face of the GLBL is making his own bid for another batting crown as the two time Lake Superior Award winner and two time Lake Erie Award winner, and seven time all star (aka every year) is preparing for the stretch run with a vengeance.

Shotgun Time!  He was hitting .256 near the end of April but he’s been classic Silas since then and is now batting .375.  So the question is as we head to the stretch, ‘who can go the distance’?

Godzilla at the Plate

When you are 23 years old and playing at the GLBL level you are usually riding the bench hoping for an opportunity for a spot start here and there always with the hope that you impress the manager enough to give you another opportunity, hopefully in the form of a start.  Less likely, but still possible, you might be the benefactor of a long term injury to a player that moves you up the depth chart (Google Wally Pipp).

In the case of Guillermo ‘Godzilla’ Garcia he has already eclipsed the status described above as he is now the starting RF while spending some time in CF.  He’s 4.8 ZR combined.  But, we are not here to talk about his glove, or his arm (7 assists).

It’s the bat that carries his .416 batting average.  89 hits in 214 at bats qualifies him as a legitimate challenger to ‘Sourface’ McNiven of Toledo for the leagues highest batting average in 2021.  And, you don’t want to face this guy in a matinee contest as he hits .445 during the day hours.  In 316 AB’s he hit .341 in 2020.  In the current season he has posted 0 HR’s and 1 triple  and appears to be the classic slap and hit batter who uses his speed to beat out infield hits.  No question, Godzilla is a legit candidate to lead the league in batting for quite some time.

Where is Walt James bat today?

We know where the man is physically located….at the Bay of Quinte mid way  between Kingston and Toronto.  This little fishing village is home to the AAA Herons where Walt plays his baseball these days.  But, it wasn’t always this way for James as but two years ago he was east of this sleepy village  stealing bases, hitting extra base hits and posting a 3.8 WAR for the Kingston Comets, part of the GLBL.

A year later the Architects claimed him off waivers from Kingston but his stay was short in Chicago as his 7 AB’s hardly constituted a cup of coffee, to quote the iconic former catcher Joe Garagiola.  The Waveriders inked him to a one year deal on April 1 (you can read whatever you want into that signing date) but Owen Sound did not get what they thought they were buying as Walt totaled 20 hits in 109 AB’s with this batting line:  .183/.217.211.  Having committed just 1 error his entire career, short as it’s been, this guy could flash the D, definitely run, and hit better than the virtual replacement player by a long shot.   Just 32, one can only wonder what went wrong.

Who will hit the most HR’s in 2021?

Tied for the league with 24 is Dave ‘Mustache’ Teague.  He’s been an All Star every season, won 3 Lake Erie Awards, was twice the MVP in the Canadian Playoffs, is hitting .304 with a .974 OPS, and plays three different positions.  Throw in 47 BB/ 50 K ratio and you have quite an offensive force.  Teague has a lifetime 124 dingers and has hit less than 20 just one time.  Many pick him to win the home run crown while vying for League MVP.

 

 

 

 

His main competition comes from an unlikely source.  Tied with 24 homers is Jim Copeland of the Kingston Comets.  The Scouting Book on Copeland is that he is a not a leader, not very smart, not loyal, and has poor work habits.  He batted .180 last season and is hitting .214 with a .262 OBP.  Copeland has walked 24 times and fanned 97.  His WAR to date is 0.6.  But, he is a masher.  With 71 RBI’s to go with the 24 big flies he is on pace to hit 35 homers and bat in 104 runs.  Most prognosticators don’t favor him to win any award but the reality is he can’t be ignored.

 

 

Once is good, Twice is better

On July 16, 2021 Jean Vilain handcuffed the TC Bears striking out 11, walking but 2, and allowing 0 hits in the 2-0 No-No for the Waveriders.  For Jean, it was deja vu all over again as two years ago, while pitching for the Toronto Maples, he shut down the Windsor Vigilantes racking up 6 K’s, yielding 2 walks, and allowing 0 in the hit column.

With 7 No Hitters in the 6 year history of the GLBL Vilain now owns two of them.