Lumley: Grounds keepers Canada Cup MVPs
* From grounds keepers Steven Farrugia to all the volunteers, who made Labatt Park and Dan Pulham Field playable despite three days of rain goes a special MVP, according to tourney chair Mike Lumley ….
By April Whitzman
LONDON, Ont. — The Summer Olympics ended in London, England on Sunday, Aug. 12.
Meanwhile, in London, Ont., the Baseball Canada Cup also came to a close.
For a rare occurrence during the Cup, the weather co-operated, and the sun shone across Labatt Park and Dan Pulham Field.
But despite the sunny skies, the recent soggy weather conditions were still fresh on many people’s minds.
After his team’s 12-3 win over PEI, Saskatchewan starting pitcher, Conner Loeppky reflected upon his wet stay in Ontario.
“We got dumped on here in London,” Loeppky said. “We were rained on hard, and I mean hard, for three of our games. Back home we get rained out a lot, so coming here wasn’t a big difference, but kind of a letdown to come here and get that much rain.”
The players, however, weren’t the only ones who were forced to work harder due to the weather as the grounds crews were also needed to work extra innings in attempt to get the fields in a safe and playable condition.
Steven Farrugia is one of the grounds crew members at Labatt Park who battled the wet conditions.
“I’ve put more clay down on the field these past few days than I have in my last two years of working here,” he said. “It sure has been a lot of work for our whole team. Mother Nature didn’t like us too much this week!”
After his team’s loss to Saskatchewan on Sunday, PEI’s pitcher, Jordan MacIsaac indicated that the biggest factor the weather has played for him and his team has been scheduling.
“It has greatly affected the amount of sleep we get, as we have been forced to play some late games and some really early games,” he said. “But in terms of team play, other than our pitchers getting cold and a few tough throws on a wet ball, we are pretty used to the weather. There’s a lot of rain in PEI!”
Players from another East-Coast province, Nova Scotia, also admitted that they were used to the dampened weather conditions. including Jesse Bordon, who started a 6-5 loss to Saskatchewan,
“Coming from Nova Scotia, we are used to battling through a lot of rain,” said Bordon. “It’s something we try to use to our advantage as some teams may not be used to these conditions. But even though we are accustomed to it, it still makes it hard playing in that kind of weather.”
Bordon’s grandmother, Karen Burchell, further added how the rain impacted the atmosphere for those watching the games saying: “Well there was absolutely no sitting on the benches. Most of the games we took shelter under the trees until the lightning struck!”
Margie Smith, mother of Christian Smith, another Nova Scotia pitchers, added, “The rain was disappointing but I don’t think it affected the players. It’s great that the tournament was able to stay pretty close to the schedule with only a few minor changes. It was just hard to plan accordingly due to the changes that were happening.”
Mike Lumley, Canada Cup Tournament Chair, further said that the event would not have been a success, and certainly would not have been on schedule had it not been for the determination and hard work of the grounds crew and their efforts to keep the fields in tact during the harsh weather conditions.
“While I’d like to show my appreciation to all of our volunteers and to everyone who has helped out tremendously during this event,” Lumley told the crowd before the medal presentations. “If it was up to me, I would award the grounds crew with the tournament MVP. They have done an outstanding job.”
Other MVPs, however, were awarded during the championship games.
In Quebec’s 7-2 win over Manitoba, to win the bronze medal, both Manitoba’s right-fielder, Troy Blad, and Quebec’s third baseman, Ercia Bastida Nelson, who went 3-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs, won the team MVPs.
Blad went 1-for-2 with a walk and hit a towering homerun well over the right field sign at Labatt Park.
“It felt amazing. I’ve never hit a ball like that before,” Blad said. “I’m glad I was able to contribute. It’s a shame we lost. We have battled hard throughout the year. We had our ups and downs, and struggled a little bit throughout the tournament but we really battled hard.”
Quebec’s right-fielder, Christopher Acosta, was also really impressed with his teams play during the game.
”C’était un jeu vraiment bon pour notre équipe,” said Acosta, which, in English, translates into, “It was a great team effort and win.”
Acosta explained that Quebec played hard throughout the whole tournament and that he was incredibly proud of how hard they fought as a team and how happy he was that they persevered and won the bronze medal.
Perseverance, however, could only begin to describe both Team British Columbia and Team Ontario in the gold medal game on Sunday night.
It was a back-and-forth game filled with clutch hitting and timely pitching. While B.C took the early 2-0 lead, Ontario fought back, scoring four in the fourth and fifth to eventually win by a final score of 9-8.
B.C shortstop, Tyler O’Nell, who went, 4-for-4 with three doubles and an RBI, and Ontario’s third baseman, Malik Collymore, were named their respective MVPs of the game.
Collymore was also named the tournament’s top offensive player, while his teammate, and the catcher, Matt Deneau, took home the defensive player award and PEI’s starting pitcher, J.P. Stevenson, was awarded the top pitching award.
“It’s the best feeling in the world to have this medal around my neck,” Collymore said, after finishing the tournament with a .586 average, hitting four doubles, two triples and 14 RBIs in 29 at-bats. “Our team just worked so hard to get it. It feels great to be undefeated and be the champions in a talented tournament. And then to be presented with such a prestigious award, makes me feel that much more of a part of the team. I’m so happy to be here and so honoured.”
Deneau was one of the final two players to make the team as he was recovering from an injury.
“I take a lot of pride on my defensive game and have worked really hard on my offensive game as of late, so it’s amazing to be standing here with an award and a medal,” he said, after batting .429 in the eight games he played behind the plate. “It was an all-around game, both offensively and defensively. When I saw that third out being recorded, it was a huge relief. B.C fought hard so it was an amazing feeling I will never forget.”
Prince Edward Island’s Stevenson also discussed feeling flattered and grateful to be entitled with his respective award. He took home the pitching award after finishing the tournament with a 2-0 record and a 1.00 ERA, while pitching two complete games. In his 14 innings, he recorded 13 strikeouts while only walking two batters.
“I am very proud to be given this award,” Stevenson said. “It is such a good feeling as there is such a great amount of talented pitchers in this tournament. I think this tournament showed how much baseball talent Canada truly has.”