Terriers return to Premier League for 2016

Rick Johnston, shown here with his Peterborough Hall of Fame plaque, has the Ontario Terriers back in the Premier Baseball League of Ontario. 

Rick Johnston, shown here with his Peterborough Hall of Fame plaque, has the Ontario Terriers back in the Premier Baseball League of Ontario. 

Terriers prepare for return to PBLO
By Matt Betts
Canadian Baseball Network

After a hiatus from one of the top elite leagues in the country, the Ontario Terriers are set to retake the Premier Baseball League of Ontario by storm.

For those of you with a short memory, the Terriers were previously among the top teams competing for the PBLO crown.  They would battle the Ontario Blue Jays, Team Ontario, the Toronto Mets among others with numerous college and pro prospects on display. Despite the competition being high the Terrier brass felt that it was time for a change. This is where the Fergie Jenkins league came into play.

“We felt we wanted to create an independent schedule for ourselves,” Rick Johnston, director of player development and 17U manager said. “It was a wonderful time and experience, the Ferguson Jenkins league is very competitive. The people in the league were great to us.”

So now some may be wondering why the program would want to make another change, this time going back to league it has already called home once. The answer is much simpler than what people may think. Despite the competitive nature of the Fergie Jenkins league, the PBLO is still the top league for players trying to make the jump to the next level.

“It came down to the ability to remerge in the best league possible,” Johnston said. “The PBLO is the best among the best.”

Making a decision of this calibre did not come without a lot of thought and deliberation. In fact, the Terrier leadership group threw the idea around every winter since leaving the first time. Once the idea was collectively agreed upon internally, they went to the OBA to try and get back into the PBLO.

“People were probably shocked that we left the first time but there were a lot of factors including families and players,” Johnston said. “It was a collective leadership decision to return. It is the function of the Terriers doing what is best for the organization.”

The PBLO may feel like coming home to the Terriers, but a lot has changed since the last time they played there. The PBLO now consists of seven teams: The London Badgers, Ontario Royals based out of Oakville, the Ontario Terriers in Mississauga, the Ottawa Canadians, the Windsor Selects, the Ontario Yankees out of East Toronto and the Ontario Outlaws out of Guelph. 

Gone are the old rivalries of the Ontario Blue Jays, Team Ontario and the Toronto Mets, but new ones are surely ready to form. 

The league, along with each team have a specific focus on college and professional recruitment while maintaining high academic standards. For those reasons alone Johnston feels this is the right move for the Terrier organization.

“(The PBLO) has given more kids the opportunity to play south of the border than any other league,” Johnston said. “It is six or seven weekends of regular season followed by tournament play.”

The Terriers host their own tournament in July. So far, the organization has done just fine placing players to play at the college level. Every player from the 18U program has committed to play somewhere. This should continue to be the norm considering the jump to the PBLO. It seems like another logical step for a program that has already seen so much success.

Along with every player committed somewhere, they also sent four players to this year’s Tournament 12 at Rogers Centre. Catcher Joe Tevlin (Toronto), pitchers Sam Turcotte (Toronto) and Ben Abram (Georgetown) along with infielder Elliott Curtis (Waterloo) were all named to the final rosters. 

Tevlin and Turcotte suited up for Ontario Green, while Elliott donned Ontario Black. Abram, who was one of only two players eligible for the 2018 draft, pitched for the Futures Team. Johnston also was a coach with Ontario Black.

Tuccotte, who had one of the most impressive mound outings in the tourney against the eventual winners -- seven strikeouts in four innings -- is headed to the Stony Brook University Seawolves, while Tevlin is headed to the Niagara University Purple Eagles and Curtis to the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders.  

Despite the change in league, the Terriers schedule will see some similarities. They will still do their annual spring training, usually spanning 7-to-9 days in sunny Florida. They will also play a full fall schedule and tournaments in the summer time. It will all lead up to the World Series in Nashville, Tenn.

The expectations will certainly be high by those looking on as the Terriers return to the PBLO but for Johnston the objective remains the same.

“It is about continuing to educate the families and players on how our system works,” Johnston said. “We are excited to get one of the best programs back to the best league.”

As many Terriers past and present have heard “trust the process.”

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Matt Betts

Matt Betts was born in Brantford, Ontario in 1992. From a very young age, he loved all things baseball ... but even more, all things Canadian. His baseball career began with the Brantford Junior Red Sox, followed by three years (2008 thru 2010) with the Ontario Terriers program of the PBLO - twice winning the Most Proficient Pitcher award. The past four years he pitched at the University of West Alabama of the Gulf South Conference – twice earning Most Dedicated Player honours. Summer baseball experience includes pitching for the Hamilton Cardinals, and the Licking County Settlers (2013 Great Lakes League champs) and again this summer the Hamilton Cardinals. As an Integrated Marketing Major at UWA, he wrote extensively for the university newspaper, with a focus on baseball. His lifelong dedication and love for the game is indisputable, but his passion for sports writing and broadcasting/analysis has grown with each passing year. There is something very satisfying about “digging a little deeper” to reveal the “story within the story.” After four years of life in the United States, he is thrilled to be back home in Canada, ready to cover and promote Canadian sports and players.