Ageless Reilly poised to capture another IBL Triple Crown

Kitchener Panthers slugger Sean Reilly is poised to capture his second Intercounty Baseball League Triple Crown in three seasons. Photo Credit: David Meads

Kitchener Panthers slugger Sean Reilly is poised to capture his second Intercounty Baseball League Triple Crown in three seasons. Photo Credit: David Meads

By Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

Sean Reilly is some special player -- a Triple Crown player to be exact.

For the second time in three seasons, the Kitchener Panthers slugger is about to capture another Triple Crown as the Intercounty Baseball League leader in batting average, home runs and RBI.

With the 36-game Intercounty regular season coming to an end this weekend, Reilly is leading the pack with a .461 average with 19 homers and 56 RBI. A monumental season.

"I don't want to jinx it,'' Reilly was saying in a phone interview. "There's a guy behind me, Justin Gideon of Burlington, who's having a good year.''

But it would take a monumental collapse by Reilly and an end-of-season assault by Gideon for Reilly not to win all three categories.

"To do it this year at 40-years-old is something special, competing against guys 20 to 25 years old running around. I'm twice the age of some of these players. It's a testament to my dedication to the game and staying in shape,'' the Minnesota Twins draft pick from 1995 said. 

"I'm pretty proud of what I've done. To do it in a league of this calibre is special. Winning it in 2015 was actually quite different because nobody had won it since 1981 and before that, it was back in 1955.''

That's right.

In 1955, celebrated Negro League star Wilmer Fields of Manassas, Va., suited up for the Oshawa Merchants and hit .425 with 12 home runs and 55 RBI in a 50-game schedule. Fields had played previously in the Intercounty League for the Brantford Red Sox and with the International loop's Toronto Maple Leafs but was best known for his splendid years with the Homestead Grays of the Negro League from 1939 to 1950.

As IBL statistician Herb Morell pointed out, Fields was an exceptional athlete competing in the Intercounty's "heyday'' when minor pro leagues competed against Intercounty teams for player services and in some cases, paying them more money.

Then in 1981, Phil Turner of the St. Thomas Elgins won the Triple Crown. He batted .441, slammed 12 homers and drove in 48 runs.

Reilly was born in Hamilton, spent some time in the Niagara community of Beamsville, took up his teen years in Burlington but has made Guelph home for many years. He quite simply says conditioning is an important factor in him stepping up to the demands of playing at 40.

"I work out at the gym five, six days a week,'' he said. "Along with the firefighting thing and having two young kids and playing four, five days a week, I try to get there as often as I can.''

Reilly has completed a course to become a fireman and he's hoping to land an interview soon with either or both departments in Toronto and Pickering.

Reilly was drafted by Minnesota out of Burlington's Aldershot high school as a 17-year-old and played several seasons in the class-A ranks before heading back to Ontario. He has played in the Intercounty League with a number of teams, including Barrie, Toronto and Guelph.

"People ask me how much longer I'm going to play,'' Reilly said. "It's tough to hang it up. I have that competitive spirit so I'm going to play for awhile yet. I'll take it year by year.''

And win more MVP awards. He was the league's MVP in 2011, 2013 and 2015 and was runner-up in 2010 and 2014. He would be a good bet to win the award again this year.

But that second Triple Crown would be very special.

"I'm surprised I'm only the third person to do it,'' Reilly said.

Danny Gallagher will be in Cooperstown for induction weekend. He will be signing copies of the Expos' book Ecstasy to Agony on the sidewalk at Monie Books on Main St. from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday.