By Matt Betts
Canadian Baseball Network
There is little doubt the Barrie Baycats are the team to beat heading into the 2018 Intercounty Baseball League Season.
Winning four straight championships will do that.
Despite being one of the youngest franchises in the IBL, founded in 2001 to be exact, that hasn't hindered the Baycats from creating their own storied history. The team should eclipse the 400 win total in 2018 as they went into the season with a 390-222 record. If the Baycats bring home the league title it will be their sixth in 18 seasons as they were also crowned the league’s best in 2005.
Eighteen years is just a snapshot in time compared to the 100 years of IBL baseball but the Baycats saw 10 former and current players walk across the stage as all-time Top 100 players at the league's 100th anniversary banquet in February. Of the 10, five are still active. Left-handed pitcher Brad Bissell (Penetanguishene, Ont.), outfielder Glenn Jackson (Toronto, Ont.), first baseman Jordan Castaldo (Toronto, Ont.), catcher Kyle Degrace (Toronto, Ont.) and outfielder Ryan Spataro (Barrie, Ont.) round out the currently active Baycats. Add in current manager and former right-handed pitcher Angus Roy (Mississauga, Ont.) and the list grows to six.
No pitcher has seen more for Barrie than lefty Brad Bissell. The former Charleston Southern Buccaneer has played 15 seasons and appeared in 145 games, both franchise bests. Bissell has made 108 starts and thrown 727 innings heading into 2018 which are all franchise highs. He also leads the team in career wins with 61. Bissell had a brief stint in the independent Northern League in 2006 where he posted a 2-4 record and 4.70 ERA in 17 games and 10 starts for a different feline, the Edmonton Cracker-Cats.
Much like Bissell, Ryan Spataro has been a mainstay in the field and in the box. He has played 13 seasons and 380 games, amassing 1,620 at bats. Heading into 2018 he had 603 hits, 94 doubles, 19 triples, 201 walks, 616 total bases and 194 stolen bases. All of those stats are franchise highs and the 194 steals is also an IBL record. Spataro is a two-time MVP (2005 and 2010), while being a fixture at Coates Stadium. Before joining Barrie, Spataro spent four seasons in the Minnesota Twins organization from 2001 to 2004. Over four years, spanning from Rookie to A, he hit .263 and stole 38 bases in 209 games.
Former Ontario Blue Jay, Connors State Cowboy and Arkansas State Red Wolves standout Jordan Castaldo has been a force in his IBL career. He was a member of the Oshawa Dodgers in 2009 and won their team MVP award, that same year he was 16th nationally in batting average at Connors State hitting at a .455 clip. While at Arkansas State he was teammates with current teammate Kyle Degrace. He has won one league MVP award (2014) and Playoff MVP (2015) with the Baycats.
The Barrie Baycats is all Angus Roy has known since finishing his collegiate career at Valparaiso and a brief stint in the independent Frontier League and Boston Red Sox system where he was teammates with Jon Lester and Hanley Ramirez on the Augusta GreenJackets in 2003. Roy was a workhorse on the mound and is the franchise leader in complete games with 23. Since taking over the managerial reigns in 2007 as the third manager in team history, Roy has been named Executive and Field Manager of the Year in 2014 and Manager of the Year in 2017. He oversaw the Baycats to one of the best seasons in league history in 2017. Last year's edition of the team finished 33-3 in the regular season and swept their way to the league championship. The team started the year 26-0, an IBL record, and had a 35-game winning streak dating back to the 2016 campaign. Their 33 wins, three losses and .917 winning percentage tied IBL records. They also did not lose a game at home.
The current edition of the Barrie Baycats will look awfully familiar for those who have been following the team through their current dynasty. The franchise has come a long way since their inaugural season that saw them post a 13-19 record. The Baycats will look to take one step closer to tying the Brantford Red Sox record of six consecutive championships in 2018.