By: Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Networks
Being a part of the inaugural season of the Canadian Premier Baseball League last year, the Fieldhouse Pirates made the developmental strides they were looking for as their program moved forward.
“The games every weekend were extremely competitive,” said Jimmy Richardson, director of player development for the Pirates. “You see top-line arms Saturday and Sunday and when you play your midweek games; you don’t usually get to see that when you go to tournaments in the US.
“It was really good to push our guys and have them play against the best players in their own age group every weekend, rather than typically in the past just playing one or two competitive games a month and then playing some of the lesser-quality teams. It was great to push the development of our guys.”
To follow up the first year of the circuit, Fieldhouse decided to implement some changes in their off-season training regimen, knowing now what they will be facing at home throughout the summer months and building on that calibre of competition to take into tournaments elsewhere as well.
“We changed our winter training a little bit this year,” Richardson said. “We had more skill-based practices rather than team-based. All of our guys will work out in their primary positions for the most part, and we can really drill in and get down to work on some of the intricate skills that they need to showcase on the field during a game, that are going to take them to the next level.
“We’ve really drilled down with our pitchers this winter, added Driveline to our program, so our pitchers have been working hard every week. Guys are just getting back into throwing right now but we’ve been lifting heavy for the last two months since we got home from the fall trip, and now we’re kind of back full-on with baseball activity…We are going to start practicing outside hopefully in April. We don’t do any spring trips [down south] so our first games will probably be the opening weekend of the CPBL, during the pre-season tournament.”
The level of play that the CPBL produced in its first season not only improved the drive of the Pirates players on the field last year, but also provided motivation for many of them as they’ve continued their progression throughout the winter months.
“The big thing after going through the league schedule one time is the guys understanding that if you don’t show up to play every weekend, you’re going to get run over,” the program’s director of player development said. “That starts with your training in the winter time. You can’t just go through the motions October to April and hope to go out on the field and compete with the teams that we’re playing against because it’s not going to happen.
“So our guys have been a lot more hungry this year. We see them in here, and the competition level within our own training has increased because guys know that they have to bring it every day, and if they want to compete with the [Ontario Blue] Jays and Great Lake [Canadians] and the [Toronto] Mets, they’ve got to be ready to play every single time we step on the field.”
A number of the Pirates players have already solidified spots down south for the fall, where they can continue to play the game they love as they pursue post-secondary education, which is not only exciting for the program but also provides some relief to the players, who can now just go out and enjoy their final CPBL seasons.
“It’s really important for the guys,” Richardson said. “It takes a lot of the stress out of it for them, not having to go through the spring without knowing where they’re going, having the pressure to perform all the time, whether we’re going to tournaments or playing here, if college coaches are coming to watch them.
“Now they can just focus in on refining their skills and getting ready to play once they get to school in August, the pressure…is lifted off their shoulders a little bit. So the biggest benefit is for the players, they’re the ones who put the work in, and they earned it. It’s good for them to have the results and get it sealed up early and now they can just focus on getting better.”
Securing spots for when the CPBL season comes to an end, the Pirates are sending Austin Skellhorn to Galveston College in Texas, Ryan Cuthbert to Iowa Lakes Community College, Harris Voyatzis and Caleb Feurstake to Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Missouri, Dante Federico and Jordan Stamp to Labette Community College in Parsons, Kansas, and Riley Perks to Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri.