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Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2019
Sudbury Rookie Ball Shamrocks rocking the diamond
by Randy Pascal

A baseball pipeline is starting to develop in Greater Sudbury.

At least, one can assume that steps in that direction are definitely progressing nicely, based, at least in part, on the success that has been shown by some of the young participants in the sport, busily competing at tournaments across the province.

For their part, the Sudbury Rookie Ball Shamrocks have gone two for two. Following a fairly lopsided showing at the WHBL (West Hill Baseball League) Rookie Ball Select tournament in June – the Shamrocks swept aside four consecutive opponents by a combined score of 76-8 – the locals ramped up their search for competition in July.

The end result was an entry to the 10th Annual Muskoka Cup in Huntsville last weekend. And while the Sudbury crew once again emerged with an unblemished record, victories by scores of 13-10 (vs North Toronto Athletics), 12-9 (vs Orillia Royals) and 12-9, again, in the finals opposite the TNT Thunder, suggest the locals were substantially more challenged the second time around.

All of which is music to the ears of new head coach Derek Goudreau and his staff, a group that returned only three players from the 2017 Sudbury Rookie Ball roster. “Development and opportunity for them (the players) is the main thing,” he said, just prior to his team taking to the field, this week, at the Terry Fox Sports Complex.

“We try and shift the kids around as much as we can, give them as much opportunity as we can at all positions, to let them learn as much as they can.” Pitching, for now, is off-limits, as rookie ball competition includes the use of a pitching machine. The rest of the fundamentals, however, are completely fair game.

“We try and put in an equal mix of fielding and hitting,” said Goudreau. “As a team, in general, I would say that the hitting has developed drastically from the start of the year.” That might be due to his team benefiting from some fairly natural excellence when it comes to their play in the field, at least in the eyes of the players.

“Our strength is our defense, not many teams can hit the ball past us,” said nine year old Ty Dubreuil, who is at his most comfortable when manning the role of shortstop. “Teams don't get many runs on us. We also are really good hitters. From top to bottom, we usually all get hits. Sometimes we strike out, but that's OK. We'll get another chance.”

That said, there is clearly an enthusiastic pride in their ability to hold other team's offenses at bay, especially when it comes to the infield core. “When they hit ground balls, nothing gets by us,” noted eight year-old third baseman Blake Chenier. “I try and get over the ball, so that it doesn't get by me, and then I throw it to first base.”

“We will always get over the ball, or sometimes, it just hits us in the chest.” At the receiving end of many of these outs is first baseman Tanner Morris, yet another youngster who can flash the leather, according to his teammates.

“Tanner's fielding is amazing,” said Dubreuil. “Say we throw it and it's three feet away from him, he can stretch and get it.” If stellar defensive work is where it's at, it should come as no surprise then that the young ball player would list Gold Glove recipient Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros as his favourite major leaguer. In fact, Dubreuil has already started to duplicate some of the highlight reel moves of his idol.

“I was ready and the guy hit it,” recalled the local product. “It was about three feet away from me, and I dived and I caught it. That was fun.” Enjoyment, however, can come from various aspects of the game. For Chenier, it was one particular plate appearance last month in West Hill.

“In our first tournament, I hit a home run,” he explained. “I hit it to right field, and he missed it, then he overthrew it to second, so my coach said to keep running, and then they overthrew it again, so I just had to go home.”

Spend just a few minutes chatting with this crew and their love of baseball is sure to shine through. “We've got a pretty solid core of kids that, if they stick together, could be a pretty special team for a long time to come,” said Goudreau. “Their love of the game, the drive to win, to want to succeed, to want to learn – the passion is there for them.”

There is roughly a month or so of fine-tuning to be done by the adults that are guiding this squad. The Shamrocks are set to take part in a Select tournament in Valley East that is being hosted from August 24th to the 26th, before hopefully moving on to the all-Ontario playdowns the following weekend in the London area.

“We want to continue progressing and hopefully put in a good showing at provincials, come home with something the boys would be happy about,” said Goudreau. The 2018 roster for the 2018 Sudbury Rookie Ball Shamrocks includes Bradley Eady, Peyton Goudreau, Owen Lamothe, Alex Marshfield, Pierce Mills, Adrien Potvin, Andrew Roney, Ryan Thompson and Harry Yeomans, in addition to Tanner Morris, Ty Dubreuil and Blake Chenier.

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