Mark Bauer would love nothing more than to witness the revival of the Sudbury Regional Competitive Soccer League Men’s Premier Division. In the meantime, however, he and the remainder of his Buzzy Brown’s teammates will make due as best they can.
Now thirty years of age, Bauer is a graduate of Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School who went on to compete in the OCAA ranks as a member of the Cambrian Golden Shield. Like most who wished to continue with the sport locally at that time, Bauer was drawn to the top men’s circuit in the city, originally suiting up with the Sudbury Athletic.
Taking a couple of years away from the game, he would return in 2012, teaming up with an acquaintance from work, Wolfgang Fellbaum, to create the core of what is currently the closest thing Sudbury has to a squad that might compete reasonably well on a provincial scale in over 21 soccer.
“There has been a lot of turnover since the start, but we’ve gradually built a core of guys, and we’ve stuck together with that core, a very strong core,” said Bauer. The challenge, once the team entered the Italia Flyers Recreational League some six summers ago, was trying to strike a balance between the lure that rep soccer had always presented for the Sudbury native, and the reality that is men’s soccer in this city.
“We’ve gotten better and better as the years have gone on,” he said. “When you build a winning team, players want to come on board. And we have a great idea of the talent in the city, helping us to identify the players. It is a rec league, it is for fun, but I always want to put the best team I can together.”
Thankfully, there have been some recent offerings that have allowed Bauer to channel those competitive urges, as the Buzzy Brown crew, with a few additions, took to the field against an all-star team from North Bay, or at least those who were able to make the trip to Sudbury in late July. The end result was a 6-1 win for the locals, a situation that Bauer does not expect to see repeated once the teams meet again this weekend in North Bay.
“They are tired of getting their butts spanked, so it sounds like they will have a lot of the Nipissing players there,” said Bauer. “We haven’t played on turf yet, but we have a lot of speed and we move the ball well, so it should bode well for us.”
Locally, however, there is little argument that Buzzy Brown’s is the team that all others are attempting to knock from their perch at the top of the mountain. An overall record of 70-13-4 and a pair of season and playoff championships will attest to their abilities. Over time, others are sure to contend for league and city supremacy as well.
Holding them partly at bay, at least for the moment, is the double-edged sword within the realm of adult sports, including the need for the current champs to carry a roster loaded with no less than twenty players, many of whom have seen time in post-secondary competition.
“A big issue with the summer league, as the guys get older and there are family commitments and holidays, is player availability,” said Bauer. “You try and make sure to take as many players as you can, to have some good depth on the team. You want to put a good team together with a good group of guys, but it’s tough to foresee if all of your guys are going to show up.”
That, in itself, creates a problem for the player/coach. “The biggest challenge is that you have only eleven starting positions,” he stated. “The issue is that we have such a strong team, the majority of our players feel like they should be starting. I usually end up putting myself on the bench, and then navigating my way through the subs.”
For as much as the will to win burns deep within Bauer, there are times when he will step back to see the forest through the trees. “It’s much better for competition to have better teams that can play against us, more teams to challenge us,” he acknowledged. “In the league right now, there’s a group of five and the bottom three. It’s not fun for them when they are playing a team like us. The league faces a bit of a challenge.”
Thankfully, there are signs of hope. “I don’t know how many more guys we can take on,” said Bauer. “We have gathered some of those recent U21 graduates. We can’t take all the players.” Echoing the words of Italia Flyers’ league execs Rob Dagostino and Dave Simon earlier this year, Bauer knows that the situation at hand is not ideal.
“The majority of competitive players in the city are playing in this league,” he said. “It’s really the next best league in the city – but there is a divide where you do have some recreational teams in the league.” It’s hardly shocking, when one considers that the name of the league includes the term “recreational”.
In the meantime, Bauer and company will forge ahead, looking at additional opportunities to put their skill set to the test against similar squads across Ontario. “We would like to challenge ourselves,” said Bauer. “When we have our starting players there, we feel we can play with anyone. We really feel that all of the pieces are there. If there was a competitive league in the city, we would like to join that league, because we consider ourselves a competitive team.”
The 2017 edition of Buzzy Brown’s is comprised of Irijah Bartholomew, Bryan Baskcomb, Massimo Cimino, Jean-Francois Démoré, Aaron Dent, John Hick, Kersey Kalubi, Michael Laplante, David Nwaokolo, Colin Pardoe, Evan Phillips, Danny Radu, Gabriel Rodrigues, Alain Christian Shyaka, Chris Simonato, Akshay Varghese, Edson Velasquez, Shawn Wilcox, Wolfgang Fellbaum and Mark Bauer.