CORNER BROOK Expectations have changed over the years.
There was a time when it would be considered a disappointment if the Corner Brook Barons didn’t win the senior A provincial baseball crown, but 11 consecutive years of the St. John’s Capitals claiming the title eventually put a stop to that notion.
Well, at least the Barons were still there every year, squaring off against the Caps, fanning the flames of the Corner Brook-St. John’s rivalry on the diamond.
That is, until they weren’t.
The past three years have seen either the Pasadena Pirates or Mount Pearl Blazers capture the senior B provincial championship, allowing them to advance to face the Capitals while the Barons seemed mired in a perpetual rebuild, struggling to replace veterans like Frank Humber or Darren Colbourne.
“I hope this is the year,” said current Barons coach Hubert Power on whether the Capitals will ever come up short in the senior A championship again. “We’ve got some good players that will be added to the mix this year — a few younger guys that are coming up, plus a couple of experienced guys that will be playing ball again this year.”
Power singled out Mike Brake as a returnee who will provide skill and experience at both ends of the plate.
“He’s definitely going to help in the pitching and hitting departments,” said the coach.
Other than that, Power couldn’t get into many more names, since he doesn’t know exactly who might be trying out for the team at this point, although he threw out the names of youngsters Mark McWhirter and Michael Tavenor as guys he expects to not only be back, but to be armed with a little more experience.
Finding the right mix of youthful energy and veteran savvy is the key, but even then there are no guarantees going into a weekend where everything is up for grabs, like the senior B tournament.
“It’s a tough tournament,” said Power. “Everything has got to come together quick because it’s just one weekend of ball. If it doesn’t ... too bad.”
There is reason for optimism.
Even as the senior Barons hit rock bottom over the last few years, the city’s minor program has been producing stellar results.
“Our midgets have been winning provincially the last couple of years, our bantams are winning, our junior Barons had a heartbreaker last year, but have still been in the championship game for the last few years there,” Power said. “All our minor groups are getting a little older and they keep moving into the mix.”
Power isn’t exactly sure what trigged the surge of success among the younger versions of the Barons, but a lot of it stems from the willingness of kids these days to practice harder and more often than was the norm even five or 10 years ago. It’s also not uncommon to see a lot of the more talented midget-aged players get in a few games of senior ball throughout the summer.
“Kids are practising more and getting a lot more baseball in,” Power said. “You’re going to get out of it what you put into it.”
The hope is, according to Power, this younger group will really hit its stride just as the St. John’s dynasty begins to taper off.
“They’ve pretty much had the same team for the 10 or 11 years they’ve been winning it,” he said. “So those guys are getting a little older.
“Hopefully this is the year for us,” he added. “If we can get all our players together and compete as a team and gel together, there’s no reason why not.”
With open tryouts and practices currently ongoing for the four senior league clubs, the Barons will have to sit on the back burner for now.
“You’ve got to wait and see what kind of bodies you’re going to get to show up for regular house league teams first,” said Power. “As soon as the regular season starts, at the end of May or early-June, then we’ll gear right into Barons tryouts after that.”
Power, who will be assisted by Derrick Rowsell and Brian Vincent this year, realizes the importance of finalizing a roster as quick as possible.
“You try to get it done a little sooner, but sometimes it don’t work,” he said. “But we’re going to crack on it as soon as the senior season starts, so we should have a lot of practices put in before we go to senior B.”