CORNER BROOK Being back in the senior A baseball final for the first time in five years is something members of the Corner Brook Barons looked forward to with tremendous anticipation back in June, according to veteran Frank Humber.
The Barons won the senior B baseball crown a couple of weeks ago to earn a berth in the A final against 12-time defending champion St. John's Winmar Capitals. The best-of-seven final affair gets underway this weekend with the first three games being played at St. Pat's Ball Park.
The series shifts back to Jubilee Field in Corner Brook the following weekend with Games 4-7 slated for the west coast.
Humber, who could only commit to the Barons for the B series because he has prior coaching commitments with the provincial Selects team the next two weekends, said there was little talk about how great it was to win the B crown even though it was a stepping stone to getting back in A ball for the first time since 2007. As a group, he said, there isn't anybody satisfied just yet because the job is only half done.
"The anticipation of winning the senior finals was the driving force right from the very beginning," he said.
According to Humber, players who have been around the block for a few years are excited about another chance to battle the Caps with hopes of putting an end to their dominance of senior baseball in the province. They are relieved to finally be back in A, but they know they haven't done anything special just yet.
Unfortunately, he said, baseball in Corner Brook is defined quite often by how the senior Barons are doing. Whether he likes it or not as a person immersed in the development of players at the minor level, Humber is proud of the fact that the city has produced AAA provincial baseball championship teams in Mosquito, Peewee and Midget during the tough years on the senior A scene.
"We've got a lot to be proud of in terms of what our minor teams are doing, but at the same time, like I said, there are still many who define how we're doing in baseball by the senior Barons," he said. "So, performance in the senior A final and hopefully winning it, will certainly do an awful lot to make people stand up and have another look and see that there is a lot going on and there's some growth occurring."
A string of disappointing losses year after year had to be frustrating for the players involved, but Humber knows all about the peaks an valleys that come with competitive sports.
"There was some dry years there where our pitching wasn't deep, we didn't play great defence any maybe we didn't hit the ball as well as we like," said Humber, who suited up for the Barons in the B final, his first time in the Barons jersey in five years.
Wearing the jersey and hanging out with the boys at the B was a great time for the veteran because he liked being in a competitive environment with something on the line so he will miss being at St. Pat's this weekend.
However, he believes the Barons have what it takes to win the tournament with the roster featuring a nice blend of veterans and rookies who appear to be a close-knit group from the first pitch of the B tournament.
"Guys are parking their egos at the door," he said. "If they're asked to pinch-run or pinch-hit one time in two games there seems to be a willingness to accept that role. Once you get fellas buying in, everybody pulling in the same direction, you got a chance."
The opening game of the series is slated for today 1 p.m. at St. Pat's Ball Park and he has a pretty good idea of where the mindset of the players should be for the first pitch. He said the older guys must feel a sense of urgency because the clock is ticking on their amateur careers.
"How many more times will I get a chance to play in the senior A," he said.
And, of course, there are those young guns with attitude he talked about earlier when he talked about the special blend.
"We've got some younger guys who are just used to winning," he said. "They bring that attitude ... if they're down 4-0 they don't panic. They're going to say 'guys let's relax we're going to get back into this', so there is a nice balance there."
The 2012 edition of the Corner Brook Barons also includes Michael Tavenor, Myles Vincent, Grant Vincent, Kaeten Waghmare, Tyler Vincent, David Oxford, Alvin Lafitte, Matt Prosper, Colin Wood, Mike Brake, Steve Hynes, Jeff Gillam, Perry Alexander, Mike O'Neil, Travis Taylor, Adam Warren, Sean Mitchell, Brian Bennett, Fred Prosper, Greg Sharpe, Aaron Flood, Rob Park and Mark Lombard. The four pick-ups for the final include Jason Kearley, A. J. Whiffen, Grant Kenny and Blair Connolly.
The Barons are coached by Darren Colbourne, who could see some duty during the series, and Darrin O'Quinn.