TRURO – Although he feels he's reached the end of the road for his senior baseball playing career, Craig Higgins still doesn't like hearing the R' word. I haven't actually said that word, the 35- year-old Valley resident said with a laugh. But I've decided to take a step back and not play this year and I'm going to try to do that permanently. Higgins' decision likely brings to a close a 19-year career that has seen him virtually become the face of the team. When one thought of the Truro Bearcats, Higgins was the player that came to mind.And for someone who lived and breathed the game, it wasn't an easy decision. It was certainly difficult, he said. I've played for the Bearcats since I was 16, so it's been a big part of my life every summer since then.
Over the winter Higgins started to feel like he needed to spend more time with his wife Sonya and kids Hannah, 7, and Carter, 5, especially since his job as Atlantic manager of consumer affairs for Actelion Pharmaceuticals has him travelling across the region on a regular basis.
My son might start to play T-ball and I want to help with that, he said. My kids are getting older and I'm travelling a lot and it's just those types of life issues that have forced me to consider it. But Higgins was adamant that his decision to step back doesn't mean he's done for sure. He just wants to test the waters of a baseballless summer.
I just want to see how it sits with me and if I have an urge to play I'll talk to (head coach) James (MacPherson), and if not, then I won't, he said. I've never tried to do this before so I really don't know how it will sit.
But that's not to say the Bearcats should plan for his return because when it comes to baseball, Higgins is an all or nothing guy. Part time is not something I'm interested in, Higgins said. It's not fair to the players that are there and giving 100 per cent for me to be coming in and taking time away from them. There are younger guys there trying to establish themselves in the league and they can't do that when guys like me are taking that away.
If Higgins does decide to stay away, he leaves a big hole to fill for the Bearcats this season. Higgins has been Truro's ace for the past several years and can also play virtually every other infield position as well.
When he came to the field, home or away, he was as mentally and physically prepared as any coach could want their player to be, MacPherson said. You knew he was ready to go. You definitely can't replace him. No kidding.
Higgins is a three-time league all-star at shortstop, and the league's all-star first baseman in 1999, 2006 and 2007. Higgins is also a four-time league batting champion (1996 - .504, 1999 - .462, 2002 - .476 and 2006 - .488), and a four-time league MVP (1998, 1999 co- MVP, 2000 and 2006).
A workhorse on the mound, Higgins was voted the NSSBL's top right-handed pitcher in 1999 and 2005 and tossed a team-high 77 innings for Truro last season. He also received the Gary MacDonald/Rawlings Gold Glove-Gold Bat Award for most game MVP votes during the regular season in 2001 and 2006. All those credentials earned the right-hander a spot on the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League's all-time team a year ago.
But that's not why Higgins plays the game. All the individual honours are nice, he said. I've certainly been privileged to accomplish the things that I have but I don't think they come close to team achievements. Namely winning the league title in six games over the Dartmouth Dry in 2002. Higgins wasted no time indicating that remains the highlight of his career, despite winning national titles with Dartmouth twice as a pickup player.
That's the first, second and third highlight for me, he said. We had been working toward that for a long time and to finally get it was special.
All in all, it's been a career that exceeded the expectations Higgins had when he first stepped on the field with the team as a 16- year-old.
I'm very satisfied with the career I've had and I wouldn't trade it for anything. firstname.lastname@example.org