TRURO – John Chapman loves baseball too much to just stand back and let the Truro Bearcats fall by the wayside.
So the 30-year-old Salmon River resident stepped up to the plate and took over the beleaguered senior club recently to keep it from folding. Now he wants to restore it, and the sport, to its former glory in the Hubtown.
“I'm very excited and thrilled about this opportunity,” Chapman, who also returns to the team in a playing role after suiting up last season with the Kentville Wildcats, said. “It's going to be a great challenge.”
The Bearcats have been members of the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League since it’s inception in 1977. However, that streak was about to end this season as the club informed the league it would not be returning for the 2014 campaign. Coach James MacPherson, who had also been handling most of the day-to-day running of the team for the past several seasons, announced at the end of the 2013 schedule he was unable to commit to another season. Throughout the fall and winter nobody was stepping up to fill those duties.
“It was something that bothered me,” Chapman, who looked up to the team while growing up playing minor baseball in Truro, said. “The Cats have been a good franchise for decades, and I wasn't going to let that happen.”
So Chapman enlisted the help of Bearcats catcher and long-time friend Scott Baillie to take over the operation and informed the league the Bearcats would, indeed, be fielding a team this spring. The pair has an executive in place, but is still looking for volunteers in several capacities, from helping at the gate and running the canteen on up.
MacPherson said he was happy when Chapman approached him.
“For sure,” he said. “I want to see the Bearcats continue and hopefully they’ll still be there when my son is that age. John will definitely give it 110 per cent and hopefully he can surround himself with the right people and make it a success. More hands make less work.”
Chapman said he hopes the new look will bring some new success on the field. Although the Bearcats have just one league title to their credit (2002), the team had been an annual competitor on the NSSBL circuit until the past several seasons. Much of the team’s veteran core either left the game or moved on to other clubs, leaving the Bearcats with a young base that has struggled. Truro hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2009 when it finished third. Only the top four teams at the conclusion of the regular season move on to the playoffs.
“We want to put a better product on the field to compete at a higher level than in past years,” Chapman said. “But we’ll have to take things one game at a time. We need to get this team back to where it once was.”
Chapman said he also hopes to get the team more involved in the community, helping to reignite interest in the club while building the game at the grassroots level with children who could become future Bearcats.
“Hard work, dedication and determination can go a long way,” Chapman said. “I want to get this team back to a well-respected baseball club again.”
NOTE: Those interested in getting involved with the team can contact Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org, on his cell 890-8350 or at home 843-6991.
The team is also on the hunt for sponsorships and other financial support.
On Twitter: @tdnmatt