Bearcats baseball team eager to right the ship

Published on May 15, 2014
Head coach John Chapman spent the better part of Wednesday's practice tossing batting practice. Chapman, a long-time veteran of the NSSBL will handle double duties this season, coaching and playing.
Ryan Cooke – Truro Daily News.

TRURO - The boys of summer were on the field Wednesday night, continuing to work out the kinks from a longer layoff than they'd hoped for.

The Truro Bearcats will kick off the new 2014 Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League campaign on Tuesday against the Kentville Wildcats, with hopes of snapping a lengthy playoff drought.

Things are different this year, however, with several new faces around the field, including head coach John Chapman.

"It's looking good," Chapman said. "We've got some new bodies out, and everything is shaping up here."

Unable to reach the playoffs since 2009, the Bearcats are hoping to rebound this season.

"We're looking to be more competitive this year," Chapman said. "We're going to take it game-by-game and stay in the mix of things until the playoffs roll around."

The coach will also be donning the gear for the Cats this season. Last year, Chapman caught for the Kentville squad, hitting .325 with 18 runs batted in.

While Chapman is new to coaching the Bearcats, he's anything but a fresh face on the field. Having been in the league for more than a decade, he has experience that could prove worthy for the Bearcats in their season opener and beyond.

"I have a good idea of what (Kentville) has, from being behind the plate last season," Chapman said. "And a pretty good feel for the league, too."

The Bearcats have been on the field since early March, having run indoor practices at the Cougar Dome. When asked what the strength of the team is, Chapman scans the field before coming to an answer.

"Balance," he said. "We have guys who can play every position. We'll try to play a different style of ball than previous years and take it from there."

Truro has been a part of the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League since its beginnings in 1977, but came close to not fielding a team this season. Former head coach James MacPherson, who also handled most of the day-to-day operations, informed the team he could not commit for another season. Without anybody stepping in to fill the void, the team informed the league of its intent to disband. Chapman, a Salmon River native, couldn't stand by quietly.

"It was something that bothered me," Chapman told the Truro Daily News in February. "The Cats have been a good franchise for decades, and I wasn't going to let that happen."

Chapman took over the reins, with long-time friend and Bearcats catcher, Scott Baillie, stepping in fulltime as a base coach.

Balancing double duties isn't a concern for Chapman, who will call the game behind the plate, while Baillie does it from the dugout.

"Once I'm on the field, I'll be focused on just playing and Scott will be running it from there on forward."

The first pitch will go out at 7:30 p.m. on May 20, with the pre-game ceremony including members of the Truro Junior A Bearcats hockey team.

"We've long been waiting for it," Chapman said.

"We've been doing a lot of fundraising and things like that, and now we're just excited to play ball."