TRURO – Earlier this year Truro Bearcats informed the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League the team was folding. Things certainly did not look good for senior baseball to be played at the TAAC Grounds in 2014.
But, during February, John Chapman stepped up to the plate and the picture changed greatly. Chapman became president of the Bearcats and he also accepted another big challenge being named playing coach. The team also added a number of major sponsors.
Visiting Kentville last Sunday, the Bearcats squeezed out an 11-10 win over the Wildcats. The win brought the club’s record to a very respectable 8-6, good for third place in the league only a half-game behind second place Halifax Canadians.
“We’re exactly at the halfway mark in the season,” said the 31-year-old Chapman, a veteran of 14 seasons in the league. “I feel good that the team is going in the right direction. We’re growing as a team and as an organization. We are focusing game by game and are not looking too far ahead. Our team have won four straight games and everyone’s attitude is positive.”
Chapman, named the league’s all-star catcher last season while playing for Kentville, is enjoying another outstanding season.
Batting .448 (second in the league) the catcher, third baseman, second baseman and pitcher is very possibly in the running for 2014 league MVP honours. Besides starring offensively, Chapman is an asset defensively and has a pitching record of 3-2 with three saves.
Chapman gives credit to co-coach Scott Baillie, who mans the bench while Chapman is playing. The pair have played together since mosquito ball.
“Scott takes a lot of pressure off me by helping with decisions,” Chapman said. “We’re going in the same direction and we believe in the same style of baseball.”
A number of fine young ball players led by Dan Bates, Matt Mingo and Mike Tobin continue to impress Chapman.
“These three young guys want to learn and they gladly follow the veteran players leadership,” he said. “Guy Pellerine, Dawson Murphy and Jeff Chisholm are guys who really lead and take the time to work with and encourage our young players. This adds a lot to a team’s season.”
With second place on the line, the Bearcats will host Halifax Canadians Monday night at the TAAC Grounds. The opening pitch will be at 7:30 p.m.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Keith Giddens has an obvious passion for harness racing.
“As long as I can remember I’ve been interested in the sport,” Giddens, 90, a client of Parkland Estates, Truro, said. “When I was a kid growing up in Londonderry Station my father owned a nice mare, Josie The Great. She was a great mare for her day when they would race as many as four heats at a meet. I understand Josie The Great could be a little hard to handle on the race track.”
Giddens showed me a keepsake ownership certificate and racing records of the champion mare that drew large crowds while racing at tracks all over the Maritimes.
“I think she held 17 track records,” Giddens recalled. “Johnny Conroy drove her when she was at her best in 1938. That‘s when she took her lifetime mark of 206.5”
During her five-year career, Josie The Great raced 110 times with 43 wins, 35 seconds and 13 thirds and earnings of just over $3000.
Campaigning at Truro, Halifax, Inverness, North Sydney, Charlottetown, Summerside, Fredericton, Port Elgin, Woodstock and St. Stephen, Josie The Great was a fan favourite.
“I still follow harness racing,’ Giddens advised. “Wasn’t Somebeachsomewhere remarkable? I knew Brent MacGrath who bought him at a sale and trained him.”
Giddens, a Second World War veteran who served overseas with the Signals Core of the Canadian Army, was wounded in Normandy. Following the war, Giddens spent 33 years working for Canada Post.
Note: Lyle Carter’s sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News.
If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.