Local fastball players off to Mexico
by Randy Pascal
The fastball crowd in Sudbury might well be dwindling, but those who remain are making sure to enjoy it as long and as far as possible.
For the fourth consecutive year, many of the area's top names in fastball have gathered with a handful of friends, putting themselves to the test against some of the very best in the world.
Under the guidance of coaches Howard "Ike" MacDonald and Frank Tabak, the crew left earlier this week for Mexico, site of the 6th Annual Cancun Fastpitch Tournament. A roster dotted with the likes of Junior Ilnitski, Eddie Roy,
Joel Belanger, Rob Demers and Paul Lizotte added legendary hurler Darren Zack and Newfoundland native Ward Gosse for the event, just the latest stop for these gents who just cannot leave the game behind.
"We went to Florida the last three years prior to this one," said MacDonald a few days before departure. "We started out in a field of 32 teams, rated 32nd. We got to 14th, then 7th, then 6th. If we can get in the top ten, we would be pretty happy. Some of the best
players in the world are going to be there."
While the majority of this lineup might enjoy two or three decades of fastball experience, key additions include Matt Behm, Curtis Brown and Brett Demers, all in the early twenties. "You have to have some young legs," noted MacDonald. Not that
he's discounting those who have patrolled the diamonds for many years now.
"Our left fielder, Joel Belanger, still runs like a deer and he's 49. We're probably twice as fast now as we were a few years ago." Still, this is fastball, where winning teams are built on the mound. This is exactly where the trio of Zack, Gosse and Lizotte come in. "Pitching
will be key," said MacDonald. "Don't go if you don't have at least a pitcher or two. Don't even waste your time."
And despite the accumulated years of fastball service that likely will exceed a few hundred seasons between the 14 men who will be competing, the man who has spent more than 20 years coaching and more than forty in a game that he loves still suggested there is
value in bringing along an extra set of eyes to help the athletes along.
"I'm on the field for every game," he said. "You have to know what's going on all the time. The players are focused on just being players. They have to catch, they have to hit, they have to throw - that's all they want to know. I'll watch the (opposing) pitchers. If he's going
to throw a drop ball, he might hold his hand a different way, maybe stand a different way. Same for a rise ball or a change up."
With no outdoor fields, locally, to practice on quite yet, those who are stationed in Sudbury have wandered over to the Baseball Academy facility, just to get in a little workout. "You might be a little slow at the beginning, but it doesn't take long," said MacDonald.
"It's like riding a bike." And for this team, in particular, there is no shortage of mileage on this bike.
Following is a complete listing of the team roster:
Dylan Cuddahee - pitcher/shortstop (Michigan)
Darren Zack - pitcher (Garden River)
Ward Gosse - pitcher (Newfoundland)
Jamie Peddle - catcher (Newfoundland)
Darcy Roy - shortstop (Barrie)
Paul Lizotte - pitcher (Sudbury)
Rob Demers - designated hitter (Sudbury)
Matt Behm -2nd base/outfield (Sudbury)
Curtis Brown - outfield/2nd base (Sudbury)
Brett Demers - right field/catcher (Sudbury)
Junior Ilnitski - third base (Sudbury)
Chad St Cyr - outfield (Sudbury)
Joel Belanger - left field (Sudbury)
Eddie Roy - 1st base/infielder (Sudbury)
The Sudbury squad have opened with a pair of wins in their first three games, bouncing back from a 5-1 loss at the hands of The Bar from Wisconsin, doubling Mexico City Fast Pitch 8-4 and beating Irritilas from Mexico 5-2.