It might have been their first time pitching on the mound as rep players, but 2016 has been a grand year for Leaside Leafs’ minor mosquito AAA team.
Led by coach Casey Walsh, with his staff of Jeff Israel, Abbas Ali Khan, John Manneh and Our Lady Peace bassist Duncan Coutts, Leaside won the Toronto Baseball Association’s title with a decisive 12-1 win over Etobicoke Rangers, Aug. 21.
“Yeah, we had a good year,” Walsh said, in an early September phone call. “I think everyone had fun and we managed to win more than we lost.”
They entered the championships with an 11-1-1 record, and thumped their competition, 9-3 over East York Bulldogs and 9-4 versus Etobicoke Rangers, en route to the finals.
“The guys were excited,” Walsh said. “We had a good combination of good pitching, good defence and timely hitting. We just put it all together at the right time.”
A highlight earlier in the season, during the Canada Day-Independence Day long weekend, was their trip to Cooperstown, N.Y. for the U10 Backyard Baseball Classic. Originally planned as a team event to play ball and visit the Hall of Fame, the Leafs won the wooden bat invitational.
The quintet of coaches first teamed up in 2014 when their kids were playing on the Rookie Ball squad. But not everyone was in coaching capacity. When Walsh took the team in 2015, the current staff was put together.
Coaches aside, the players include Simon Coutts, Jordan Ali Khan, Griffin Adams, Spencer Voegeli, Liam Carter, Zachary Ali Khan, Daniel Manneh, Samuel Walsh, Julian Bauer Kong, Anthony Paul, Connor Israel, Cooper Kelly and Declan Heritage.
Unfortunately, the best of Toronto did fail to win at the Ontario Baseball Association’s playoffs in Lasalle, Ont., Sept. 2-4. They lost their first game to Guelph Royals, 13-3, and were eliminated in their second match, losing 11-7 to Brampton Royals.
Still, the troupe met their goal for the year.
“We had a good season all around,” Walsh said. “Some of our objectives were to get better as a team and individually. To be able to win along the way is an added bonus.”
There was no rest for the victors as tryouts for the major mosquito season started Sept. 7, and according to Walsh, the team has a good chance of staying together.
“It’s just a really good group of kids,” he said. “When we were putting together a team, we were looking for good athletes and teach them fundamentals of the game.”