The Barons are back

Robin
Robin Short
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For first time in five years, Corner Brook is in provincial senior final, with some old faces and young arms

Darren Colbourne is either one lucky son of a gun, or he's smart enough to know when to latch on to a good thing.

After years of mediocrity, or worse, the sun is poised to shine again on Corner Brook's Jubilee Field.

The Barons, for the first time since 2007, are back in the all-Newfoundland senior A baseball final.

Corner Brook is a player again on the provincial senior baseball scene.

Some wags might even suggest the Barons could very well knock the St. John's Capitals from their senior baseball throne, which could only be considered a good thing.

Entering this weekend, St. John's has won the provincials 12 years running, and that's not healthy for baseball in Newfoundland.

It wasn't that long ago Corner Brook couldn't beat Pasadena in senior play. One year -2005 - not a soul from the west coast city cracked the province's Canada Games roster. Four years later, only two from Corner Brook made the Games team.

And yet while the number of players were dwindling, and the Barons were dawdling, the minor baseball teams from Corner Brook were winning.

Barons teams have won the provincial AAA midget championship (renamed this year AA) five years and counting, and the bantam AAA in 2010.

While St. John's has won the provincial junior tournament the past four years, it's been no picnic, with two years decided by a run in the final games, one by two runs and this year's final by three runs.

"There's a difference between baseball players," said Colbourne, "and that type of baseball player who you know is going to be a provincial player.

"When you look at what we have out here now, most of those who are on the midget team, are of that calibre.

"That's our up-and-coming group."

Colbourne knows what he's talking about. One of the best, if not most underrated, athletes this province has seen, he is back behind the plate catching and coaching the Barons as they enter the first of three games of the senior final beginning 1 o'clock this afternoon in St. John's.

Colbourne returns after a brief respite from the game.

There's a new guard of baseball player in Corner Brook, one which has grabbed the reigns from Colbourne and Frank Humber, just as those guys took control from the Colbournes and Humbers before them.

Just as the Edmonton Oilers languished through the lean years waiting for young troops to arrive, the Barons have suffered through a drought in anticipation of the arrival of young support.

And it starts where it matters most in baseball: on the mound.

Meet Myles Vincent and Michael Tavenor, two pitching prospects who will be counted on to silence the St. John's bats today and tomorrow at venerable St. Pat's Ball Park.

Both are good, but it's Vincent who conjures up the most chatter. He's six-feet tall and 180 pounds, throws in the mid-80s and has a sharp breaking ball.

He's left-handed, and only 17.

He will start Game 1 today.

Tavenor is a bit older, at 22. He, too, has good stuff, throws hard with a nice curve, but what may separate him from the others, Colbourne says, is his demeanour - cool as an October breeze blowing in from left at St. Pat's.

"I don't want to say he's unflappable, but when he gets on the mound, nothing bothers him," Colbourne said.

Vincent, however, is the crown jewel. He attends the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge, Alta., where he hopes to catch the eye of some U.S. college scout.

"He's so mechanically sound," said Colbourne, "it's amazing. For a 17-year-old to have the mechanics that he does, and the ability to throw as hard as he does, and have the curveball he does, well, it's fun catching him."

Sounds like another left-hander they were chatting up in Corner Brook years ago. Frank Humber went on to play NCAA DI ball, the Olympics and minor pro in the Dodgers' system.

In addition to Vincent and Tavenor, Colbourne will have Jason Kearley to call upon as well. Kearley plays for the Mount Pearl Storm in the St. John's league and is one of four pickups - A.J. Whiffen, Grant Kenny and Blair Connolly are the others - the Barons were permitted.

The hard-throwing Kearley is 6-0 this season, and has thrown 35 straight shutout innings.

This may be the last year Corner Brook is permitted strengthening players for a while.

" We've got good kids coming up through," Colbourne said of Corner Brook's minor system. "We're not willing to go down to AA to win a championship for the sake of winning a championship, so we've stayed at the AAA level and took our lumps some years.

"Since I've come up through, and after, the thinking out here is you are never going to know how good you are until you play the best.

"We're in the right place," he said. "I'm not saying I'm being opportunistic taking on the Barons this year, but I know the group that I have, and I know what we're capable of, and I know who our guys are, and who can do what.

"I'm excited about Corner Brook baseball, and I know a lot of the older guys are excited about it as well."

Robin Short is The Telegram's Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at rshort@thetelegram.com

 

Organizations: U.S. college, AAA, Canada Games Edmonton Oilers Prairie Baseball Academy

Geographic location: Corner Brook, St. John's, Newfoundland Ball Park Lethbridge

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