Field rat honoured to be among baseballs best
Bas Whelan entered the Provincial Baseball Hall of Fame Friday, joining many of the players he competed with and against during his career. Whelan is best known as a finesse pitcher who constantly kept batters guessing, but he also had a successful run as coach of both the Shamrocks and the senior Caps. Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Bas Whelan knew as well as anyone that he was a candidate for the Provincial Baseball Hall of Fame, but that didnt take away from the joy he felt last month when he found out he had been voted in.
The long-time senior baseball player, coach and administrator officially entered the Hall Friday during a ceremony at St. Johns City Hall.
I wouldnt say I was surprised, but when it happens youre quite thrilled by it, said Whelan.
A lot of guys I played with have already gone in ... Its a great honour, it shows you played a lot and you were successful.
Whelan, 53, began playing baseball when he was seven-years-old and instantly fell in love with the sport. He played any chance he got, even if he had to play against kids four or five years older than he was.
I was a field rat, Whelan said. I hung around with people a little older than me and when players didnt show up, I got a game of ball. I liked it and it kept me out of trouble.
Although Whelan fondly recalls his days playing youth baseball in St. Johns, his proudest memories are from his time with the Shamrocks in the local senior baseball league. Whelan was one of the senior circuits top pitchers for more than 20 years and won 15 league titles wearing the green and gold. He said the club won not only because of its talent on the field, but also because it was a true team in every sense of the word.
The core of the Shamrocks was always the same and the guys were always there for each other, said Whelan.
We werent a team that didnt see each other between games. There was always a get together at a cabin or on someones patio. The Shamrocks were a close bunch ... Even after tough losses we always found ways to needle each other without getting under each others skin. A player from another team told me once that if his team got on like that, thered be a bunch of fist fights. But not with us, we had a lot of great friendships.
As one of the Shamrocks top pitchers during this time, Whelan was known for his ability to keep batters guessing and missing, despite rarely popping the catchers mitt with a blazing fastball.
Whelan is the first to admit he didnt throw hard and says he was able to fool batters because he constantly changed speeds, painted the corners and consistently threw the first pitch for strike one.
I used to be able to throw pretty hard when I was in junior, but I hurt my shoulder. I couldnt tell you what I did, but after I hurt my shoulder I had to hit the corners instead of the middle of the plate, said Whelan.
Whelan also pitched with the St. Johns Capitals senior all-star team for 19 years, winning eight provincial titles and pitching in three national senior championships. Wearing the Caps uniform brought a sense of pride to the born-and-raised Townie.
Any time you can represent your province and your city at a national event, youre glad to go, said Whelan.
Among Whelans favourite memories from his days with the Caps are the almost yearly battles with the Corner Brook Barons in provincial senior playoffs.
To come together with the Caps and beat Corner Brook was special, Whelan said. It was a different calibre of ball. You had to raise your level of play a notch or two and everybody looked forward to it every year.
Whelan also found success in coaching, guiding the junior Capitals to four provincial titles in six years and winning five straight provincial senior championships from 2000-2004.
He said years of trying to out-think opposing batters prepared him well for life as a coach, but added the job wasnt all peaches and cream.
There was more to coaching than just penciling in your starting nine, Whelan said.
Picking the Caps, it was always tough ... Two-thirds of the team was pretty easy to pick, but the last third was hard. I didnt like telling someone You didnt make the team or I cant use you this year. It was difficult telling a pitcher he wasnt going to be a starter. Some took it well ... but some didnt.
Whelan also served on the executive of the St. Johns Amateur Baseball Association before retiring from the game after the 2004 season.
He was the junior league convenor in 1980 and 1981 and also served as the associations secretary in 2002. In 2003, Whelan was the president of the SJABA.