Import arm focused on task

Robin
Robin Short
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Cox wants to bring first title to province

Tim McCarver, Steve Carlton's personal catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies of the 1980s, once joked he figured to be buried 60 feet, 6 inches from the Hall of Fame southpaw.

We won't go that far, but Frank Cox's relationship with receiver Sean O'Brien enticed one of Canada's top fastpitch hurlers to join the host team for the 2007 Labatt national senior men's championship in St. John's.

Third baseman Darryl Walsh (right) of Roebothan McKay Marshal, watches the play as Jason Sanford of the Brookfield Elks of Nova Scotia gets set to take off for home plate in second-inning action at the 2007 Canadian senior men's fastpitch softball champio

Tim McCarver, Steve Carlton's personal catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies of the 1980s, once joked he figured to be buried 60 feet, 6 inches from the Hall of Fame southpaw.

We won't go that far, but Frank Cox's relationship with receiver Sean O'Brien enticed one of Canada's top fastpitch hurlers to join the host team for the 2007 Labatt national senior men's championship in St. John's.

So far, Roebothan, McKay, Marshall's MVP could be Sean O'Brien.

"Me and Sean," said Cox, after tossing two-hit ball in Roebothan, McKay, Marshall's 1-0 win over Brookfield Elks of Nova Scotia before a packed house Sunday night, "go back a long time, eight or 10 years.

"Sean asked me a couple of years ago to play for Newfoundland when the nationals come here. We've been through a lot together, won eight rings (nationals and International Softball Congress championships) together. It's hard to go against that."

Cox, a mailman from Owen Sound, Ont., is the host club's import pitcher for the nationals, hoping to do what other hired arms - southpaw Steve Price and Todd Martin come to mind - couldn't, and that's win this province's first national senior men's championship.

And the feeling is if this Roebothan, McKay, Marshall squad can't break the goose egg, no team can. Sean and Rob O'Brien both have national team experience, along with Colin Abbott, whose ticket is punched for the provincial Sports Hall of Fame, and Steven Mullaley, Jason Hill and Blair Ezekiel also represent the new breed of young softball stars and Ward Gosse and Darrell Walsh will go down as among the best to ever play in these parts.

But the, er, buck stops with Cox, who surely isn't coming to Newfoundland from Ontario because he likes breezy Caribou Complex.

"Sure, there's pressure, but that's what I'm here for," he said. "If I can take pressure off the other guys, great. But when you do feel pressure, you just put up the zeros.

"Pressure is what you make of it."

While Cox was doing his job on the rubber, mowing down nine Brookfield batters while allowing just a single walk, Robbie O'Brien made a triumphant homecoming. Born and raised in the east end of St. John's with his brother, O'Brien now lives in Elora, Ont., the province he's resided in the past decade or so.

After Gosse stroked a one-out single in the top of the sixth inning, Abbott walked, setting the stage for O'Brien, whose bloop single to left field scored Michael Carroll, pinch-running for Gosse.

It was one of only three hits off Elks' hurler Pat Slawnwhite. Abbott had the other.

"To come out here and win by the mercy rule would have been the worse thing for us," Robbie O'Brien said. "Now we know that everyone is gunning for us."

Cox knows that feeling all too well. He's won three ISC and five Canadian titles, including the last two with St. Thomas, Ont. Mullaley and Tim Macumber, a Nova Scotian donning Newfoundland colours, also played for St. Thomas last summer.

So why leave a good thing in his home province?

"It's hard, but sometimes you have to move on and it's what I wanted to do," Cox said. "There's lots of fans here, the teams get great support and there's some great young ball players here.

"Yes, we're aware Newfoundland has never won (at the senior men's), and that's our goal ... to change that."

And this year, for the first time, nothing less than top spot will matter.

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Philadelphia Phillies, Labatt, International Softball Congress

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's, Canada Nova Scotia Owen Sound St. Thomas Ontario Elora Nova Scotian

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  • Neil
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    I once took a photo of Sean and Robbie O'Brien with Gold medals around their necks after winning a National title with another province. They both hoped the day would come when the only difference in the picture would be the color of the uniform. After watching the opening games yesterday and seeing such talented teams wearing newfoundland colors , I'm confident in our provinces chances of breaking the goose egg. Great combinations of youth and experience evident on all three representatives from Newfoundland. Go Get it Boys!!!!!!!

  • Neil
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    I once took a photo of Sean and Robbie O'Brien with Gold medals around their necks after winning a National title with another province. They both hoped the day would come when the only difference in the picture would be the color of the uniform. After watching the opening games yesterday and seeing such talented teams wearing newfoundland colors , I'm confident in our provinces chances of breaking the goose egg. Great combinations of youth and experience evident on all three representatives from Newfoundland. Go Get it Boys!!!!!!!