By Kenn Oliver
After finishing with an 0-4 record, St. John’s Winmar Capitals coach Mark Healy calls last week’s showing at the national senior championships “a struggle,” one which began before the team even left the province.
Capitals mainstays Gerry Stone and Dave Parsons were unable to make the trip to Windsor, Ont., and neither were invited pickups Mike Tavenor, Myles Vincent and Andrew Mercer.
“We were shorthanded going up there to start with,” Healy says, “that’s not a knock against the rest of the guys that were there, they’re all solid players. But it would have been nice to have those extra pieces.”
Another factor in the winless record, Healy suggests, was not having participated in the 2012 tournament in Prince George.
“We just weren’t sharp in terms of being at that level, because it’s a step above what we normally play,” Healy says, adding that a loss to the Corner Brook Barons in this year’s provincial championships left the St. John’s team “lacking a bit of confidence.”
The Capitals participated in this year’s nationals as a result of having been provincial champions in 2012.
Still, there were some positives to take away from Windsor, such as strong showing from relief pitchers Sean Janes, Greg Barry, Justin Crawley and Matthew Smith, a solid first national appearance by Mike Dyke — “He got better each game,” Healy says — and Andrew Symonds finishing 10th overall in batting.
“(He) probably had the best tournament he’s ever had at nationals,” Healy says of Symonds.
Healy says the Capitals always approach the nationals with a reasonable expectation of finishing 2-2, normally a good enough record to earn a playoff round berth. He is confident the team could have done better had they taken winnable games against Mississauga and Chatham, N.B.
“Mississauga had a real good team, but I didn’t think they were much better than us overall,” he says.
“The first game we lost, against Chatham, any other day I think we probably win that game.”
Nationals here next August
The Capitals are set to host the nationals next summer in St. John’s and Mount Pearl, and while Healy recognizes that the better they and the provincial champion Corner Brook Barons perform on the field, the higher the revenue will be at the gate, he isn’t worried about the tournament turning into a financial liability if their records aren’t stellar.
“Based on what we’ve know from the last couple of years, and looking at getting support from the city and the provincial government, we feel there’s very low risk here.”
Healy says with visiting teams requires to pay an entrance fee of $4,000, which covers accommodations and in-town transportation, “it’s not as big of a liability to host anymore.
“Before, the host was responsible for everything — accommodations, transportation, umpires, the whole nine yards. So you needed to make revenue in order to make sure you weren’t losing.”
Healy ballparks the tournament budget between $100,000 and $150,000. Some of that will come from a provincial government hosting grant, and, hopefully, some money from ACOA. He’s also hopeful upgrades to St. Pat’s Ball Park will help attract sponsors.
“Next week or so, we’re going to have our conception design of what St. Pat’s is going to look like when it’s all re-done and the new minor field, then we’ll hit the corporate community, too.
“Hopefully we get some response there from investments in the park.”
The Capitals, unlike their softball brethren, aren’t likely to add an import pitcher to the roster for next year’s tournament, largely because Baseball Canada’s residency rules require that a player be a resident of the province by June.
“Would I love to have a big lefty come in and play for us? For sure,” Healy says.
“But we’re banking on having the guys we’ve got now work a little harder in the off-season and maybe a guy or two that hasn’t been around this summer is back next year, like a Peter Fifield or a Jason Kearley.”
The 2014 nationals are scheduled for August 21-25.