IBL, Stepping Stone to & from Major League Baseball
The Intercounty Baseball League has served as a stepping stone for young players en route to Major League Baseball, and similarly, for players who have completed their MLB careers, are stepping down, and still wanting to participate at a highly competitive level. It’s generally conceded that the IBL has been on a par with many professional leagues in minor league organized baseball.
Baseball teams can never have “too much” pitching, so not surprisingly a high percentage of these alumni were valued hurlers with their teams. Comparatively, “position” players had to be exceedingly proficient on defence or possess a potent bat.
In excess of 50 IBL alumni have participated in MLB with close to half of them being Canadian citizens. More than 20 of them had their birth and childhood roots in Ontario: several from London – Tom Burgess, Frank Colman, Oscar Judd and Chris Robinson; others from Toronto – brothers Rich and Rob Butler and Goody Rosen; two from Cambridge – Rob Ducey and Scott Thorman; two from Chatham-Kent - Bill Atkinson and Ferguson Jenkins; a pair from Sarnia – Mike Gardiner and Rob Thomson and others sprinkled throughout the province - John Axford (Simcoe), Peter Craig (LaSalle), Scott Diamond (Guelph), Harry Fisher (Newbury), Peter Hoy (Brockville), Mike Kilkenny (Bradford), Larry Landreth (Stratford), Jim Lawrence (Hamilton), Phil Marchildon (Penetanguishene) and Peter Orr (Richmond Hill).
Two other Canadians hailed from Montreal, Quebec – Joe Krakauskas and Chris Leroux while veteran Paul Spoljaric was from Kelowna, BC.
Several of these talented ball players from “north of the border” were proud to represent their country as members of Team Canada at the Olympics, Pan-Am Games and the World Baseball Classic championships.
Several IBL alumni are alumni of Canada’s favorite team – the Toronto Blue Jays - including Rich and Rob Butler, Scott Diamond, Rob Ducey, Dave Lemanczyk and Paul Spoljaric, while Chris Speier was a member of the Montreal Expos.
One player, Jesse Orosco, suited up for nine different MLB teams spanning both the American and National League.
Some were “ironmen” with lengthy MLB journeys – Chris Speier with 19 seasons and 2,260 games as a shortstop; Jesse Orosco with 25 seasons as a crafty reliever appearing in 1,252 games, Rob Ducey with 703 games and fabled Fergie Jenkins with 665 games, primarily as a starting pitcher. Other lengthy careers included Goody Rosen (551), Pat Seerey (469), Pete Orr (443) and Tommy Padden (399). On the other end of the spectrum, some players had the proverbial “cup of coffee” major league careers with less than ten games: Bob Whitcher (9), Preston Gomez and Chris Robinson (8), Larry Landreth (7), Pete Craig (6), Connie Creeden (5) and Nick Testa who suited up for one game, played one inning and got his name on the score sheet, committing one error.
The Intercounty Baseball League (IBL), in its 102nd year of operation, is the best baseball league in Canada, boasting ex-major league professional and elite NCAA college baseball players. The IBL is the fifth-longest continually operated baseball league in the world and serves as a valuable training ground for coaches, umpires, and front office staff. More than 40 IBL players have advanced to Major League Baseball or returned to the IBL following their MLB careers. The league is comprised of teams from Barrie, Brantford, Kitchener, London, Toronto, Guelph, Welland, and Hamilton. For more information, visit www.theibl.ca.