Sidearm Stories: A Saturday in Barrie

By Carlos Verde

Sometimes, the Intercounty surprises you.

So it was that Michael Nellis and I — longtime friends dating back to our teenage days ‘reporting’ on the long-defunct Ottawa FatCats — ended up in Barrie on Saturday afternoon, taking in a game that didn’t hold a ton of promise between the middling Baycats and the struggling Brantford Red Sox.

What followed was nothing short of a classic IBL contest, a 12-11 extra-inning affair won by the hosts — featuring two Ryan Rijo home runs and a litany of errors — in front of an energetic crowd.

Vintage Throne Stadium, the Baycats’ home a few clicks northwest of the city, is a classic: Beverages are sold from underneath a tent in right field, wooden bleachers extend down both foul lines and the PA voice crackles over the loudspeaker.

In many ways, it feels like a step back in time. It’s easy to imagine this rural park, flanked by forest on one side and a community baseball complex on the other, playing host to Rookie-level minor league baseball a few decades ago.

The prices, too, are a throwback: $10 tickets, with jerseys available for as little as $39 on the merch rack and drinks — including a dangerously smooth spiked lemonade — are available underneath the tent for $8.

On the field, the jury is somewhat out on the Baycats (8-5, third place).

The bad: Watching aging right-hander Emilis Guerrero fail to make it out of the second inning — surrendering 10 hits to last-place Brantford in the process — felt like a funeral march, the end of a long procession that began in affiliated ball way back in 2006.

The good: Barrie went 3-for-3 last week, Ryan Rijo can still crush the baseball and his football hand-off celebration featuring Barrie’s third base coach is downright hilarious.

Very bad: The Baycats committed eight (8!) errors.

Very good: They still gutted out a bullpen game in which they stretched Adam Khan for five innings and Brad Grieveson for three.

It’s clear that Josh Matlow and the Baycats’ front office care about their in-game experience: There’s a boatload of local sponsors and promotional nights, a robust media team and an energetic in-game host.

Any baseball fan owes it to themselves to make a weekend trip to the ballpark north of Barrie — if for no other reason than a throwback experience surrounded by passionate fans.