BY JOHN DECOSTE
Kings County Advertiser/Register
It’s been slow going for Kentville’s senior and midget Wildcats of late, with both teams experiencing some growing pains.
The senior Wildcats stumbled out of the gate. At the start of the week, the team stood last in the NSSBL standings with a 5-13 record; they’re in serious danger of missing the playoffs.
The Wildcats have had some familiar names in their lineup for most of their games – Ian and Mike Lockhart, Curtis Falls, Jason Pleasant-Sampson, Ryan Pearl, to name a few – but the unforgiving work schedules of some players have left the ’Cats thin on the ground at times.
On a recent weekend trip to Sydney, the Wildcats had three pitchers– one for each game – and barely enough position players to fill out a lineup card. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for flexibility.
For the team’s July 21 home game, head coach Ian Mosher had just 11 players, including himself. That evening’s lineup included Rob Shepherd -a centrefielder- playing out of position at third base, rookies Jeff Zwicker at second and Logan VanBlarcom - a pitcher- at first base.
Some of the younger Kentville players looked overmatched at bat. With all due respect, you’re not likely to win a lot of games with the offense that evening’s lineup is able to produce – even with talented veterans like Falls and the Lockhart brothers in the mix.
The Wildcats have had some positive moments so far this season, but, as their record would suggest, they’ve been few and far between. This is in large part a reflection of the on-going uncertainty of the lineup.
That the ’Cats have been able to win even five games with the personnel they have had available on a consistent basis is a credit to the veterans who have been able to make the commitment.
Unfortunately, a person could have seen this coming. While the Wildcats have produced some decent young players over the past few years, keeping them all in Kentville has been a problem.
Even the players who do live locally – Shepherd and Nichols, for instance– work shifts and often can’t be available. Head coach Mosher needed some nifty juggling of his own work schedule to do the job.
Ryan Brothers, now a lawyer in Halifax, is pretty much a write-off. Les Berry commutes from the city, and Falls – who is almost always on hand – makes the trip from Yarmouth.
The Wildcats are feeling the pinch of the lack of junior or midget baseball in Kentville for the past several years; the pipeline of young players has pretty much dried up.
The ’Cats have engineered an affiliation with the Tri-County junior team in the Sackville-Fall River area, but the real long-term answer to the problem has to be midget and junior ball in Kentville.
There is a new AAA midget team locally, but their 1-12 start to the Bluenose League season would suggest they have a way to go to become truly competitive.
The midgets will improve – most of the Kentville roster has at least one more year of midget eligibility – and a quick look at the lower divisions shows some talent on the horizon.
The big question, though, is whether the senior team can wait for another generation of young players to develop. The younger current players are willing and able to do their part and veterans like Falls and Nichols have plenty left to give, but the clock is running on all of them.
I’d like as much as anyone to see a competitive senior program in Kentville. The town has a long and proud baseball heritage, including several NSSBL titles and a national championship.
On the other hand, there have been a few occasions (most recently in 1993) when the Wildcats had to take a year off due to a shortage of players. As much as I hate to see it, we may not be far away from that happening again.