Published on September 29, 2013
Ian Lockhart. File
Published on September 29, 2013
Ian Lockhart. File
Published on September 01, 2013
Ian Lockhart watches a base hit fall into the outfield during the first inning of Saturday's afternoon game against the Sydney Sooners in Sydney.
Steve Wadden, TC Media
By John DeCoste
At an age when many athletes are looking toward retirement, Ian Lockhart seems to be moving in the opposite direction.
Lockhart, the 36-year-old perennial all-star shortstop of the Kentville Wildcats, did a great job of turning back the clock during the 2013 season, leading the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League in batting with a .435 average.
It was the third time in Lockhart’s 15-year senior career that he has led the league in batting; he also had the honour in 2004 and 2007. Last week, he was voted the league’s MVP, also for a third time, previously winning it in 2002 and 2004.
“Anytime you win a batting title, there’s always a bit of luck involved,” Lockhart said.
“I’ve felt my pitch recognition seemed better this season. I seemed to be seeing the ball better out of the pitcher’s hand and picking it up sooner.”
He is also more patient at the plate than he was earlier in his career, he adds.
Lockhart began his NSSBL career in 1999 as a 22-year-old, after having played “a game or two here and there” for the Senior Wildcats before that.
Now, at 36, he has a wife and two small children – daughter Alyvia, 3, and son Cohen, who was born last December – as well as a full-time job in the family business, R.D. Chisholm Ltd.
“My focus is different because my life circumstances have changed, and also because I have to start thinking about how much longer I’ll be able to do this,” he said.
“My perspective on life has definitely changed since the kids came along. You appreciate more the things you’re able to do because you know you’re not going to be able to do them forever.”
Looking at baseball from that different perspective made Lockhart realize all the work that’s done by a lot of people - particularly head coach Ian Mosher and Lockhart’s brother, Mike, to make sure there’s a team on the field game after game.
He also has a healthy respect for the sacrifices players like Curtis Falls, Kevin Matheson, Billy MacKenzie, John Chapman and others make on a daily basis.
“I look at some of the players, the age they are and what they have to do to even be here,” he said.
Changing things up
After batting second in the lineup for most of his career, Lockhart has bounced around a bit more the past couple of seasons. During 2013, depending on which team mates were available on any given night, he has batted second, third and even led off on more than one occasion.
“I don’t really have a favourite spot,” he said. “I don’t mind leading off. Especially if I’m going well, it means I’m getting on base a lot.”
Earlier in his career, he says, “I loved batting second,” particularly behind Chris Salsman and ahead of Pat MacLeod.
My perspective on life has definitely changed since the kids came along. You appreciate more the things you’re able to do because you know you’re not going to be able to do them forever. Ian Lockhart
“That was a great place to be.”
Lockhart likes the blend of youth and experience the Wildcats have this season.
“We realized about two or three years ago that if we were going to continue to exist as a franchise, we were going to have to somehow get younger,” he said.
Lockhart doesn’t go into a season looking to win awards.
“It’s nice to be recognized as the MVP because the other players vote on that.”
The main goal, he said, is winning the league title.
“Once I’m done playing, I’ll probably look back and be very pleased,” he said, adding that winning MVP awards 11 years apart “tells me I’m still capable of playing at a high level.”
Though the final decision will ultimately depend on his family, Lockhart feels he would like to play two or three more years.
“I’ve been able to juggle things so far, but it isn’t getting any easier with two little ones,” he said.
“I’d like to think I could get in better shape over the winter, and be as good if not better again next season. It was hard this past winter because of the baby.”
At the same time, Lockhart is aware his baseball days may be numbered.
“Last year, several of us older players competed at the 35-and-over nationals on P.E.I. It was fun, but it made us take a minute and think about the age we’re getting to be.”
Eye on the prize
One thing that keeps him going is the chance to compete for Kentville at nationals again, which he has done once, when the Wildcats hosted in 2001.
Lockhart has two national gold medals, but they were won playing for Dartmouth in 2004 and for a Nova Scotia all-star team in 2005.
“I’d like to play at nationals, and hopefully win a national title, playing for Kentville. I wouldn’t want to retire without getting another chance to do that.”
With the Wildcats in the league final and the 2014 nationals in Newfoundland, he is aware he may not have a better opportunity to do so than this year and next.
“I couldn’t do anything I do without the support of my family – both my wife and my mom and dad. Jeff, Mike and I have been very fortunate our parents are so supportive, not only of us, but of the whole team.”
Ian Lockhart’s 2013 season
At bats: 108
Hits: 47 (tied for second)
Triples: 3 (second)
RBI: 24 (sixth)
Total Bases: 60
Stolen Bases: 4
Batting Average: .435 (led league)
On-base Percentage: .488
Slugging Percentage: .556