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‘There’s nothing like playing in Kentville': Wildcats ready to field a strong senior ball team

<p>Colby Turple wasn’t able to pitch for the Kentville Wildcats last year after an injury, but he’s back and he’s healthy at the start of the 2016 season.</p>
<p>Colby Turple wasn’t able to pitch for the Kentville Wildcats last year after an injury, but he’s back and he’s healthy at the start of the 2016 season.</p>

KENTVILLE - Ian Lockhart doesn’t like leaving unfinished business. That’s why the veteran Kentville Wildcats ball player is dusting off his cleats.

It’s difficult – the Kentville resident is busy with work and has young children – but baseball is his passion. It’s brought him back to the field every summer since 1999.

“I love playing baseball, I love coming to the park. It’s always something I’ve loved since I was a kid. I grew up watching the Kentville Wildcats - those retired numbers on the fence, I grew up watching or played with them,” the shortstop said.

 “There’s nothing like playing in Kentville. We have the nicest park and the best fans. Even when we’re struggling, we still get the biggest crowds. Our fans are great.”

He remembers what it’s like to win the championship well – the Wildcats brought it home the first two years Lockhart played – and he wants a chance to win again this year.

“We haven’t made the playoffs the last two years and I want to see it through and pass it along to the younger guys,” Lockhart said.

And, he says, they have a good chance of doing just that. The team has been practicing inside since Christmas and had its first practice on the field May 11.

“We’re definitely looking forward to putting a good product on the field. We’re ready to get back to the playoffs, the goal is to win the championship,” Lockhart said. “We want to make our fans proud and get good crowds and recapture the success we have had over the years.”

 

Come a long way

This team is already a far cry from the Wildcats that hit the field two years ago, when head coach Ian Mosher was making frantic calls, trying to drum up enough players to save the team for the year.

“There were nights we only had 10 or 11 guys…it was a struggle,” Lockhart said. “But we fought through it and kept going, because if a team has to take a year off? You never know if they’ll come back.”

This year, the roster is nearly full already, with plenty of young blood ready and waiting. Several Acadia baseball players, who are staying in the county for the summer, have signed up, as have a couple players who have aged out of the junior program.

Pitcher Christian Vogler is one of the rookies. Two years ago, the Berwick native pitched a couple games as a very nervous call-up; now older and wiser, he feels ready to take on the senior league.

“Now that I’m actually old enough to play on the team, it’s going to be a learning experience still – you’re facing older guys you haven’t faced before - it should be exciting,” Vogler said.

“The first time I pitched for them I was 15, just a kid, I was scared. I had the stuff to get guys out, I just didn’t trust myself. Now, I’m old enough, wiser, more mature. I’m ready to do it.”

His long and rather unorthodox warm-up routine should help – it includes listening to music and visualizing having a good game. He hopes it will help him mentally prep for the games, but consistency from both pitchers and hitters will be key.

“You need it from everyone, not just one guy, the whole team,” Vogler said.

 

Solid roster

Solid in most positions – including an abundance of left-handed pitchers – the Wildcats will start the season on the road, ready to compete with a roster that had a lot of versatility.

“That many left-handed wings gives a coach options to navigate through them, especially late in a game when you’re trying to position your pitchers to get certain guys out,” Mosher said.

“We’re solid in the outfield, corners and at first and third. How we catch and play shortstop is a big part in determining how far we go this year.”

Having a relatively young team is both a blessing and a curse, he adds.

“The fact that I’ve got a lot of younger guys makes me feel confident,” he said, but adds that the young players need some time to season and typically don’t develop into their full potential until ages 28 to 30. This year’s team has several players between the ages of 20 and 24.

The younger players, he added, signify the long-term health of the franchise. Whether that will translate into wins this season, Mosher’s not certain, but he believes Kentville will be a contender.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “There’s no guarantee in this sport, we still have a young team in comparison to what we’ve had in the past, but our younger players are very talented and at some point we’re going to take off and we’re going to win. When that will happen? I don’t have a crystal ball.”

It’s difficult – the Kentville resident is busy with work and has young children – but baseball is his passion. It’s brought him back to the field every summer since 1999.

“I love playing baseball, I love coming to the park. It’s always something I’ve loved since I was a kid. I grew up watching the Kentville Wildcats - those retired numbers on the fence, I grew up watching or played with them,” the shortstop said.

 “There’s nothing like playing in Kentville. We have the nicest park and the best fans. Even when we’re struggling, we still get the biggest crowds. Our fans are great.”

He remembers what it’s like to win the championship well – the Wildcats brought it home the first two years Lockhart played – and he wants a chance to win again this year.

“We haven’t made the playoffs the last two years and I want to see it through and pass it along to the younger guys,” Lockhart said.

And, he says, they have a good chance of doing just that. The team has been practicing inside since Christmas and had its first practice on the field May 11.

“We’re definitely looking forward to putting a good product on the field. We’re ready to get back to the playoffs, the goal is to win the championship,” Lockhart said. “We want to make our fans proud and get good crowds and recapture the success we have had over the years.”

 

Come a long way

This team is already a far cry from the Wildcats that hit the field two years ago, when head coach Ian Mosher was making frantic calls, trying to drum up enough players to save the team for the year.

“There were nights we only had 10 or 11 guys…it was a struggle,” Lockhart said. “But we fought through it and kept going, because if a team has to take a year off? You never know if they’ll come back.”

This year, the roster is nearly full already, with plenty of young blood ready and waiting. Several Acadia baseball players, who are staying in the county for the summer, have signed up, as have a couple players who have aged out of the junior program.

Pitcher Christian Vogler is one of the rookies. Two years ago, the Berwick native pitched a couple games as a very nervous call-up; now older and wiser, he feels ready to take on the senior league.

“Now that I’m actually old enough to play on the team, it’s going to be a learning experience still – you’re facing older guys you haven’t faced before - it should be exciting,” Vogler said.

“The first time I pitched for them I was 15, just a kid, I was scared. I had the stuff to get guys out, I just didn’t trust myself. Now, I’m old enough, wiser, more mature. I’m ready to do it.”

His long and rather unorthodox warm-up routine should help – it includes listening to music and visualizing having a good game. He hopes it will help him mentally prep for the games, but consistency from both pitchers and hitters will be key.

“You need it from everyone, not just one guy, the whole team,” Vogler said.

 

Solid roster

Solid in most positions – including an abundance of left-handed pitchers – the Wildcats will start the season on the road, ready to compete with a roster that had a lot of versatility.

“That many left-handed wings gives a coach options to navigate through them, especially late in a game when you’re trying to position your pitchers to get certain guys out,” Mosher said.

“We’re solid in the outfield, corners and at first and third. How we catch and play shortstop is a big part in determining how far we go this year.”

Having a relatively young team is both a blessing and a curse, he adds.

“The fact that I’ve got a lot of younger guys makes me feel confident,” he said, but adds that the young players need some time to season and typically don’t develop into their full potential until ages 28 to 30. This year’s team has several players between the ages of 20 and 24.

The younger players, he added, signify the long-term health of the franchise. Whether that will translate into wins this season, Mosher’s not certain, but he believes Kentville will be a contender.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “There’s no guarantee in this sport, we still have a young team in comparison to what we’ve had in the past, but our younger players are very talented and at some point we’re going to take off and we’re going to win. When that will happen? I don’t have a crystal ball.”

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