The last time Leaside had an AAA Major Peewee city champ, Eric Stickney was a member of the team.
That was 18 years ago, and the goal for the director of player development at Leaside Baseball Association nine years ago was to have an AAA team at every level.
With that accomplished, the cherry on top of the 2017 season is having two Toronto Baseball Association champions.
The Minor Mosquito and Major Peewee AAA teams both beat rival teams from North York in their respected finals Aug. 27.
“We had two city championships. That hasn’t happened since whenever,” Stickney said, calling from the Muskokas. “Competition really does drive success, and we’re lucky to have a classy organization like North York next to us.”
Both teams competed in the provincial tournament the weekend before Labour Day and went deep with the Major Peewee team bowing out in the fourth round, while the Minor Mosquito finished third overall in the province.
Pitching coach Shawn Murphy chalked up the success to a strong depth at every position thanks to head coach John Watt’s program.
“Instead of just a boy play it as a shortstop. All of the players are pitchers and catchers. That opened it up for us to have a deeper team,” he said. “It spiraled into something unbelievable. We went 34-9 in the regular season this year.”
It also didn’t hurt that they some Major League help training the pitchers. Roberto Osuna, Sr., the father of Toronto Blue Jays closer of the same name – only junior – helped Murphy with developing the young arms in the bullpen.
The team won the TBAs and fought valiantly in the OBAs, losing 5-4 to Hamilton.
“The worst part was, we had a runner on third and second, two outs and our heavy hitter at the plate. The pressure got to him and he hit a line drive to fly out,” Murphy recounted.
The majors also went deep, losing to North York, the team they beat in the TBAs. Head coach Mike King credited their strong season to kids who gained confidence throughout the year.
“We have a core of players who have been together for a couple of years. We’ve added a couple of pieces over time. The boys keep getting better and better over time,” he said. “Our boys started believing in themselves and believing that they were getting better. To win tough games and sometimes you need to win by just one run.”
In their TBA final, the Major Peewees held North York to just two runs over two games. No small feat, as the same team beat Leaside in the Minor Peewee level last year.
Even though the Leafs managed to enact revenge on their rivals, they kept their happy dances modest.
“They didn’t jump around and over-celebrate because they still wanted to succeed at the provincials,” King said. “They felt there was more to do.”
All that’s left to do for 2018 is to work harder to become one of the top teams in the province.
The victorious troupe for the Major Peewees included James Carthy, Tate Crowther-Brown, Jackson Fisher, Liam Gibson, Jake Gibson, Jake King, Robbie Lam, Daniel Press, Andrew Rodrigues, Tejean O’Sullivan Griffin Wood and Nathaniel Worrell.
The winning team from the Minor Mosquitos featured Jordan Brull, Spencer Carthy, James Corrie, Hudson Kiss, Elliot Lascelles, Matheas Stark, Dash T.K., Andrew Tilley, Michael Murphy Vazquez, Reuban Wasserman, Connor Watt and Kieran Witkowski.
Both teams lauded North York for their sportsmanship and being such a strong competitor.
“We give huge respect to North York. They are the team we always want to catch,” King said. “They’re a solid organization and they always test us.”