The May long weekend saw the boys in blue return to RCGT Park for a six-game home stand to begin their fourth season. 8,414 enthusiastic fans took in the first series of the season, which is a great indicator of enthusiastic crowds as the weather heats up.
Afterwards, The Champions hit the road for two away series and mixed results, even blowing an eight run lead on May 28th, in the kind of dramatic spiralling fiasco that was almost comical to watch on CanAm Live TV. Almost.
This weekend they head back home with a 5-7 record to take on Sussex County, Quebec City, and the Salina Stockade.
The Champions play at home from June 1–10, which means that during this next home stand fans will get to enjoy the full run of promotions including $5 Beer Fridays, Ladies’ Night, Baseball Bingo Tuesday and $1 Hot Dog Thursday. Why not try them all?
It has also been noted that the Hintonburger Poutine Batter promo is being joined by the Gracie’s Wings Batter. Same concept, on alternate nights. When the select opposing player strikes out, ticket holders are entitled to either a free snack size poutine at Hintonburger, or a free half pound of wings down the street at Grace O’Malleys. Win/Win/Win.
A standout from the Champions first homestand is undoubtedly left fielder, Coco Johnson. Expectations were high for this former Miami Marlins prospect, and he more than delivered. Johnson went yard for 2 home runs, and contributed 6 RBI over the first 6 games at home.
He leads the team in stolen bases as well, which is exactly the style of base running that head coach Hal Lanier was hoping to see from the squad this summer. His ability to get on base cements him as the Champions lead off hitter, and leaves skeptics assured that he was the best replacement for 2017 fan favourite Matt Helms.
1B Vinny Guglietti, despite the excellent name is not a chain smoking mob boss, but a hard hitting leftie who keeps his cool at the plate, and can pluck errant throws out of the air on first. He dazzled during opening weekend with a homerun and a great deal of hustle on the base paths. He may pronounce his last name ‘Guh-letti’ but (some of) the fanbase is campaigning pretty hard to spread his official nickname-The Googs. Come to the park and try it out. He seems nice enough not to correct us.
In the opposite corner, 3B Jordan Caillouet is leading the team in almost all hitting stats with an average of .349, 13 RBI, with 4 doubles and 2 home runs. Not to jinx anything here, but Caillouet is the third baseman that the Champions have needed. His defense is quick, and accurate, and he can field a bunt with precision that is very refreshing to those of us accustomed to hot corners patrolled by players who seem to have no sizzle. The baseball gods (and Hal Lanier) bestowed upon us a blessing, and the fanbase should be grateful!
Trouble on the mound
Pitching has been the one weakness in the Champions’ game so far this season, despite excellent outings from the starters. Pitching coach and ace Jake Hale struggled with his pitch placement during the home opener, but was redeemed with two wins on the road, and a team leading ERA of 0.49.
An injury to RHP Ryan Leach forced coach Hal Lanier to reach out to former Champion RHP Andrew Cooper to staff the bullpen right before the team boarded the bus for their first road trip. Hopefully, Cooper’s time back in the blue and white is limited after a dismal outing on May 22 following a disastrous start from Jordan Kurokawa. Fans from 2017 may remember Cooper for his frustratingly predictable ability to walk the bases full with regularity. I’m not anxious, you’re anxious.
Leach’s return to the bullpen before this homestand meant the end of the road for RHP Tyler Knigge. Expect to see more shakeups on the mound as Hale and Lanier tweak the pitching roster in the next few weeks. If you have a half decent arm, consider bringing your glove to the park. Hal has a great eye for talent, and we may need some help in a pinch.
Oh yes it’s Ladies Night!
Saturday nights are for the ladies at the yard this summer, and the team’s new promotion with a local radio station could turn into a literal dirt diamond for one lucky fan. After Saturday night games, fans that have registered have the opportunity to dig up the infield in search of diamond earrings. Check out the team’s promotional page for details, and to get your entry into the hunt. Saturday June 2nd is the first Ladies’ night, so get digging.
Sunday Funday with tacos
This Sunday, June 3rd, is Mexican Day at RCGT Park. Mexican food and prizes as well as a Mariachi band and market will add a little spice to the 1:35pm start time. It is still Sunday family day, but I’m willing to bet there will also be tequila, so be prepared for some very festive day drinking.
CanAm League shocker
For the first time in the past four seasons, the CanAm League perennial favourites, The Rockland Boulders, are currently last in the league with an unbelievable 4-9 record. The Boulders, located in a wealthy bedroom community of NYC, are the annual league bullies and arrogant playoff mainstays. If something is rotten in the state of New York, this could mean a more even playing field (see that I did there?) for our Champions. Not to be a bad sport, but it’s good to see the pesky Boulders on the rocks. (zing!)
The Ottawa Champions play home games at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park (300 Coventry Road) directly off the 417 with access to the Max Keeping pedestrian bridge. Tickets are $14 for adults, $11 for seniors and students, and $5 for youth. Parking is $5, making it the most affordable professional sports event in town. For more, follow @ottawachampions on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.