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Photo by Greggory Clark/Apt613

Canada Day at the ballpark

By Kiersten Vuorimaki on June 29, 2018

Correction: An earlier version of this post said the Ottawa Champions vs. Dominican Republic National Team series scheduled for June 19–21 was cancelled at the last minute by the DR team. It was in fact cancelled by the Ottawa Champions.

Nothing is more Canadian than a few beers and burgers outside with your buds, on a sunny July 1st. This year, don’t bother organizing your own backyard ‘do, just head to RCGT Park where the beer is cold, the burgers are fully loaded, and the entertainment is provided.

Canada Day Weekend

The Ottawa Champions return home this weekend for a three game homestand against the fourth place New Jersey Jackals. The way the schedule is currently set, our boys in blue and white could be back in the playoff mix by Canada Day. Friday night is $5 beer night, and first pitch is at 7:05. Saturday night is the second fireworks night of the season, which means Canada Day starts a day early for baseball fans. Every Saturday night is Ladies Night at the park, and by registering ahead of time, female fans get a chance not only to dig for diamonds after the game (crazy, I know) but one lucky fan arrives in a limo with her squad and enjoys the game from a box suite. Sunday’s game starts at 1:35, and if tradition prevails the boys will debut Canada Day jerseys, and swag for our big day. Fans are welcome to leave their cars parked at the field, and take advantage of free OC Transpo transit downtown for any further celebrations. July 1st at the yard is a great way to be outside, and festive during the afternoon while also remaining seated, and hydrated.

We’re starting Canada’s birthday party with the @senators! 🇨🇦🎊

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And now for some good news

A scheduled tilt against the Dominican Republic last week was cancelled by the Ottawa Champions. This resulted in a last minute series against the Hollywood Stars, who looked alot like the Salina Stockade, with some fresh faces, and familiar jerseys. Luckily, the Champions took this patchwork team to task, chalking up three exciting victories, including our second ever walk-off win courtesy of Tyler Nordgren. The momentum from these weekday wins carried the boys into a dreaded weekend series finally kicking the Sussex County Miner monkey off their backs.

The Miners have been sitting in first place in the CanAm league since the first week of the season, and there was a consensus in the dugout on Thursday that the Miners’ consistent attack makes them very difficult to beat. “They are offensively oriented and relentless, keeping the pressure on by stealing bases. Everyone in the league is having the same difficulty dealing with them. They have the model that we want to mimic offensively, but they are just doing a better job of it right now,” Sebastien Boucher shared. The Miners have 97 stolen bases as a team, a league leading number, with the Champions in second place with 47. Ottawa took the first game of the series 6-4, and the energy in the dugout was palpable. Saturday’s game was rained out, and some momentum was certainly lost for Sunday’s double header. The first game was a spiralling, farcical wash out 7-1 loss, with little to no good news. The Champions however, pulled out a nail biting 2-1 win for RHP Steve Borkowski in the second billing to win the series overall.

Monday night saw the Champions ride that feeling into a 8-4 slugfest in Trois-Rivière where Sebastien Boucher got his 900th career hit, another milestone for the player who holds CanAm career records for hits, walks, runs and RBIs.

I’ve been warned by Daniel Bick that “jinxes are real” and Jared Lemieux prefers to keep positive affirmations and praise on the downlow while they are out there working. So I’m not going to spell out for you how we should all feel about the Champions most recent results. You can think it, but please do not say it out loud.

Photo by Jen Bernard Photography/Apt613

Who’s on second?

More injuries have been knocking players off the field, adding stress to the roster. 2B Steve Nyistor is out with a pulled groin, and OF Steve Brown continues to nurse bad hamstrings placing his availability as sort of day-to-day, as needed. OF Coco Johnson sustained a gruesome looking hand injury on Sunday as part of a collision and it’s unclear what the nature of the injury is, or when he may return. For now, C Tyler Nordgren is helping at second base, and Kyle Zirbes is playing wherever manager Hal Lanier tells him to.

New catcher Zak Colby comes with a wealth of independent ball experience, and has proven himself with a number of excellent plays at the plate, and laser throws to catch runners stealing. He also leaves the field grinning after every inning, so this guy loves what he does.

RHP Jordan Kurokawa has righted the ship after his first few shaky outings, and following a complete game shutout on June 9th took the CanAm League Pointstreak Pitcher of the Week for June 3-10. His 2.72 ERA and developing stamina is a major help to the Champions who are currently balancing an understaffed bullpen. At press time, the team was 2 players under the the roster cap so there may be some new faces in the dugout this weekend.

After Sunday’s game the team heads out on a 6 game road trip, facing the hated Rockland Boulders for the first time this season, followed by a series in New Jersey. All games can be watched online. The Champions are back in Ottawa for a quick 3 game rematch against the Sussex County Miners July 9-11.

We are The Champions, my friends

Starting next week, Apt613 will be profiling members of the Ottawa Champions in short interviews. We are finding out what they enjoy about playing in Ottawa, and how our Apt613 community can help them connect as individuals to our city and get the most out of their time in the 613.

The Ottawa Champions play home games at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer, located at 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. For more, follow the Champions on Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram @ottawachampions.