Tag: Jimmy Richardson

Fieldhouse Pirates enter fourth CPBL season hungry for more

The Fieldhouse Pirates came just close enough to the top of the leaderboard and to the championship trophy to leave the last Canadian Premier Baseball League season hungry for more, and they can’t wait to get the fourth year of the circuit underway to start their quest for just that.

With a successful 2018 campaign under their belts, the Pirates are looking to keep taking steps forward in the organization’s progression as they move into another year in the competitive league.

“Overall, the entire organization did well last year,” Fieldhouse director of baseball operations Jimmy Richardson said. “We could have done better. At the older age groups – at the 18U level – we finished second place in the regular season and lost to a good Great Lake Canadians team in a tight game in the finals, but from a motivation standpoint, all the guys seeing how we performed last year – we want to do better going forward into this year.

“And from a talent perspective, and the top guys in the league, it just seems like the talent keeps getting better and better every year. So we need to make sure we’re ready to go and can compete against those guys for this year.”

Among the season’s highlights, Richardson most enjoyed getting a chance to see some of the hard work that several long-time members of the program have put in over the years come to fruition in their final season with the organization.

“Last year with our 18U group, we had a core group of guys – five or six guys who came up and were with us from the time they were 13,” he said. “Some of those guys played underage at our 18U level for two or three years, and we took some lumps, and then last year they put it all together and we had a really good season. So seeing those guys have the success that they did and being able to have that pay off in their grad year was really fulfilling.”

As the off-season got underway for the Pirates, the organization made some additions and changes in order to maintain it’s progress and keep getting better in preparation for the fourth year of the CPBL.

“From a programming perspective, practice-wise we’ve really put an emphasis on developing our pitchers this off-season, and putting together a comprehensive program that will allow us to have more success in developing higher-end arms,” Richardson said. “Last year, we spent a lot of time working hitting, so we’ve taken that hitting program and built on it from last year, and this year we are building on our pitching program.

“We’ve brought in George Halim as the director of player development to come in and work with all different aspects of our hitters and our infielders, and he’s been a big help in that regard. Our new pitching coordinator Ian Harvey is doing really good work with our pitchers, but those are our two main focuses.”

In the midst of the winter months, Richardson and the Pirates can’t wait to get out on the field and see how the work they have put in and will continue to do throughout the off-season can help them build as they nove forward.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the programming we’ve got in place now and how that’s going to impact the athletes we have in the program,” he said. “We’ve done a good job of going out and getting a bunch of high-end athletes who want to compete in our program and get better, and being able to put that into action on the field against the top programs in our league is something you always want to use as a measuring stick.”

With an eye on the future beyond the next CPBL season, several Fieldhouse players have also made commitments for the upcoming year, with Matt Nolin heading to Oakland University, Zach Cameron and Stephan Hospital to Niagara University, Ian Evans off to Elon University, Stefan Mielzynski going to Otero College, Kenny DiClemente to Crowder College, Lucas Gilbert and Franco Barbiero off to NIACC, Eric Van Bassel going to Niagara County College, Tanner Hodgson off to Mars Hill, Matt McEachern and Josh Hare to Lourdes University, Bryce Arnold heading to Campbell University and Owen Caissie off to the University of Kentucky.


Fieldhouse continues development into second CPBL year

Being a part of the inaugural season of the Canadian Premier Baseball League last year, the Fieldhouse Pirates made the developmental strides they were looking for as their program moved forward.

“The games every weekend were extremely competitive,” said Jimmy Richardson, director of player development for the Pirates. “You see top-line arms Saturday and Sunday and when you play your midweek games; you don’t usually get to see that when you go to tournaments in the US.

“It was really good to push our guys and have them play against the best players in their own age group every weekend, rather than typically in the past just playing one or two competitive games a month and then playing some of the lesser-quality teams. It was great to push the development of our guys.”

To follow up the first year of the circuit, Fieldhouse decided to implement some changes in their off-season training regimen, knowing now what they will be facing at home throughout the summer months and building on that calibre of competition to take into tournaments elsewhere as well.

“We changed our winter training a little bit this year,” Richardson said. “We had more skill-based practices rather than team-based. All of our guys will work out in their primary positions for the most part, and we can really drill in and get down to work on some of the intricate skills that they need to showcase on the field during a game, that are going to take them to the next level.

“We’ve really drilled down with our pitchers this winter, added Driveline to our program, so our pitchers have been working hard every week. Guys are just getting back into throwing right now but we’ve been lifting heavy for the last two months since we got home from the fall trip, and now we’re kind of back full-on with baseball activity…We are going to start practicing outside hopefully in April. We don’t do any spring trips [down south] so our first games will probably be the opening weekend of the CPBL, during the pre-season tournament.”

The level of play that the CPBL produced in its first season not only improved the drive of the Pirates players on the field last year, but also provided motivation for many of them as they’ve continued their progression throughout the winter months.

“The big thing after going through the league schedule one time is the guys understanding that if you don’t show up to play every weekend, you’re going to get run over,” the program’s director of player development said. “That starts with your training in the winter time. You can’t just go through the motions October to April and hope to go out on the field and compete with the teams that we’re playing against because it’s not going to happen.

“So our guys have been a lot more hungry this year. We see them in here, and the competition level within our own training has increased because guys know that they have to bring it every day, and if they want to compete with the [Ontario Blue] Jays and Great Lake [Canadians] and the [Toronto] Mets, they’ve got to be ready to play every single time we step on the field.”

A number of the Pirates players have already solidified spots down south for the fall, where they can continue to play the game they love as they pursue post-secondary education, which is not only exciting for the program but also provides some relief to the players, who can now just go out and enjoy their final CPBL seasons.

“It’s really important for the guys,” Richardson said. “It takes a lot of the stress out of it for them, not having to go through the spring without knowing where they’re going, having the pressure to perform all the time, whether we’re going to tournaments or playing here, if college coaches are coming to watch them.

“Now they can just focus in on refining their skills and getting ready to play once they get to school in August, the pressure…is lifted off their shoulders a little bit. So the biggest benefit is for the players, they’re the ones who put the work in, and they earned it. It’s good for them to have the results and get it sealed up early and now they can just focus on getting better.”

Securing spots for when the CPBL season comes to an end, the Pirates are sending Austin Skellhorn to Galveston College in Texas, Ryan Cuthbert to Iowa Lakes Community College, Harris Voyatzis and Caleb Feurstake to Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Missouri, Dante Federico and Jordan Stamp to Labette Community College in Parsons, Kansas, and Riley Perks to Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri.

Former Fieldhouse Pirate Wacker commits to Oklahoma State

Growing up in Texas, Travis Wacker had a firsthand look at just how big baseball can be at every level.

Before moving north of the border heading into his eighth grade year, the catcher and infielder watched teams from his state and the others around it compete at the highest level that collegiate sports have to offer, knowing that someday he wanted to be a part of it.

After four years with the Fieldhouse Pirates and two more at Grayson County College in Denison, Texas, Wacker’s college dream came to fruition at the end of April, when he committed to play his junior and senior seasons at Oklahoma State University with the Cowboys.

“I verbally committed last Friday while I was at Oklahoma State on my visit,” Wacker said. “The facilities and school overall were amazing and I really liked the setup of everything. Growing up in Texas half my life, I have always watched Big 12 [conference] sports and it has always been my dream and goal to play in the Big 12.

“Oklahoma State has really turned around as a baseball program since head coach [Josh] Holliday arrived, and I really noticed how passionate all the coaches were. This has helped them be a top team in the Big 12, which really helped in my choice. Getting to talk to all of the coaches really made me realize that I wanted to play there, as it will put me in the best situation to make me the best player possible.

“I’m really excited to get up there and play with their great program and experience the atmosphere. I also know I have work to do, and I have to stay focused in the moment for the rest of the year at Grayson, where we have a chance to go to and win the [junior college] World Series.”

During his time with the Pirates – moving to Oakville with his family because of his father’s job – Wacker impressed his teammates and the coaching staff with both his ability and work ethic – and the staff at Grayson, to whom he was introduced by Fieldhouse coach Matt Baird – and the program is proud to see its graduate heading to Stillwater, Oklahoma to further pursue his baseball career.

“He went from being a player who possessed a lot of tools to a player who could use those tools on the field and get results,” said Jimmy Richardson, Director of Player Development for the Fieldhouse Pirates. “Travis is a low-maintenance, tireless worker who put in the work to become a high-end player…

“With Travis heading to Oklahoma State next season, I expect him to jump in and be an impact player in the lineup right away. Travis had always had the ability to elevate his game against top competition, and I don’t expect that to change.”

Through 51 games with Grayson this season, Wacker has posted a .384/.466/.579 slash line with nine home runs, eight doubles, 29 walks and 66 RBI for the Vikings. Enjoying his time back in his home state once again, the young player is especially grateful for his time with the Pirates and how it helped him along the way.

“It’s definitely different,” Wacker said of playing in Canada. “Just because you’re training indoors most of the year compared to being outside all-year round. It has its benefits though, because you rest your body more, and it really helped me develop more as an overall player.”

The Pirates are excited to watch their former player’s continued development as he moves forward, knowing that he can find success wherever he takes the field.

“The things that impress me the most about Travis aren’t the obvious tools he possesses, it’s his demeanour and his compete level on the field,” Richardson said. “Regardless of how much pressure there is on him in any given situation, he doesn’t get tight and is always ready to produce. Playing in the Big 12 for a storied program in front of large crowds is no joke, but Travis will relish that opportunity.”