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Kentville Wildcats celebrate 40 years of baseball with home win, original roster reunion

Former Kentville Wildcats players David Nixon, Tony Aker, Sandy VanBlarcom and Paul D’Eon were among the original roster members on hand to celebrate the team’s 40th anniversary at Memorial Park on Aug. 13.
Former Kentville Wildcats players David Nixon, Tony Aker, Sandy VanBlarcom and Paul D’Eon were among the original roster members on hand to celebrate the team’s 40th anniversary at Memorial Park on Aug. 13.

KENTVILLE, NS - They pioneered the Kentville Wildcats and the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League, forming bonds so strong that the friendships have lasted a lifetime.

The 40th anniversary of the Wildcats was celebrated at Memorial Park on Aug. 13, as the home team took on Dartmouth. The event included a reunion of several original roster members.

The fans and originals were not to be disappointed, as Kentville defeated the defending league champions by a score of 5 to 4.

Head coach Ian Mosher – an original roster member who has played in at least one game in every season since the inception of the league – said he hadn’t seen some of his fellow originals in 20 years or more.

Mosher said that although he didn’t recognize it at the time, all the originals should now feel like pioneers. This is the 41st consecutive season since the inception of the Wildcats and the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League in 1977. Having played so many continuous years of baseball says a lot about the stability of the sport in the province.

Mosher was a 19-year-old Acadia University student when the team started, a hockey player who was trying to find his way in baseball. He and fellow Wildcats original Bill Young were training for the Canada Games that summer and Mosher recalls it being a hectic time.

“It was all brand new to all of us,” Mosher said. “But what it really meant was that somebody was going to qualify to go to the Canadian championships.”

The right to represent the province at the following year’s national championships remains the prize that the five teams in the league compete for.

As the youngest player on the original roster, Mosher feels an obligation to carry on the tradition. Other guys have taken their turn over the years to keep the program alive and Mosher feels that he inherited a lot from the coaches that came before. He hopes there’s a younger player out there who will one day carry the coaching torch.

The Kentville Wildcats’ 40th anniversary was celebrated at Memorial Park Aug. 13. Original members Colin Spinney, Sandy VanBlarcom, Barney VanBlarcom, Bill Young, Bobby Gillis (who played for Sydney and was league co-MVP the first season), Paul D’Eon, Dave Harris, Peter Goucher and Ian Mosher, front, kneeling, were on hand. Cambridge athlete Ben Brown, front, threw out the opening pitch.

 

Cambridge athlete Ben Brown, with Kentville Wildcats third baseman John Ansara, shows off the three silver medals he won in 200m, 400m and 1,500m wheelchair races at the Canada Games in Winnipeg this summer. Brown threw the ceremonial opening pitch as the Wildcats played Dartmouth at home on Aug. 13. Ansara had two runs batted in and hit the game winning single.

 

Kentville pitcher Colby Turple looks to get the ball over the plate, past a Dartmouth player and into the glove of Kentville catcher Ted Higa. Higa hit three singles, scored two runs and batted-in a run during the game.

 

Original roster member Sandy VanBlarcom said he and his teammates grew up together and it was great seeing them. A bunch of them are still around, still in pretty good shape and still friends.

VanBlarcom played for 14 seasons. He said most of today’s players wouldn’t have the same opportunity to play together for such an extended period of time, as there’s a lot more going on and everyone goes in different directions following school. The sense of camaraderie is different.

“It becomes much more special when you realize almost our whole team was from the Town of Kentville,” VanBlarcom said. “I look out here now today, half these kids would be from Halifax and spread out all over.”

He said there are some talented players on today’s roster. They have more of an opportunity to be seen and move on to another level of play.

The advantage the original Wildcats had was getting to practice two or three times a week on top of a 36-game schedule. Now it’s more difficult to get everyone together to practice and players don’t see as much field time. This is the case across the senior league.

Brandon McKay of the Kentville Wildcats gets a base hit during the game against Dartmouth at Memorial Park on Aug. 13.

 

Jason Pleasant-Sampson of the Kentville Wildcats looks for a bunt during the Aug. 13 game against Dartmouth at Memorial Park.

 

Like coming home

Wildcats original Paul D’Eon said the reunion of the 1977 team was “kind of like coming home.”

“We’re a little greyer and a little heavier but a lot of good memories and a lot of good times,” D’Eon said.

He went on to coach an old timer’s Wildcats team that included a core group of originals following his days as a player.

“We started a base and a lot of people supported us over the years, the town and the community and a lot of sponsors,” D’Eon said. “It builds over time and we’re glad it survived.”

Original roster member Barney VanBlarcom said it was great to see some familiar faces he hasn’t seen in a while.

“It’s a little hard to believe it was 40 years ago but time flies,” he said.

VanBlarcom said his years spent with the Wildcats “meant everything” to him. He had a lot of fun and made lasting friendships.

He said there have been challenges and struggles for the organization but the community has supported the team and baseball in Kentville lives on. VanBlarcom said it’s great to be able to visit Memorial Park to watch a game.

He said the current Wildcats are a great club with some young talent. They’re struggling a bit this year compared to last but “it’s an up and down thing.” VanBlarcom gives full credit to those organizing and playing the games.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

Ted Higa of the Kentville Wildcats looks to bat home teammate Brandon MacKay during the home game against Dartmouth on Aug. 13.

 

Brandon McKay crosses home plate, scoring a run for the Kentville Wildcats in the Aug. 13 game against Dartmouth.

 

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