New season for Sarnia Braves

The manager of the Sarnia Braves says his team is likely playing the stiffest competition in the country with its participation in the Can Am Senior “AAA” Baseball League.

“The league includes the Windsor Stars, reigning Canadian Senior Baseball champs, the Tecumseh Jr. Thunder, who won the Canadian Junior title last year, and the Windsor Selects, who were Canadian Junior finalists,” said James Grant.

“We’re pretty much playing the best teams in the country, not to mention a strong team out of Troy, Michigan.”

The goal for the Braves, said Grant, is to play .500 baseball this season; their third in the league.  The Braves won five games in its inaugural season in the league and improved to 13 last season, including a handful of late-season forfeit victories.

Grant says the Braves will return all but a few players to its roster and has youth on its side with an average age of 22 years.

As is the case at any elite level of baseball, pitching will be the key.

“I think our pitching will be better than it has been in the past,” said Grant.

The staff includes Dom Bucci, Nick Baljeu, Anthony Shepherd, Wade Babula, Joel Ainsworth, Charlie Stubbs, Lance Hart and Jake Near.

Near, a student at Lambton College, played with Stratford of the Inter-County League last season, while Babula will return to the Braves in June after working in Saskatchewan the past year.

At the plate, Grant expects Justin Randall, Mackenzie Maxwell, Keegan Brandon, Alex McLean and Mike Damchuk to be offensive leaders.

“We’re hoping to have Justin (Randall) for an entire season this year.  He’s missed parts of the last two seasons with injuries,” said Grant.

Brandon and McLean will join the Braves after their U.S. collegiate seasons are over.

Home dates for the Braves will be Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings with all games scheduled for Erroll Russell Park.

Monday evenings have been set aside for rained out games.

The Braves are scheduled to begin their home season against the Tecumseh Thunder on Sunday, May 4 at 2 pm.

Admission to all games is free.

– Barry Wright