Redbirds growing as a team, ready to soar
By Jim Hynes
With its stringent academic requirements, McGill isn’t always in position to recruit the most sought-after student athletes, Ernie D’Alessandro admits. But the good news, the McGill Redbirds’ baseball bench boss says, is that those that do come to McGill stay at McGill, which gives coaches the opportunity to develop individual players and perhaps even build championship teams.
“Getting into McGill is very difficult, so we do miss out on some fine young local talent that ends up at Concordia or one of the Ontario schools,” said D’Alessandro, a Pointe-Claire resident and the Redbirds’ manager for the past 13 years. “That being said, once we do get a player he is more often than not here to stay right through until graduation, so our turnover rate is not very high. We get to know the players and work with them. Our staff provides them with things to work on during the summer and when they come to camp they are further ahead.”
That said, the departure of key veteran players from the 2007 team (like pitching staff ace Ben Chisholm, second baseman Michael Carbone, and MVP Eric Mutter), and the addition of nine rookies, makes the 2008 Redbirds a relatively young squad. Nevertheless, under the leadership of D’Alessandro and his coaching staff, plus the guidance of a number of important returning players, the Redbirds found themselves atop the Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association’s Northern Conference with an 11-5 record at the end of the regular season. They face rivals Concordia in first round action that gets underway Sunday, Oct. 5.
Regardless of what happens in their Conference playoffs, by virtue of being the host team, the Redbirds are assured of a place in the CIBA Championship tournament, to be held at Cote-St. Luc’s Trudeau Park and Lasalle’s Parc Eloi Viau Oct. 17-19. But the Redbirds aren’t taking anything for granted. D’Alessandro says the team wants to head into the Nationals through the front door.
“This is probably the closest team we’ve had in my 13 years at McGill and for them to come together so quickly is a credit to the vets,” D’Alessandro said.
Among those veterans are pitchers Anthony Carbone (Chemical Engineering), Ben Fax (Political Science, fifth year player) and Simon Ayotte (Mechanical Engineering, fifth year player), whose collective strong play has shored up what many thought to be the team biggest weakness, it’s pitching staff.
“AC (Carbone) is back for his third year and it seems that he has gained a couple of MPH on his fastball. Ben Fax has really stepped in and picked up the slack that we lost with the graduations of Chisholm and Mike Tomasetta. He’s 2 – 1 and has yet to give up an earned run. David Haberman has come in as a freshman and really impressed us from the left side and will only get better as he grows and puts on muscle. And Simon Ayotte is always Mr. Reliable on the mound,” D’Alessandro said.
With their games off-campus at Trudeau Park, and baseball not having the profile it does in some US schools, the Redbirds don’t draw many fans from the student body – which is a shame. With players drawn from the Junior elite, Junior AA and even Provincial team ranks, the Northern Conference (the CIBA’s strongest according to D’Alessandro) features a surprisingly high-level of play.
“I understand that it is difficult getting to the park because of the distance from campus, but I have to say that if there are baseball fans at the school, then they are missing out on some great ball,” D’Alessandro said. “The calibre is pretty high and our team is competitive year after year. The guys work hard and certainly don’t embarrass the school. It would be great to get the support of the school and student body.”
For scores, standings and the schedule of Redbird playoff games, check out the Northern Conference Sched & Stats page at www.ciba-abic.org.
Game Of the Week: Soccer tops the list of sports “must sees” this weekend as the Redmen and Martlets play host to UQTR at Molson Stadium Sunday Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.