New-Look Majors Prepare for Season-Opener at Home
London Majors BaseballGreg Bowman
With the drudgery of winter finally behind us, it’s time to look forward to the summer. Longer days, warmer weather, vacations and patio season; summer in London is enjoyable.
The true mark of the start of summer is the London Majors getting back into Intercounty Baseball action. They will host the Hamilton Cardinals for the season and home opener on Friday, May 10th at Labatt Park.
The Majors are opening their season against the same team who ended theirs last year. After finishing the regular season third in the IBL with a 20-16 record, they fell to the Hamilton Cardinals in four games in the first round of the playoffs. For Majors’ manager, Roop Chanderdat, the new season brings new excitement: “For me, the home opener is special enough it doesn’t matter who we play… I just get really excited for the home-opener. Any time we’re playing at Labatt Park. It’s such a great place to play—at home in front of our fans.”
The Majors underwent an overhaul of sorts in the offseason, welcoming in many new faces to the team. Their pitching staff saw the most change during the winter, with only a couple of returning players. Sean Hood-Tidman is joining the Majors after playing the winter season in Nebraska. The right-hander is a Stratford native and a former Ontario National. Ayden Hannon also joins the pitching corps as a former Ontario Royal and member of Siena Heights University in the United States. Hannon had a 1-1 record and a save in 15.2 innings pitched last season at his school. Adding to the regional talent brought on by the Majors, Matt Balkwill hails from Chatham, Ontario and played for the Brock Badgers in the OUA. The hopeful closing pitcher for the Majors this season comes in the form of a local product, John Fitzsimmons. The right-handed hurler graduated H.B Beal high school in London before committing to Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. He also played for the Quebec Capitales of the Can-Am league where he posted a 1-0 record in eight appearances giving up four hits and one run while recording a save as well.
The pitching staff also received some help internationally, with Simon Mercedes signing from the Dominican Republic. The right-handed pitcher was a part of the Boston Red Sox organization, and previously played for the Portland Sea Dogs in Maine, as well as the Salem Red Sox in Virginia. He is a relief pitcher that will help out a bullpen that struggled last season. The Majors also plan on taking a page out of the Los Angeles Angels’ book, signing a two-way player. Ismael Peña comes in as a Montreal, Quebec native who is known for both his hitting and pitching abilities. On the mound, he went 3-5 in 14 appearances for Santa Fe Fuego in the Peco league in New Mexico. At the plate on that same team, he batted .323 with 14 hits and a home run in 15 games. Originally a part of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system, Peña now belongs to the Seattle Mariners’ organization. The Quebec native also hit a home run in the Major’s exhibition series against Michigan Jet Box.
The remaining field positions also got some boosts in the offseason, with the Majors grabbing a couple of utility players. Jonathan DuForest is a Montreal native who actually was on Team France’s World Baseball Classic qualifier roster. He attended McGill University, and is expected to bounce around the outfield, but can play in the infield if needed. Phil Thrappas joins the team as a two-sport athlete from San Jose, California. The expected starting shortstop for the majors was a free safety for UC Davis in California and has turned some heads with his athletic ability. Steve Froese is returning to the Majors after suiting up from 2010-12 where he had 41 RBI and seven stolen bases. Also staying within the system is Jacob Mansfield who is a local product who has signed with the big club after being a junior call up last year.
Solidifying the position behind the plate, the Majors have signed Venezualan catcher Luis Sayol, who played in the professional baseball league in his home country that features many former MLB players. Sayol’s addition will push last year’s catcher, Mike Ambrose to third base.
Returning for the Majors this season will be Evan Britt, Braedon Ferrington, Robert Doyle, and, of course, fan favourite Cleveland Brownlee, who is the franchise leader in home runs hit. London native, Owen Boon, will be the starting pitcher for opening day: “he’s well-deserving, he’s worked hard [and] I wanted to give Owen a shot being a local guy and he’s put in the time and he’s a veteran now,” Chanderdat said on his first starting pitcher. Boon has played for the Majors since 2014 and also played for the Western Mustangs’ baseball team.
First pitch for the London Majors’ season and home-opener will be on Friday, May 10th at 7:35pm from Labatt Park.