Catching up with the team as they enter 21st season
Believe it or not, the Gee-Gees men’s baseball team has been around for over 20 seasons. Its humble beginnings date back to 1995, when a group of players at the U of O formed a team to take on Carleton University and a number of teams from Quebec.
Following the team’s first season, Larry Belanger was appointed head coach, a title he held until his retirement at the end of the 2013 season.
Since Belanger’s retirement, there has been some changes in leadership for the competitive club. Hitting coach Dave Dunn took over for the 2014 season, followed by former professional and college baseball player Matti Emery, who took over last season in hopes of steering the team to success.
The team participates in the newly reformatted Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association (CCBA), which contains teams from Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic provinces.
The Gee-Gees spent many years as an athletics club sanctioned by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa before being granted competitive club status by Sports Services in 2002.
Although it may be hectic handling a roster of over 20 players, Emery knows his work with the team is important.
“A lot of talented guys come to Ottawa to get an education, but also want to have that student-athlete experience, so coaching them is rewarding,” he said.
The 2016 season is still young for the team. After five games, the team is 1-4, but has shown some promise and resiliency.
The team had a packed schedule for the weekend of Sept. 9–11 where they played all five of their games.
Cross-city rival Carleton defeated the Gee-Gees in their home opener 8-0, before the Gees collected a win and a loss over McGill the following day.
A trip to Montreal to close out the weekend didn’t fare well for the team, falling to McGill in two different games.
This year, the team’s goal is to improve as much as they can, and part of that is taking early season losses and learning as the year goes on.
“We have to take it a game at a time,” said Emery. “This season we have eight new players and I see a lot of talent… I’d like to see us going deeper into the playoffs, and if we’re fortunate enough, to make the national championships.”
From an operational standpoint, regularly competing against baseball teams that have varsity status is something that is always on the team’s mind. According to Emery, like many other competitive clubs, it’s the Gee-Gees baseball team’s long-term, ongoing goal to become a varsity program.
Playing most home games at the over 10,000-seat RCGT Park in Overbrook (south of Vanier), the team has access to the largest venue of any team at the U of O, but struggles to draw a crowd.
“They’re playing just as many hours as any varsity team at the University of Ottawa,” said Emery. “There’s no discrepancy between the hours the guys put into this game. They play three games and have two practices, so they really only get one and a half days off a week.”
As time consuming as playing baseball is, the team still finds time to regularly participate in community outreach projects, namely volunteering with Miracle League of Ottawa. This organization gives children with special needs the chance to play baseball by providing a wheelchair-safe baseball diamond, as well as providing their batting cage for use.
For Emery, it’s little touches like these that helps make his work with the Gee-Gees more than worth it.
“Watching them learn to balance their lives and grow up to become men while playing sports at a higher caliber is a great experience.”
Gee-Gees baseball’s next home game is Sept. 18 at 12 p.m. against the Montreal Carabins at RCGT Park. Follow @GeeGeesBaseball on Twitter for more information.