Maybe the "Boys of Summer" have given way to the "Fellows of Fall".
While Labour Day weekend sounded the final bell for a number of competitive baseball teams in Ontario, this coming weekend marked the launch of a brand new program in these parts.
Coach Brodie Jeffery and the Laurentian Voyageurs will have little to no time to get acclimatized to OUA (Ontario University Athletics), with the team launching their inaugural season with back to back double-headers at the Terry Fox Sports Complex.
On Saturday, the Voyageurs welcomed the Western University Mustangs to town for a two-game set, while the Guelph Gryphons provide the opposition on Sunday. Start times for Sunday's games are noon and 3:30 p.m.
"The first three weeks have been way better than I thought they were going to be," beamed Jeffery. "We're getting up at 6:00 a.m., every day, doing some conditioning, some team bonding, the kind of thing that will get them mentally prepared for the grind of the season."
"We have a good core of young kids, but then we have a couple of kids that have been to the U.S., experienced American university baseball, and they've brought back some leadership qualities. The guys have rallied around them."
Left-handed pitcher and Georgetown native Avery Chenier fits that bill, having played for two seasons with a Division II school in Kansas. The second year Business Administration student will be counted on to help stablilize the L.U. rotation, with Chenier looking forward to some inherit advantages that come with the territory back home in Canada.
"The wood bat is going to be a big help for pitchers, especially with the cold weather up here," he suggested. "In the States, they're still using the aluminum bats. As a staff, we have to throw strikes. We don't necessarily have the most velocity in the league, but as long as we throw strikes, attack hitters, don't walk guys, you can be successful anywhere, really."
All in all, Chenier is trying to remain realistic with regards to his expectations for the very first season of OUA baseball at Laurentian University. "As long as we're not going out on weekends with just one win or no wins (the team will typically play four games in a weekend), then we'll put ourselves in a position to be successful, and that's what we want."
One of the many keys to that success will undoubtedly sit with the adjustment that Peterborough native Shane Patterson makes in shifting from his traditional role as a catcher to handling things at shortstop, the very heart of the Voyageurs' infield defensive unit.
"My footwork really helped," noted the third year student of Sports Administration. "As a catcher, it was short, quick, precise movements. At shortstop, there's more sprinting to the ball and then the footwork comes in. I worked at it a lot during the winter and by the end of it, I feel pretty polished now."
While the Laurentian lads might well be working together in unison, as teammates, for the first time ever this fall, it's not as though there isn't any familiarity within the group. "A lot of the guys that are on the team are guys that I have played against, and they were some of the best players on their teams, so I have high hopes for us," said Patterson.
And though he thinks that pitching and defense will be critical in helping the Voyageurs remain in every game, Brodie Jeffery is not about to overlook what he believes is a nicely balanced offensive lineup.
"We have some speed early in the lineup," he said. "I think we'll have some guys that can run. In the middle, we'll have two or three guys who can hit doubles for us and drive in the speedy guys. We're not going to knock the walls down and hit 15 home runs this year, but I think we can hit a couple, steal some bases, hit and run, things like that to be successful."