Fathers, husbands juggle lives for chance to play on P.E.I.'s top baseball team

They've got some eager players, a new coach and their old sponsor back on board. After a one-year leave of absence, the Charlottetown Islanders are ready to take the field again this summer.

Charlottetown Islanders back in the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League after one-year absence

About 15 players on the team have been practising this spring at the Eastern Baseball Academy in Charlottetown. (Shane Ross/CBC)

They don't get paid to play, they're away from their wives and children most weekends and they sometimes take time off work to make the games.

But players on P.E.I.'s top baseball team say they can't wait to get back on the field again.

After a one-year leave of absence, the Charlottetown Islanders make their return to the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League on May 18 in Saint John. Their first home game is May 20 versus Moncton.

For pitcher Jordan Stevenson, it can't come soon enough.

"You don't realize what you got till it's gone and I'm just thankful we're having a team again," said Stevenson, who played six seasons with the Islanders before the team bowed out of the league last year. It couldn't get enough players to field a competitive team.

Dillon Doucette was on the Islanders in 2015 when they won the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League title. (Dillon Doucette/Facebook)

Most of the players are in their 20s and some in their 30s, said general manager Myles Grady. They have to do it for the love of the game.

Anyone now with families and stuff like that, it makes it a little tough.— Dillon Doucette

"It's a commitment and a sacrifice from these players," Grady said. "Every weekend they're gone. They're either at home playing baseball or they're on the road."

Infielder Dillon Doucette knows the commitment. He has two children under five at home and sometimes works weekends, but he said his family knows how much he loves playing baseball at a high level. 

"They're always supportive and I enjoy it, so they're always on board with that," he said.

"Anyone now with families and stuff like that, it makes it a little tough but there is a good young group of players on P.E.I. right now coming up. So we're hoping that they can kind of take that for a run." 

Stevenson said he hopes to make most of the games.

"I am married but my wife supports me with it," he said. "She knows how much I love pitching and competing at the highest level of baseball available around here."

Pitcher Jacob Beck will be one of the veterans returning to the Islanders this spring. (Shane Ross/CBC)

Grady said about 15 players have been practising this spring at Eastern Baseball Academy, including plenty of new faces to go along with veterans such as Stevenson, Doucette, pitcher Jacob Beck and others who were on the team when the Islanders were formed in 2010. They won the league title in 2015. 

"Over the last few months we've kind of made contact with the previous players and junior players that were graduating to see if there was an interest," Grady said. "We determined that there was a sincere interest by the players."

About $30K to run the team

Grady will be joined by Kevin McKenna and Peter MacDonald on the management team, while Doug Hines will take over as head coach.

Now all the team needs is fans.

Grady said it costs about $30,000 to run the team. As the only team from P.E.I. in the league, travel can be costly with gas and bridge fare.

The team appreciates the support from sponsors, Grady said, but any extra money they get from the gate helps take some of the financial burden off the players. They are asked to chip in some of their own money.

"We'll be looking to advertise and hopefully get a following again," Grady said. "The team does have some history there and we hope to revive that."

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Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.