Border Cats field manager looks ahead to 2022
Mike Steed joined Cats in 2019, but the team hasn't played since due to pandemic
Despite another baseball-free summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thunder Bay Border Cats field manager Mike Steed is looking forward to 2022.
Steed was named as field manager in September 2019, but he's had nothing to manage since, as the Cats cancelled both their 2020 and 2021 seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Not to be able to put the uniform on last year, you know, it was tough," Steed said, adding the decision to cancel the season was understandable given the circumstances.
"But, I think second year, this year, was devastating to me, personally," he said.
Steed has, of course, remained busy during the off-seasons. The 2021 roster, he said, was largely complete.
"There's always some late additions, subtractions, due to various factors, with the players at school," he said. "But, yeah, I was confident, happy."
"We were just kind of biding time, doing the little things until May 31."
And the roster, Steed said, was coming together very well.
"I was pretty happy with it," he said. "I thought we had assembled some really good arms. Me being a pitching guy, I tend to lean toward the mound first to bring in some quality guys."
"From the offensive side, I think we had put together a pretty athletic team that would be exciting in terms of speed and moving around the bases," he said. "Kids that really wanted to play, really wanted to come to Thunder Bay."
The good news is those players will have a chance to get some baseball experience this summer, just not in the city.
Steed — who also managed the Cats in 2010 and 2011 before leaving to join the Ontario Blue Jays program — has been working with the league to find players signed to the Cats roster spots on other Northwoods League teams.
The league won't be operating in small pods like it did in 2020 — some American-born players signed to the 2020 Cats played in a four-team pod based in North Dakota last season — but rather plans to run a full schedule for its American teams.
And the league is currently holding a draft for Border Cats signees, both American and Canadian, so they can get some playing time elsewhere. That draft is ongoing, Steed said, with some of the club's players having already been contacted.
"They wanted to play in Thunder Bay, but, you know, just as important, they wanted to play in the Northwoods League for that experience," Steed said. "So the league assured me they were going to do it."
It's a nice change for Canadian players who were unable to join the U.S.-based Northwoods League pods last summer.
And there weren't any opportunities for those players to join other Canadian teams last year, as the leagues all shut down due to the pandemic, Steed said.
"They missed, basically, a full year, with the college season being cancelled, and then the summer season," Steed said.
With the decision about 2021 having been made, Steed is now looking toward 2022.
"When we finally do get back in there, 2022, we'll bring a great product," Steed said. "The fanbase in the community's great as it is."
"I think they'll be even more energized to see the Cats back on the field."