The Ottawa Titans are just days away from the start of their preseason schedule, but already at their spring training camp at RCGT Park in Ottawa, manager Bobby Brown is liking what he’s seeing. This weekend, the club will head to Quebec for a game against the Capitales on Saturday, before a game against the Trois-Rivieres Aigles on Sunday.
“It’s a good group,” said Brown. “It’s a young group that’s hungry and plays hard. I really like our pitching, and it looks like we’re going to throw a ton of strikes. We’re going to give ourselves a chance to win. I like what I see so far. We’ve got a couple of guys that haven’t gotten here yet, and we want to piece it all together.”
The Titans will be led by players who have experience playing in some of baseball’s top leagues, including Evan Grills who has played as high as AAA, Nelson Gonzalez who has also seen time in AAA, and Rodrigo Orozco who played AAA ball, and spent time in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization. For the young players who don’t have that kind of experience, however, independent baseball can offer unique challenges.
“The grind of playing every single day, wherein college they played three or four times a week,” Brown said. “That’s the difference. You get one day off each week in this league, which is more than some other leagues, but still, it’s more of a grind than what they are used to.
“Taking care of their bodies and playing the game the right way, but understanding their job is to be on the field the next day, too.”
After the Quebec trip, the Titans’ preseason schedule closes with an off day on Monday, a home game against the Aigles on Tuesday, and another away game against the Washington Wild Things on Wednesday. There’s a lot of movement for the team, but Brown thinks that will be good for his group, not only to experience life on the road, but also to bring his group closer together.
“It’s good for the morale of the team, too,” he said. “You throw a bunch of guys together that don’t know each other, and I think it really brings them together going on some bus trips. I really like [the preseason schedule].”
“I think some of these guys have played together. It’s just kinda the nature of pro baseball. [The players] are used to that, if they have been around [for a while].”
In the past few years, Major League Baseball teams have trimmed down the number of minor league affiliates, and thanks to that, many have speculated that the quality of play for independent leagues would increase. Although that could very well happen, Brown isn’t sure that it’s going to be due to players coming down from affiliated ball.
“A lot of these Major League teams are holding onto guys and loading up the rosters that they have kept,” Brown said. “You see 30 or 35 guys on each affiliate, so I’m not sure how many more guys were available because of that contraction with the lower levels.”
With the preparation for the season being short, and live game action coming soon, Brown knows that it won’t always be easy. Brown has over 20 years of experience in baseball, primarily in independent leagues, so he’s been around the block a few times. He has expectations, but none of them are unrealistic.
“Staying in the now, staying where your feet are, and going about each series individually,” he said. “Don’t look too far ahead, or too far behind.”
“We haven’t had a ton of at-bats. I think [the next few days] will be good to get the hitters into a little bit more of a groove.”
Ottawa is filled with skeptics regarding baseball. It has always been touch and go, but Brown is excited to see what’s to come.
“I think it’s exciting,” he said. “You’ve got a first-class organization here, and an ownership group that is committed to this for the long-term. We want to bring a great product to the field for the people of Ottawa.”
To those skeptical, Brown has just one message.
“Come watch us play! I think it will be an exciting group to watch,” he said.
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