Catching on with the Jackfish

By Bill Potrecz, BPSN

Cole Cote has some huge spikes to fill behind the plate for the Welland Jackfish this season.

The 23-year-old Welland native is expected to get a good deal of action at catcher with the retirement of fan favourite Sam Cawker.

Cote went to Durham College for a year with Cawker but isn’t about to try and be clone of his buddy.

“I knew Sam at Durham in his last year and he’s a great guy,” Cote said. “I picked his brain a little bit for a few things. I know he’s a great player but I just try and do my best and do my job for the team and hopefully I’ll be as well received as him.”

Cote, who doubled in his first Intercounty Baseball League at bat in Welland’s opener Friday in London, is thrilled to be suiting up for his hometown team.

“It’s been really fun. It’s a different level of baseball than I’ve played before. I like how everybody cares in the organization,” he said.

Jackfish manager Brian Essery loves Cote’s skill set.

“He’s young and can really swing with the bat, and some who is in our backyard, it’s huge having someone like that,” Essery said. “We can envision him being here for the next 10 years. If he wants to try and move on to a higher league, then obviously he’s going to have to put the work in and work on his defence. His hitting is there. I’d like to see a little more power out of him, leave the yard a little more, but the hitting is there.”

Cote’s resume is certainly impressive. 

The Notre Dame graduate hit an astounding .567 with a .623 on-base percentage last year in Durham where he was named the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association player of the year and was also named to the OCAA first all-star team.

Before his year at Durham, where he earned a crane operating license diploma, Cote attended Erie Community College for two years where he studied science and then spent two years in pre-med studies at Bluefield State in West Virginia.

For all his prowess at the plate, Cote considers his work behind the plate the most crucial element of his game.

“In my mind, first and foremost, I try and put defence first,” Cote said. “I want the pitchers to be as comfortable as they can be. Obviously, I care about hitting but it’s a bonus on top of it. If I play well behind the dish and do my job there and everyone is happy and we win, that’s what I’m there for.”

Cote will get plenty of tutoring in that area from former IBL most valuable player Robert Mullen, who will also do some catching this season. 

“We have two really good catchers and I put Cole as a really good catcher,” Essery said. “They will split time and Cole’s going to stay in the lineup because he can hit when he’s not catching.”

Essery, a former professional pitcher, is well aware of the importance of defence from his catchers.

“It’s massive. That’s probably the side of the game Cole needs to work on, just learning the league,” Essery said. “When you’re facing pro hitters it’s a lot different than college. You need to learn when they’re looking for, look at stances, there’s a whole small bunch of intricacies he needs to work on and that’s other side of having a guy like Robert. He’s been around in AA and knows the game and know the position behind the plate. He’s going to learn from a guy like that.”

Cote isn’t sure what the future will hold, instead preferring to concentrate on the present. 

“I haven’t thought that far ahead. I just come to the ball park every day and want to play hard. I’m not opposed to being here for a long time, I just haven’t thought the far ahead.”