Jackfish ready to bring The Pond to life

Regular season and home opener set for this Thursday night

By Rod Mawhood

WELLAND - For the third time since moving to the Rose City, the Welland Jackfish are set to announce 'Play Ball' on another season. 

The Jackfish host the Brantford RedSox Thursday night in their 2022 home opener. First pitch flies at 7:30 pm. 

Field Manager Brian Essery is hoping this season's club mirrors that of 2019 - the Jackfish's first season in Welland. 

"We've switched it back to the way we really like playing," said Essery who returns as skipper of the club. "Meaning myself, Ricky Pilliteri (Pitching Coach), Pat Casey (Assistant Coach) and Jason McKay our GM. 

We decided to go back to a similar team that we had in 2019. Young, fast, exciting, really tough to play against, but we've added a few more bats in the middle of the line-up that we didn't quite have in 2019. So I feel the team that we have right now with all the speed, and the exciting players we have, mixed in with a couple of bats, we're going to be a tough out for sure."

A new addition to the staff of the Welland Jackfish this season is Director of Player Personnel Darryl Reid. 

Essery continues to be impressed by the level of talent in the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL).

"Just how good it gets every year," Essery explained. "We just see more and more players, not only coming out from Canada, we're getting the best players from Canada, but we're also getting some unreal talent from the rest of the world. Especially this season - there's a lot of ex big leaguers coming from the Dominican Republic - it's going to be an exciting year."

Jake Harford is scheduled to get the start in Welland's home opener Thursday night. The rest of the starting rotation, as of now, features former Cleveland Guardians (MLB) farmhand, and Welland native, Rob Nixon, the return of Matt Clingersmith and Alberta native Wyatt Hummel. 

As for other returnees from the 2021 campaign, they include Chris Boatto, Michael Bonaccorso, Casey Howard, Brett Lawson and Rich Corrente with the pitching staff. 

One of the greatest names in the IBL Mattingly Romanin will be back in Jackfish green this season, while Niagara Falls native Brandon Underhill and Mike Wagner are listed as infielders as well. 

Three names familiar to Welland fans will return to patrol the outfield - Zarley Cina, Niagara Falls native Erie Marriott and Brandon Nicholson, while fan favorite Matt Hilderbrandt is back as designated hitter. 

"We're going to put a lot of pressure on other teams, put pressure on their defense, their pitching. We're going to cause a lot of havoc on the bases and we want to lead the league in stolen bases by a wide margin," added Essery. 

The fun begins in mere hours at The Pond - Welland Stadium. 

The Welland Jackfish are a member of Canada’s best league, the Intercounty Baseball League. The over 100-year old summer league is one of the oldest baseball leagues in the world, with the league established in 1919, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. For more information, visit www.wellandjackfish.com or follow the Jackfish on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @wellandjackfish.