Landscaper goes yard twice to win home run derby
By Bernd Franke Regional Sports Editor
Never mind the numbers on the calendar. You know, the ones that have summer wrapping up a little more than three weeks from now.
Aug. 29, 2020, was spring training for Todd Gowan, and he sure made the most of his one-night audition for a roster spot on the Welland Jackfish of the Intercounty Baseball League.
With a one-day contract and an official at-bat in a 2021 regular-season game on the line, the owner of a landscape company went yard twice in a one-minute slugoff to win a home run derby that was held under the lights at Welland Stadium.
Gowan, 38, of Brantford edged Dennis Dei Banning, 23, of Toronto 14 points to 11 in a thrilling finish to a contest that featured five rounds in all and, for the first time year, fans at the stadium.
With COVID-19 cancelling the North Dufferin Baseball League season, Gowan, an outfielder/pitcher with the New Lowell, Ont., Knights has only played two games this year, both in the Burlington Vintage Baseball League.
Gowan has only played two games in the Burlington Vintage Baseball League. He admitted being a “little bit rusty” when he first stepped up the plate.
“I think everyone was. There’s not a whole lot going on this year in baseball in general, unfortunately,” he said.
“As the rounds went on, I got a little more comfortable.”
Gowan heard about the home run derby when his coach with New Lowell, which is west of Barrie, sent him a screenshot on social media.
“He told me to enter. I said, ‘Great, I have something fun to do this year,’” he said with a chuckle.
The drive from Brantford took about an hour. Time well spent, according to Gowan.
“Anything baseball is run, right? I thought it would be good to come out and see some guys, hit some balls.”
It was Gowan’s first visit to Welland but not to ballparks in Niagara. He has played senior men’s games at McMillan Park in Thorold as well at Oakes Park in Niagara Falls.
“I’ve known about it, I’ve heard about it, but I’ve never been here myself,” he said.
With about 30 years of experience playing baseball under his belt — “Ever since Grade 8 probably,” he said — Gowan doesn’t find the prospect of going to bat for the Jackfish in a home game next year daunting in the least.
“Baseball is baseball. You’ve got to hit the ball at any level,” he said with a laugh.