The U16 Montreal East Tigers baseball team took their final swing of the season under the beaming hot sun of a record-breaking heat wave last weekend at the Quebec Minor Baseball Regional Championships in Ottawa.
The roster’s weekend-long event, which began on Saturday, August 21, ended with one notable win and three losses.
“The greatest part of that weekend was seeing the improvement that the team made after how at the beginning of the year we were still learning fundamentals of baseball,” said the U16 Tigers head coach, Benjamin Vincente Bierd.
The team, which counts five Kahnawa’kehró:non, had a tough start to the championship that began with a match against the Mirabel Diamonds Blacks on Saturday. The team, which ended up winning the playoffs, mercy ruled the Tigers in a defeat of 11-0.
Bierd said the players swiftly swept aside the loss as they continued the day with a game against the Cornwall Orioles who took the victory with a 10-7 win.
“We still competed very well against them and it was a very close game,” said the coach.
On Sunday, the Tigers faced off vs. the Mascouche Onyx in a match that slowly took off before ending in a 12-11 loss.
Kahnawake’s Tehoweroron Diabo hit a triple, clearing the bases, and he ended up stealing home, as one of the highlights.
With one match remaining, players were determined to claw their way past their last adversaries.
“We came together and said: this is our last game together, so let’s go win it together – and we ended up winning by mercy rule,” said Bierd.
Indeed, the final game against the Verdun Blue Jays provincial champions ended with a 13-3 win.
“I was finally getting good solid hits the last day,” said 13-year- old Kyer. “We played good!”
Throughout the season, which began in May, the Tigers emerged victorious in three out of four matches against Verdun’s team.
“Out of the four games we played, two of them were really close – so we knew that Sunday (August 22) could still be very close,” explained Bierd. “I really didn’t expect us to win by that much.”
This improvement in performance is an accomplishment highlighted by Bierd, who noted that out of the 12 promising players recruited, many came from lower levels.
“Because we had to step back and go to the basics at the beginning of the year, I didn’t expect us to do as well as we did,” said the coach. “But the guys practiced hard and learned how to play really well.”
In addition to the squad members having varying years of experience playing the sport, was the significant age gap between some players.
As for Kyer, there was an unlikely advantage to being the youngest of the cubs.
“The guys are older and some were better than me, so it really helped me to get better and improve,” said the Kahnawa’kehró:non.
The growth demonstrated by Kyer and the rest of the Tigers didn’t go unnoticed to those sitting in the bleachers either.
“In the beginning of the year there was zero team chemistry with most of the players,” noted dedicated baseball fan and Kyer’s mother, Kristina Kaitlyn Glen. “It’s towards the end of the season that they finally were a team! Especially all the boys from town.”
Joining Kyer and Diabo were Rohahiio Stacey and Taha Mayo Nolan. Tatas Cross couldn’t make the regionals but played as a regular on the Tigers.
Along with being an avid-cheerer, Glen contributed to last weekend’s championships by helping the team persist through the abnormally hot weather.
“The heat wave was insane – I was giving kids cooling towels in between innings,” she said, adding that the boys gulped down 36 bottles of sports drink over the weekend.
With the championship over, the Tiger’s regular season was marked by the team earning third place in the Senior Elite Division after posting a record of 6-12.
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door