>Q: It has been tough going for the Fat Cats the first 3 seasons. What has held the team back?
A: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that our owner has been a little tight with the money since the league inception. With no free agent signings, contract renewals, and dealing off our veteran players, it isn’t a recipe for immediate success. That being said, we have been lucky to pick up some quality players through the rule 5 draft, as well as some International free agents and high round draft picks to help stock our minor leagues.
Q: What changes have allowed management to be more optimistic this year?
A: For one, the purse strings have been opened a bit. We picked up one of Pawtucket’s pitchers, Norman Fletcher to help our young rotation out. With young stars Alex Casilla, Vinny Berkman and our former number 1 pick Ivan Arias rounding out the rotation, we have reason to be optimistic. Even our surprise signing of catcher Kelvim Black from the world champion Grizzlies team is there to help stabilize these young guns. Is there another catcher in our league with a better ability to call pitches than Kelvim? Also, with our young hitters getting their call-up, we wanted some veteran leadership in our outfield, and 3 time All-Star and Silver Slugger centerfielder Jose Oliva was looking for a new home.
A: Vinny has been great. Always ready to take the ball, he has shown some leadership to our pitching staff even though he is still only 26 years old. …and what can I say about Rios! He has paid his dues in our minor leagues succeeding in every level. It isn’t just Rios though. He has come up the minors with Midre Castillo and Tito Erickson. The 3 of them have been real sparks to our team and look to keep us competitive for years to come. Also, what a surprise the Rule 5 draft was this year. To add a player like Joe Bradley into our lineup has been a godsend. These guys are going to make for an exciting franchise!
Q: What are your team goals this season? Your team is the only team in your division to have a losing season in the history of the league? Can you go from a 100 loss team to a playoff team?
A: We don’t need to be reminded about our first seasons, but it wasn’t a surprise either. Part of the reasoning for our drive to build up our minors was due to the nature of our division. Right off the bat, we had a World Series winner in our division and since then our division has continually been competitive. So, we went with the development/prospect path and now we will start to feast from our harvest. In retrospect, with such a strong division, we believe it was easily the right call. Can we make the playoffs this season? We are certainly going to try to be in the mix for a wild card spot at least.
Q: The fans have complained about the low payroll and lack of wins. How do you respond to them?
A: Low payroll equals more flexibility and more of an opportunity to stock our minor leagues in these building years. A knowledgeable Ottawa fan, as most are, would not just look at our past stats, but look to our future. Look through our minors and you will see names like Ezdra Sanchez, Max Aguilar, Dennis Wang, Chico Villano and Emil Torres just to name a few. Plus, we have the 2nd overall pick in this years draft. What is not to be excited about? I believe those that have complained have had reason to, but take a look now. Come back to Lynx Stadium where you will see an exciting product and the start of the new Fat Cats era. We currently have the youngest major league team with many players still approaching their prime years. If you are thinking I am going to start flipping tables and ending these interviews early, you are wrong. This is going to be a team to watch. Buy your jersey of your favourite player…these guys will be around for awhile.
Q: Who are your rivals?
A: We have been in the rear view mirror for too long to get any real rivals, but for an Ottawa native, it is always nice to beat a Toronto team…regardless of the sport. The players understand that, and are always ready to put on a show against the Tiger Tanks. I think as the Chicago Choking Goats and Minnesota L’étoile du Nord see what a threat we are becoming in our division, some new rivalries will be built.