Fat Cats hope for Jays farm team

TIM BAINES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:16 PM ET

The sound of Lets Play Ball cant come soon enough for the Ottawa Fat Cats.

Theyve got more than 4,000 season tickets already out there, theyve got a two-year agreement in place with the City of Ottawa for the stadium and theyve got a new coaching staff in place.

But the big plan includes so much more.

Fat Cats GM Duncan MacDonald believes this is a vibrant community that can support professional baseball.

He wants professional baseball back in the city. And hes got the Toronto Blue Jays in mind.

Right now, theres not a lot of legwork MacDonald can do. He needs a long-term stadium agreement in place with the city. But it seems like a perfect match.

(The Fat Cats) are here until the end of 2012, said MacDonald. If we knew we had a 10- or 15- or, ideally, a 20-year lease, we would absolutely be in position to secure a pro franchise. But its a chicken and egg thing. Who goes first? Maybe the city could give us a conditional lease so we could at least knock on doors.

Would we be excited about the prospect of having an affiliation with the Blue Jays? Absolutely.

The season for the New York-Penn rookie league is mid-June to the end of August. That would be perfect. These are the future Jays.

For now, its the Fat Cats who occupy the stadium.

As an expansion franchise in the Intercounty Baseball League last season, the Fat Cats made strides. And its time to move forward with Tim Nelson as the new manager and Gatineaus Stephane Petronzio as the player development co-ordinator.

Ive been around baseball a long time, at all sorts of levels. Im excited about this, said Nelson. We can improve on last year. It would be nice to get baseball back to where it was in the heyday of the Lynx.

Nelson was selected in the seventh round of the 1998 MLB draft by Baltimore. He has coached with Canadas national junior team, in Italy and locally, with the Otawa Nepean Canadians.

The team does have some support within city council.

We dont want to ever let (the stadium land) become condos, said Coun. Bob Monette. We have condos in the city of Ottawa. We only have one baseball stadium.

The Fat Cats, who have COOL Beer Brewing Company on board as the official beer supplier for the team and stadium, already has 114 event days booked this year ... things like the Shriner Circus and National Capital Baseball League games, along with Fat Cats home dates 18 games, which begin with a May 21 opener against Kitchener.

To make it all work, to get fans to buy into the idea of a day at the ballpark, MacDonald says the Fat Cats know what they have to do.

Our predecessors at the ballpark were focused on baseball, he said. Were focusing on other things. Lets face it, the game can be tough to watch. You need to have entertainment. You need to have something for that fussy child in the third inning.

This isnt America. This is Hockey Country. You need entertainment and well provide it. If your team wins, its a bonus.


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