MLB pitchers and catchers report to spring training as well. Photo credit: IBL/CJH Photography
It wasn’t only Monday’s sunshine and unseasonably mild temperatures across Niagara that made a lot of us think of spring.
Major League Baseball (MLB) Pitchers and catchers also reported to their respective teams spring training locations across Florida and Arizona.
The Niagara Independent will have more on the Toronto Blue Jays and other MLB teams in the coming weeks, but for now it’s time to focus on Niagara’s entry in the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) – the Welland Jackfish who continue to make moves as their season is just around the corner.
Welland protected 25 players from last season’s squad, including 12 pitchers and 13 position players.
Since then, they’ve announced the signing of four new players.
First, the Jackfish reeled in designated hitter and first baseman Josh Williams.
The 6-foot-5, Toronto, Ontario native joins Welland following two seasons with the London Majors and time with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League.
“Josh brings us a big power bat into our lineup which is something we were missing at times last season,” said Jackfish Field Manager Brian Essery.
“Additionally, Josh’s character and leadership is something every successful team can’t have too much of.”
Next up was infielder McCoy Pearce.
Pearce, a Kamloops, BC native, joins the Fish following a highlight season with the Okotoks Dawgs of the Western Canadian Baseball League in 2022. In 41 games played, McCoy led the Dawgs in home runs (8) and RBI (45) and hit .346 with 16 doubles.
“McCoy brings the Jackfish more power at the plate,” Welland General Manager Jason McKay said.
“We are excited to welcome him to the Pond this season, we are sure our fans will come to love the power that he brings.”
The Okanagan College alumni hit .366 with 5 doubles, 4 triples, and 36 RBI in 2022 for the Coyotes, including hitting for the cycle in a 10-0 win over Edmonton on April 2, 2022.
Welland went back to the infield for its third signing of the off-season, inking former Canadian National Junior team member Steven Moretto.
Moretto, who is coming off five seasons of NCAA Division-One baseball with the Sacramento State Hornets, is the son of former BC Lions linebacker Rob Moretto.
A native of Coquitlam, B.C., Steven Moretto was one of B.C.’s highest-touted high school quarterbacks in 2016, putting up prolific numbers in both rushing and passing, before opting for baseball with Sacramento State.
The 6-foot, 215-pound right-handed hitter also served as a pitcher while representing Canada at the Little League World Series in 2012, an experience he shared with minor baseball teammate and current Jackfish infielder Matteo Porcellato.
“We’re thrilled to be adding another outstanding young athlete and person to our roster,” McKay explained.
“We know Steven can fit right in and help us right away.”
In five seasons of Western Athletic Conference baseball at Sacramento State, Moretto hit 30 home runs with 150 RBIs in 849 at-bats. He had 85 extra-base hits and compiled a .325 on-base percentage and .418 slugging percentage.
In 2021, he led the conference with 22 doubles and led the team with eight home runs.
Moretto has also played for the Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods League and the Falmouth Commodores of the highly regarded Cape Cod Baseball League.
A left-handed pitcher and IBL All-Star, Adam Jafine was Welland’s next signing.
Jafine returns to the IBL following an outstanding 2021 rookie season with the Brantford Red Sox where he posted a 3.71 ERA over 36.1 total innings pitched in seven regular-season appearances, striking out 39. He excelled for the Sox in the postseason, throwing a complete game four-hitter versus the Kitchener Panthers, and overall striking out 27 batters in 18 innings pitched with a 1.00 ERA.
Jafine, a Toronto native, was named an IBL Second Team All-Star for his efforts in 2021.
“Adam is a huge addition to our pitching staff,” said McKay. “This hard throwing lefty possesses everything you want from a starting pitcher, great command that can go deep into every game. We are more than excited to add this quality of an arm to our rotation.”
Adam previously played for Team Ontario (2011 National Champions) and is another former member of the Canadian Junior National Team, where he threw a no-hitter against the Ottawa Canadians 18U team on May 12, 2013.
Jafine played his college ball at Northern Kentucky University (NCAA Division I), and the University of Charleston (NCAA Division II).
The Welland Jackfish are set to open their regular season on Thursday May 18 at home against the Hamilton Cardinals. For more information visit wellandjackfish.com
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.