Royals reborn: Dominican imports, reigning MVP help power team
Published Tuesday, June 12, 2018 5:02PM EDT
How do you bring a baseball team back from the brink?
That’s the question the Guelph Royals faced over the winter, as a new ownership and management group looked to return the team to competitive status.
The team hadn’t even finished out the 2017 season. Owner Jim Rooney pulled the plug after a 1-15 start, citing declining attendance and sponsorship levels as well as issues fielding a competitive team.
Sporting goods business owner Shawn Fuller stepped in to bring the Royals back into the Intercounty Baseball League for 2018.
Several players were also lured away from other IBL teams, including reigning league MVP Sean Reilly.
To round out their pitching staff, the Royals looked much further afield, to the Dominican Republic. Four pitchers from the baseball-crazy country were recruited to spend the summer in Guelph. Also brought in from the Dominican Republic was shortstop Narciso Padilla, who helps his fellow newcomers adjust to life in southern Ontario by serving as their de facto translator.
“They’re adjusting really, really well,” Fuller said Monday, noting that the players have had to get used to a country with a very different lifestyle than their hometown of La Romana while not speaking either of Canada’s official languages.
After losing their first two games by lopsided margins, the Royals rallied to win three in a row at the end of May. June hasn’t started off so well. Although Guelph has been able to keep the games close, their 4-7 record put them in sixth place in the eight-team league.
Reilly has performed as advertised, scoring or driving in 22 of the team’s 51 runs to date while hitting .361 with three home runs. Padilla has made it into one game thus far, going 1 for 4 and stealing a base.
The Dominican pitchers are contributing too. Edwin Javier struck out 11 members of the Burlington Herd last week. Three days later, he followed that performance up by striking out nine Hamilton Cardinals in less than five innings of work. Yunior Yambatis, meanwhile, leads the group with a 2-1 record and 2.82 ERA.
The Royals were set to play host to Brantford Tuesday night, travel to Burlington on Thursday and return home to face London Saturday night.
With reporting by Randy Steinman