Titans 2021 Recap

by Jim Stewart

In Charles Dickens’s famous introduction to The Tale of Two Cities, his narrator encapsulates our baseball community’s year-long battle with the consequences of COVID19:   

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, 

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, 

it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, 

it was the spring of Hope, it was the winter of despair, 

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”  

Written in 1859, Dickens’s words echo prophetically in terms of the year it’s been for so many sports organizations, including the challenges overcome by the Titans Baseball Club amid a deadly pandemic that has claimed over 10,179 lives in Ontario and over 30,386 Canadian lives since its outbreak in March 2020.   According to Director of Player Development and Baseball Operations Lawrence Vera, 2021 was “definitely a year to remember with plenty of memories made on and off the field.”  

Here’s a recap of those memories from the “best of times and the worst of times” in a most challenging year:  

Twenty-Four U.S. College Commitments from the Class of 2021 and Class of 2022 

Despite the challenges of the Pandemic, the Titans Class of 2021 featured the organization’s first D1 placement in program history when 18U First Baseman Cooper Tomkinson committed to play for the NJCAA Dodge City Community College Conquistadors in Dodge City, Kansas. Another notable signing was our first NCAA placement when 17U Catcher Matthew Brandt committed to play for the Spalding University Golden Eagles in Louisville, Kentucky. Other Titans from the Class of 2021 who committed to a US College included Pitcher Faisal Al-Ajeel (Truman State University Bulldogs in Kirksville, Missouri), Pitcher Massimo Amantea (SUNY Adirondack CC Timberwolves in Queensbury, New York), Infielder Chryz Gelacio (Western Tech CC Cavaliers in La Crosse, Wisconsin, First Baseman Alex Kok (Northhampton CC Spartans in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), Outfielder Tyler Larguinho (Lincoln Trail College Statesmen in Robinson, Illinois), Pitcher David John “DJ” McMaster (West Virginia Institute of Technology Golden Bears in Beckley, West Virginia), Catcher Jake Merante (University of Rio Grande Red Storm in Rio Grande, Ohio), Pitcher Graham Sim (Sussex County CC Skylanders in Newton, New Jersey, and Outfielder Giuseppe Sisca (Russell Sage College Gators in Troy, New York).  

By Christmas of 2021, thirteen Titans had committed to US College programs including two D1 placements when 18U Catcher Giancarlo Bernardo and 18U First Baseman Kobe Guy committed to the NJCAA Rend Lake College Warriors in Ina, Illinois.  College Placement Coordinator Denis Bailey offered his insights into the volume of late Fall signings:  “Signing thirteen players before Christmas is a testament to the hard work each player puts in and the degree to each has bought into ‘The Titans Way’. We are taking the right steps as a new organization and the results are starting to show.”  Coach Bailey was pleased to announce  eleven more Titans from the Class of 2022 that committed to a US post-secondary destination prior to Christmas 2021:  Infielder/Pitcher Isaac Duva (Erie Community College Kats in Buffalo, New York), Pitcher Matt Gallifent and Outfielder Brandon Killeen (Hudson Valley CC Vikings in Troy, New York), Shortstop Kirk Gibson (University of Rio Grande Red Storm in Rio Grande, Ohio), Infielder Hunter Housley and Pitcher Hayden Irwin (Western Tech Community College Cavaliers), Pitcher Jaxen Lehr and Pitcher/Outfielder Haidyn Norman (Salem International University in Salem, West Virginia), Pitcher Graham Sim (Mott CC Bears in Flint, Michigan), and Pitcher/Outfielder Wyatt Slocum (Garrett College Lakers in McHenry, Maryland.)  

The Lockdowns—Virtual Strategies and our Adherence to Public Safety Guidelines

In the posted story “The Virtues and Value of Virtual Training”, our organization’s response to daunting Pandemic circumstances was delineated:  “The Titans Baseball Club continues to persevere through another Province-dictated lockdown by implementing the safe and effective medium of virtual training.  Titans Director of Baseball Operations Lawrence Vera commented on the many manifestations of virtual training the organization has chosen to use to serve its baseball community:   ‘For the last 6 weeks, our Titans have been going 5-6 days a week virtually with Coach Eddie, Coach Alex, and Doctor Cassidy Preston. While this was not the original plan, we were prepared to adapt as the world continues to change. We want to ensure our boys are focused and continuing to develop so that when the government allows us, we can hit the ground running back at True North Fieldhouse.’”  With the most recent Stage 2 Lockdown announced in January 2022 by Premier Doug Ford and the closure of The True North Fieldhouse for three weeks, it all seemed eerily similar as the winter of ‘22 set in.

First Season in the CPBL - Learning Opportunities, Challenges for our Players, and Post-Secondary Goals Achieved

In the story “Titans Join C.P.B.L.”, the historical announcement foreshadowed  the entry of our four clubs into the league during the 2022 season:   “The Canadian Premier Baseball League welcomed the Titans Baseball Club as its newest expansion franchise on Thursday.  Ontario’s top Elite loop embarked on an unprecedented expansion, boosting its teams from six to eleven for the upcoming season. Despite being in only its first year of operation, the Titans were selected to join the province’s most prestigious league—a feather in the cap of a fledgling high performance baseball organization. CPBL President Chris Robinson welcomed the five new franchises and praised the original six franchises in his press release:  ‘We have a strong belief in the product within the league that the original franchises have developed, and by adding five more exciting and reputable franchises, we look to make the league that much more competitive.’ Director of Player Development and Baseball Operations Lawrence Vera was pleased by the Titans’ promotion to the CPBL.  He acknowledged the quality of the league and its implications for Titans players:  ‘Having the Titans in the CPBL gives our players the opportunity to play against the best competition in the province.’  Vera added that ‘Our players have their dreams set on attending post-secondary schools in the USA and Canada. Playing in the CPBL is only going to help them achieve these goals.’ ’’ Those goals were most certainly met as 17 Titans committed to US and Canadian post-secondary destinations after their inaugural Fall Ball CPBL experiences.  By Christmas of 2021, 13 Titans from the Class of 2022 had committed to US Colleges. These 2021 placements came to fruition for 30 Titan student-athletes based on their play in the best youth baseball loop in the province during the organization’s first full season in the CPBL.

Titans Charity Initiatives – Giving Back to the Community via the Movember Fundraiser and the Southlake Hospital Foundation Run

In the posted story “Titans Charity Campaign Raises $2,849 for Movember Foundation”, the organization celebrated the result of the Club’s Second Annual Movember Foundation campaign.  $2,849 was raised for cancer research, bettering the community’s $2,500 target for Fall 2021 by $349 as November drew to a close.  Director of Baseball Operations and Player Development Lawrence Vera declared the campaign “an important achievement by the Titans” and noted that “the organization has raised $5,182 over the last two years for an important charitable foundation.” 

In another posted story “Titans Set $2K Goal for Annual Southlake RHC 5K Charity Run”, the Baseball Club turned its attention to its connection to community again, this time the Southlake Regional Health Centre:   “On Monday, Director of Baseball Operations Lawrence Vera committed the Titans to participate in the hospital’s Annual 5K Charity Walk or Run:  ‘From April 12-May 9, 2021, our team is participating in the Nature’s Emporium Run for Southlake, a four-week virtual challenge to raise vital funds for patient care.’ Coach Vera also set the organization’s 2021 fundraising goal at $2,000.  In 2020, the Titans raised $1,065 for the local hospital’s needs.”  

A CPBL 14U Team and 3 New Head Coaches Added to the Organization

In 2021, the Titans Baseball Club installed John Bethune as its 14U Head Coach, entrusting the development of the organization’s youngest players to the former Seneca Sting standout student-athlete and veteran Titans coach. In addition to moving Coach Bethune from the 15U to the 14U program, Titans management also installed three new Head Coaches after the inaugural CPBL season:  Nick Dimpfel (15U), Eddie McKiernan (16U), and Denis Bailey (18U).  All three Head Coaches bring with them years of US College playing experience and myriad coaching experiences in the US and Canada. According to Coach Bailey, this was a series of timely moves by the organization:  “Bringing in veteran coaches is key to our success and we have done a great job at building a quality coaching staff both on and off the field.”

US College Trip in October Yields College Placements in December

As posted in “Charter Flight Transports Titans to their Five-State College Trip”, the Titans Baseball Club launched its first US College Trip.  The logistics were daunting: “Land crossing restrictions related to the pandemic have wreaked havoc on sports programs over the last 18 months. But, with some creative thinking, the Titans have found a way to launch their first annual US College Trip.  Thirty intrepid Titans players and four veteran Titans coaches will depart on a charter flight from Pearson Airport on October 6, land in Detroit where they will board their highway coach, and commence a barnstorming exhibition game tour of US Colleges in five American states.  The 2605 km bus odyssey will take the Titans from Detroit to Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York; Montgomery College in Germantown, Maryland; Garrett College in McHenry, Maryland; Glenville State College in Glenville, West Virginia; West Virginia Tech in Beckley, West Virginia; University of Rio Grande in Rio Grande, Ohio; Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio; and Siena Heights College in Adrian, Michigan. The Titans will play 6 nine-inning games versus College competition, 1 twelve-inning game versus WV Tech, and participate in 2 Scout Day sessions where our players will be showcased in front of US College coaches at Glenville State College.  Titans will participate in Batting Practice, Bullpens, Outfielders will throw from RF, Infielders will throw from 3B, Catcher Pop Times will be recorded, and 60’s will be run to determine the fleet of foot during 2 three-hour sessions at Glenville SC.  The 9-day, 8-night excursion will also feature 2-hour daily study halls so Titans student-athletes can keep up with their homework and assignments that were collected from their teachers prior to departure.”  The excursion was a success in many ways but one of the most valid ways of measuring the College Trip’s value is US placements.  As we noted in Coach Denis Bailey’s coaching biography,  “ Coach Bailey’s organization of the Fall College Trip in October 2021 spurred a number of Titans College commitments, notably to excursion stops at the University of Rio Grande (Ohio), Genessee Community College (New York), Salem International University (West Virginia), and Garrett College (Maryland).”  

85% Median: Our Student-Athletes Thrived in the Classroom in Fall 2021

In the posted story “Report Card Collection Yields 85% Median Grade for Titans’ Student-Athletes”, the Titans Baseball Club was particularly pleased that 73.8% of our Players’ Report Card Marks were 80% or Above.  As noted in the lead:  “Baseball statistics are an important gauge of player performance at any level.  Pop times for catchers, exit velocity for hitters, and spin rates for pitchers are collected regularly as valuable, objective recruitment data. For high performance sports organizations like The Titans Baseball Club, academic statistics are also important enough to collect and present to prospective colleges and universities. Based on 302 marks collected during our 86 player-parent meetings, the middle (or median mark) earned by Titans student-athletes was an outstanding 85%.  The 30-45 minute meetings were conducted in November and December 2021 during the strength and conditioning phase of the Titans’ off-season program. 

Titans Honor Thirteen Top-Flight Players at 2021 Awards Reception

As posted on our website, “The Titans’ 2021 Awards were distributed at Cardinal West Wing in King Township as a crescendo to the Baseball Club’s second annual golf tournament.  Thirteen Titans players were honored in an outdoor ceremony in brilliant sunshine and balmy October conditions.  Among the honorees was 17U Titan Matt Brandt who earned the prestigious “Charlie Hustle” Award by embodying its criteria:  excellence on the field; gritty, self-starter; extra independent effort; and consistently excellent effort.  Brandt is currently attending Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky where he is catching for the NCAA Golden Eagles.  The freshman student-athlete visited the True North Fieldhouse this week while on his Fall Break and marveled at the baseball talent assembled at his Midwest school:  “None of our starters that I am catching throw under ninety and we have a freshman starter who’s 5’8”, 135 pounds who throws 93!” Brandt’s enthusiasm for his role with the Golden Eagles was abundantly clear in his conversations with Titans players and coaches during his visits. 

Brennan Hedrick was a two-award winner. The 16U Titan capped off a very successful year by winning the Titans Student Performance Award with his stellar classroom work and a 97% overall average at Keswick High School; he also earned the Most Improved Player of his 16U team. Hedrick was the Titan student-athlete who best satisfied the award’s four-fold criteria:  honor roll status; commitment to practice; excellence on the field and in academics; and exemplary effort. The third organization-wide award went to 16U Titan 

J.T. Fenn who won the “Team Over Me” Leadership Award for modelling this set of performance criteria: “excellence on the field”, “a season of selflessness”, “sacrifices made for the team”, and demonstrating that he was a “leader of men on and off the field.” Fenn’s blend of grit and skills on the diamond made him an easy choice for the awards panel. The veteran infielder personified the excellence, selflessness, sacrifice, and leadership that are at the heart of this major award. The Team Award winners are listed below: 


















































2nd Annual Golf Tournament Draws Over 100 Participants at Cardinal West Wing; Titans Teeing Off on Saturday, October 1, 2022  for 3rd Annual Titans Tourney at Clublink’s National Pines GC  

Following our second community-building golf tournament held at Cardinal West in October 2021, The Titans Baseball Club is pleased to announce that its Third Annual Golf Tournament returns to National Pines GC in Innisfil on Saturday, October 1, 2022. Tentatively, the Shotgun Team Scramble commences at 2PM and Registration will be at 1 PM. Special thank you to Stephanie Fenn (Director of Operations at NPGC), Chris Favreau (Corporate Events Coordinator), and Alishia Hamson (Food and Beverage Manager) for the invitation to their terrific championship-calibre course. We appreciate this partnership with National Pines and Clublink. Sponsorship Signage is Available Per Hole for $250.  Please contact Jim Stewart at 905-717-0374 or jm_stewart@rogers.com if you have any questions about sponsoring our tournament.  More information will be forthcoming in terms of foursome signups, lunch choices, and final details; it will be circulated via a promotional flyer with due dates and other logistics.  Please circle October 1, 2022 on your calendars.  

Closing Thoughts on 2021

All in all, in the most difficult times, the Titans Baseball Club pulled together and rowed in the same direction to improve the development of its student-athletes.  The Titans Baseball Club sends a big thank you to our parents, players, coaches, and front office staff for their courage and commitment so we could celebrate these achievements during “the best of times and the worst of times” of 2021. Dickens would be pleased with our fortitude in the face of such daunting circumstances which have re-presented themselves at the start of 2022.