The men's baseball is the most recent addition to the Ryerson Rams. PHOTO: TAGWA MOYO

Column: Expansion teams always struggle

In Sports /

By Harlan Nemerofsky

Ryerson’s baseball team has struggled mightily in its first year competing in the Ontario University Athletics.

With a 2-15 record after last Saturday’s double-header, the Rams own the worst record in the nine-team OUA and own the worst pitching earned run average at over eight. Worse, the Rams are 0-8 on the road and have allowed seven or more runs on 14 of 17 occasions.

But it’s all okay. As far as new teams go, the Rams are hardly the exception but rather the norm.

“New teams will struggle in any sport because many of the players are new to the calibre of play and the team doesn’t have the opportunity to build chemistry that more established programs would,” said clubs co-ordinator Nick Asquini, the man who approved of the Rams to join the OUA last winter.

Ryerson’s women’s hockey team won just once in 26 when they joined the OUA during the 2011- 2012 season, finishing last in an 11-team league.

Their head coach, Lisa Hailey, says expansion teams can be hard to manage.

“It depends on if you want to call them struggles or not. I think a common word is growing pains,” said Hailey, now an assistant for Team Canada’s women’s Olympic team.

“Early focus of a program should not be on whether you’re winning or losing games, it just needs to be on the development of the program.  I don’t think the baseball team should be disappointed if they’re 2-11, the focus needs to be making sure their getting better every day and that they have a broad vision, not a narrow one- not just game results.”

Other teams like University of Ottawa Institute Technology men’s soccer team went 1-13-2 in their 2010 debut while the Queen’s Gaels baseball team, the newest team before the Rams joined this year, went 1-20 also in 2010.

This year, the Carleton Ravens football team is already 0-6 with plus scoring differential of -217: an average game loss of six touchdowns worth.

Ryerson is the newest team in the OUA in the past since those Gaels arrived three years ago. As by such, other teams have had much more time than Ryerson to train, bond and experience the level of competition at the OUA level.

“The OUA level of competition is higher than it is in an exhibition game or when you’re trying out against other people who aren’t as talented,” said Rams head coach Ben Rich. “You see players in practice or in an exhibition game and they might perform a certain way but when they’re in a game environment it’s a different story.”

Since York disbanded from the baseball in 2002, the same seven teams have experience OUA play- they’ve had an extra decade on Ryerson to put on competitive team together.

They’ve had 10 more years to scout and recruit, train and develop, and build as a team, so the Rams’ early program woes don’t come as a surprise to UOIT men’s soccer head coach.

“When the same players have played three of four years together then you are playing on a higher level because they know each other better, they can read each other and they know what it takes to compete in the OUA, both mentally and physically,” said Vaso Vujanovic, who incurred that devastating year in 2010.

Even though Rams head coach Ben Rich does attest to these growing pains, he wants to see his players playing better overall baseball, no matter what the score indicates.

“Regardless of the win loss column, I think we would like to be playing better baseball,” said Rich, who used to winning as a former champion with the Western Mustangs.

“The talent is there, the ability is there but during a handful of games, we’ve jumped out to a lead and let it slip away.”

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