The 2018 SweatSox: Origin Story

Hi. My name is Shaun Keay, I’m a 20-year SweatSox vet, I drive a black truck, I’m more likely than not some kind of engineer, but most importantly I’m the webmaster for this, the award winning SweatSite.  It’s been a while since we last talked, and you’re probably looking for a reason that explains my yearlong absence.  For everyone who asked, no I wasn’t serving some kind of suspension for publishing the expose: “Corruption at the Highest Levels of National Capital Baseball League Management”, where both the NCBL Treasurer and Secretary should’ve been fired and arrested on the spot.  And no, I didn’t have a kid last spring and lost complete track of time. The truth is, I lost the password to the site and only recently recovered it.  Turns out it was: password.

To kick off the 2018 SweatSite Relaunch, I decided to tell the story of how the 2018 SweatSox roster came together, starting at the very beginning.  You’ll learn for the first time ever why the team was named SweatSox, the early trials and tribulations of a doomed franchise, the rise and fall of the modern-day Sox, and finally how, when, and why each player on the active roster joined the team.

Here we go.

WHO IS DON DORION?

On January 4th, 1977, a man named Donald Dorion woke up in the middle of the night perspiring profusely.  He was initially extremely disoriented, yelling at the top of his lungs for his mother, but then he remembered she passed away 8 years earlier, back in the summer of ’69 (those were not the best days of his life).  Thankfully, his big brother & roommate Douglas was awake at the time for his midnight king-sized cigarette and heard the commotion, so he ran into the room to see what was troubling his much hairier brother. Don had never in his life woken up in the middle of the night, but Doug was quick to notice that maybe it was because he fell asleep wearing his socks, something he’d also never done before. Don quickly removed these now sweaty socks and threw them on the floor, thanked his brother for checking-in on him, and went back to sleep.

The next morning Don woke up at his usual time, took a proud look at his morning wood, and then proceeded to get out of bed.  Unfortunately, he forgot about those sweaty socks lying on the floor because he slipped on them and fell backwards, slamming his head on the hardwood floor.  Doug, already awake for his morning king-sized cigarette, heard the noise and ran into the room; but he was too late – Don Dorion was dead.  RIP.

WHY WE’RE CALLED THE SWEATSOX?

4 years later, in 1981, Doug Dorion founded the SweatSox, an Ottawa Recreational Baseball League team named after the instrument of his brother’s death (although we technically were called D.L. in 1981, but that’s neither here nor there).  Much like Doug honoured his brother then, we honour our founder Doug Dorion to this day with our MVP Trophy, named in his honour and sculpted in his image after he went missing (and presumed dead) in the early 00’s.

FYI– There is still a sizable cash reward available to anyone with information leading to the whereabouts and safe return of Doug Dorion (on the right) to the SweatSox Hyjinx.

THE 1990’S SWEATSOX SPLIT

The SweatSox were exceptionally terrible in the 80’s, but no more so than in 1989 when we finished with a 2-25 record, just 1 loss short of the NCBL’s all-time single season record.  That next offseason, the good SweatSox players split off to form their own team, the Las Palmas Ball Hawks, to play in the “Competitive League” of the newly created National Capital Baseball League, while Doug and the shitty players kept the SweatSox name & history and joined the NCBL’s “Recreational League”.

FYI: The Las Palmas Ball Hawks played just 1 season before merging with the Chateau Lafayette Red Eyes in 1991 to create: Ralph’s Huddle Hawks.  That team would play just 1 season before rebranding to the Mexicali Rosa’s Black Sox in ’92, who then went on to win back to back Tier 1 division titles in ’94 and ’95, and then folded.  Meanwhile, the OG SweatSox spent the 90’s in either the ‘Recreational League’ or whatever the lowest Tier was at the time, but they never folded.

BUILDING THE 2018 ROSTER – PLAYER BY PLAYER

In 1998, my dad (Robert Downey Keay) and I (Shaun Robert Downey Jr Keay) were recruited by both my Uncle (Bruce Gilbert) and my Godfather (Doug Dorion) to play for the SweatSox.  I had never played baseball before in my life, I was a fastball kid, but in retrospect it made perfect sense that this team of losers was trying to recruit me. I ended up alright though.

I played with my old man for 4 seasons, and his last year (2002) just happened to be the rookie year for a young, up and coming crime scene investigator: Christopher Marc Lett, who had just moved to Ottawa to seek long term treatment for a serious back injury suffered at University.  Lett says the back feels much better nowadays, but every once in a while, when the temperature is just right, he can still feel that heavy footprint lodged in his spine.

The addition of Marc Lett wasn’t enough to turn the franchise around, so the SweatSox went full rebuild in 2003, cutting 6 full-time players to make room for the largest rookie class in team history.  Heading that group of free agents were a pair of future SweatSox Hall of Famers: Cory Bond and Craig Cornell.  Coincidently, both players were originally recruited by the Nepean Brewers, since they always got first dibbs on new players posting on the website back then. Both ultimately declined: even then Cornell was serious about playing in all 4 tiers so he knew he had to start at the bottom; and Bond was still bitter that the Brewers manager, who just happened to be the newly crowned NCBL Commissioner, rejected the bid of his West-End Warriors team as a new franchise in the league (the fact the Commissioner doesn’t actualy vote on those things is neither here nor there).  Cory and Craig single handedly led the SweatSox to their 1st winning season in 17 years.

The next of the active players to join the team was Kent Johnston, a former Pinecrest Little League (but thanks to Beelen not a West-End Warrior) teammate of future NCBL Secretary Bond.  Johnston had one of the worst starts imaginable, going hitless in his first 8 games (0/17), but picked it up on the backend going 17 for his last 30, helping lead the SweatSox to their first bit of team glory: a Tier 4 pennant.

Josh Ramage was the next 2018er to join the team, recruited in 2006 after pitching against the SweatSox during a midseason Pinecrest-SweatSox friendly.  It wasn’t that he was particularly dominating or anything, it was more we had a game in Winchester coming up and our entire pitching staff seemed to be experiencing flu-like symptoms.  Ramage threw 2 innings, giving up 10 runs, 7 walks, and 5 hits in his SweatSox debut, but avoided the loss and earned his first of many dirty no decisions.

John Groves made several email requests to join the SweatSox following the 2006 collapse of his old Mustangs team, but it wasn’t until 2008 when we finally offered him a pitching-only deal.  We did let him swing the bat a year or two later, probably when we only had 9 guys show up, and he’s stuck around ever since. Mark Bond, who was never quite clear about whether he wanted to be picked up for practice at the bus stop or cop shop, was also a part of the SweatSox Rookie Class of 2008.

When the SweatSox were prepping for the 2010 playoffs, we realized we were probably an arm short.  Our very own Travis “T-Murda aka T-Bag” Murdock mentioned he knew a guy who used to be decent but was probably well past his prime now.  Allegedly this guy could pitch, play shortstop, and drop a near-perfect bunt in any situation.  We tried him out, and he threw a complete game win in his first SweatSox start.  We signed him.  And he’s done nothing ever since.  Ross Hughes: SweatSox Rookie Class of 2010, NCBL Tier 2 Rookie of the Year in 2011.

To any Cornwall River Rats player or family member reading this, EARMUFFS!!

2013 was a special year on the road to building the 2018 SweatSox Roster.  Not because we won the Tier 2 Championship on a bottom-of-the-seventh walkoff grand slam, but because it was the year we signed Chris Lidstone, described by many as a slightly younger, better looking, not-as-nerdy Marc Lett.  The former Mr. Mindy’s SweatSox claim-to-fame was being subbed out of the aforementioned championship game in favour of Mark Stinson, who went on to draw a walk, that led to the single, that led to the other walk, that led to the grand slam.  Couldn’t have done it without you Liddy!

If the 2013 playoff run was indeed the absolute peak of the SweatSox franchise, anything afterwards would naturally be the plummet back to mediocrity.  Case in point was the 2014 season, when we finished last despite adding a pitching Wizard (35-5 career record) to our championship roster.  We also finished last in 2016, but that was in Tier 1 after we inexplicably won the Tier 2 pennant the year before.

Two big pieces from the 2-win 2016 SweatSox were Dillon Lowry (poached from the Cardinals roster) and Jason Klein (a free agent poached at an offseason Cardinals practice).  Lowry got the W in one of our wins and a Save in the other, while Klein brought a ton of pizza that year.

Our inability to play good baseball carried over through most of the 2017 season, where we were back playing in Tier 2 after accepting the automatic drop for finishing last the year before.  As mentioned earlier, I, Shaun Keay, even forgot how to update our website during this now “lost” year.  We did end up winning 3 of our final 6 games, totaling 5 wins for the entire season. We finished last though, by quite a bit.

Three DFL finishes over the previous four seasons took its toll on a few of our longtime mainstays.  Both Armando Navarro and Eric White walked away from the SweatSox this past offseason to pursue opportunities on more winning-focused, family-friendly teams.  Navarro accepted a one-year deal with the now Tier 2 Red Sox, a far more stable organization than the one he just played 12 seasons with.  White flirted with the Expos & Sharks for a few weeks, but ultimately a trade was made within the “SweatPanths with a Silent H” Alliance that sent him to the Panthers in exchange for the future rights to Jason “Fink” Oviedo.  Eric became the 3rd former SweatSox player to join the Panthers, following in the footsteps of Adrian Delorey and Phil Johnson, and the 4th overall to play for both teams (John Groves).

Most of the SweatSox would like to wish both players the best of luck in their future endeavours.

If losing those two wasn’t enough of a gut punch, over the winter we tried to get Shane White to change his mind on his 2017 mid-season retirement from baseball, but he seemed pretty set.  With three full time players from last season now gone, combined with our steady incline in age and even steadier decline in baseball skills, we knew we’d played our last season in Tier 2, something the Braves know all-too-well since they’ve already had like 5 last seasons in Tier 2. For the first time since 2005, we were now a Tier 3 team.

With a few spots to fill to complete the Tier 3 roster, the SweatSox decided not to post an ad, and instead looked to our Twitter Direct Messages.  We received an unsolicited inquiry about joining our team from Justin Pidhirny, a Brockville native who was born the same year I joined the SweatSox.  He claimed to be a catcher, who usually hits in the middle of the order, he likes beer, and could pay full fees immediately upon request.

Dillon Lowry was optimistic, suggesting that adding a 2nd catcher would ensure Marc Lett wouldn’t have to catch all 24 games this year.  Ross Hughes was a little more pessimistic, suggesting this was some sort of Nigerian Prince scam.  Mark Bond wasn’t having any of it, claiming:

We liked this baby Bunny’s spunk, so we ended up offering him a spot sight unseen, and minutes later he was all paid up.  Only time will tell whether he’s the next Marc Lett, or the next Vance Vance.

The rest of the SweatSox 2018 Rookie Class includes Harry Jee and Cypress Hernandez, 2017 teammates from Montreal’s BWISL Conference C Athletics.  We needed a little bit more money for Cory’s SweatXpense account, so we basically signed them sight unseen too.

So there it is, your 2018 SweatSox, 20+ years in the making.

The NCBL regular season is set to begin in a couple of days, you know because today is May 6th (not June 6th).  Our goal is to win 7 games this year, which would match our total from the last 2 seasons, combined.  We realize that’s probably a reach, but why not set the bar high.

Tier 4: We’ll see you in 2019.

COMING SOON

In honour of Don Dorion’s untimely sweaty sock death in ‘77, we’re going to be counting down the 77 Greatest SweatSox of All Time.  I, Shaun Keay, may even write a game recap or two too.  Stay tuned.