A winless opening weekend of the season left some in the Galion Graders camp with a bad case of the jitters.
The 0-4 start was definitely a bad omen for what the rest of the summer might bring for the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s newest franchise. But after being outscored 35-11 in those first four outings, the Graders were able to rebound, especially in the last three weeks of the season, and finish with a 16-22 mark.
Galion went 16-18 after that first week and was in playoff contention until the final weekend of the season. The Graders tied with the Cincinnati Steam for eighth place and were two wins shy of earning the final playoff spot. Galion went 6-4 in its final 10 games of the season and won three of the last four outings, including a 3-2 victory July 28 that crushed the Steam’s playoff dream.
Skipper likes what he saw
With the season at an end, Graders management and head coach Ray Neill will take up the task of reviewing the first year’s results, both on and off the field. Neill said, overall, he was happy with how the ballclub performed on the field.
“We got off to a shaky start, but I really appreciated the heart that this team showed,” he said. “We could’ve gotten down and just given up at times, but we kept fighting and did a heck of a job in the second half of the season.”
Neill said the offseason will include evaluating the current roster and seeking new talent.
“We’ll have some conversations, because there’s guys in our dugout we definitely want back,” he said. “And if (the current coaching staff) is asked to come back next year, we’re ready to go full bore into that recruiting process and, with no disrespect to anybody this year, get the talent level upgraded.”
Great fan support
Despite constant reshuffling of the schedule due to rain in June, Galion fans still turned out in consistently to support the team. The ballclub averaged about 195 fans per home game and enjoyed a handful of big numbers over the course of the summer.
The home opener on June 6 saw 526 fans in attendance. A crowd of 431 was on hand on July 3 and a season-best showing of 1,022 enjoyed a game and fireworks on July 5 at James D. Heddleson Field in Heise Park.
“The support of the community has been very good,” said Neill. “My history here in the past, coming with my high school team, was for district and regional baseball, and there’s always been good crowds for that. I’ve seen a lot baseball people from my past who have come out for games this summer. There’s some baseball love and history in the communities here and, hopefully, we can continue to grow into being a regional team.”
Neill said he hopes the team can build on this season’s success at the turnstyle by reaching out to youth in Galion and surrounding communities.
“One of the things we need to do to increase crowd participation is to connect more into the youth baseball here,” he said. “We need to have youth camps put in somewhere within the schedule so that we can have the connection with the kids. And not just in the Galion community, but in Ontario, Mansfield, different places. That’s something I think can make this really special. A connection with the youth programs in this area can be huge.”
Andrew Carter can be reached at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048. Connect with him on Twitter @ACGalionSports.