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Stratford – Doug Hines has spent many a day watching the Charlottetown Gaudet’s Auto Body Islanders from behind the left-field fence.
He will have a much different view this season.
The 59-year-old Charlottetown resident is the new coach of the club that is making its return to the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League (NBSBL) after a one-year absence.
“I’m nervous and excited at the same time,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait until opening day.”
The Islanders begin the season Saturday, May 18, in Saint John, N.B., with a doubleheader against the Alpines. The home opener is set for Victoria Day (Monday, May 20) at 2 p.m. at Memorial Field against the Moncton Fisher Cats. The Chatham Ironmen, the defending champs, and the Fredericton Royals round out the five-team circuit.
Hines’ involvement with the senior team can be traced back to last summer’s Canadian National Oldtimers Baseball Federation championship held on the Island.
Hines was playing with an Island squad, competing in the 52 and older division. Some of the players, including Dave MacIsaac, Ronnie Hennessey and Terry (Bubba) MacDonald, were having a couple of cold beverages after a game when the senior Islanders came up in the discussion. MacIsaac, the head coach of Prince Edward Island’s junior squad, said the team was looking to return in 2019 but needed a coach.
“My name got kind of thrown into the hat,” Hines explained. “I said to Dave, ‘I’d love to do something like that, providing the commitment was there from the players’.”
A management team, including Myles Grady, Kevin McKenna and Peter McDonald, was forged, and with a core of committed players and Hines on board as the coach, the team was approved to rejoin the NBSBL.
“They’re very well-managed,” Hines said. “Peter McDonald, Myles and Kevin have done yeoman’s work behind the scene. This is a credit to them that this is going.”
Hines, who is originally from Quebec but has lived on the Island for nearly 55 years, played minor baseball until his mid-teens and played fastball in the 1970s and 1980s. He coached bantam baseball with David (Hippie) MacDougall and had a decade run with the Charlottetown Fawcetts senior men’s fastball team that competed in national championships nearly each season.
It was from the fastball diamond that Jesse MacIntyre got to know Hines.
“Dougie has been around the game for a long time, whether it’s baseball or fastpitch,” said MacIntyre, a versatile player who was with the Islanders in 2017. “He knows the game and he knows the boys, so it’s good to have him.”
Hines was making the rounds at Thursday’s practice at the Norton Diamond Soccer Complex in Stratford. He hit some ground balls to infielders and spoke to players one-on-one during the session as he gets used to them and they learn more about their new skipper.
“Dougie . . . has our full trust,” said Grant Grady, another versatile player who has experience on both fastball and baseball diamonds and has made it known that he and his new bench boss both cheer for the Montreal Canadiens.
“He’s definitely looking like a great coach for us and a great fit for our squad.”
Hines’ coaching staff will have a familiar look to it.
Ian (Tex) MacDonald will be an assistant coach and handle third-base coaching responsibilities while Joe Puiia is back to manage the pitching staff. Hines is looking at adding another assistant coach to handle the first-base coaching responsibilities.
Hines envisions the team being strong fundamentally and structured around pitching and defence – hallmarks of its 2015 league championship squad.
“I think with our pitching staff, we’ll be in every game,” he said. “I don't try to make it too complicated. Pitching, defence and some timely hitting – that’s how the game is played.”
Offensively, he anticipates having speed at the top and bottom of the order with some bangers in the middle.
“We’re going to use our speed. We have a lot of young guys that can really run, so I want to be a team that puts the pressure on other teams.”
Hines credited MacIsaac, Chris McGregor and Scott MacDonald, the coaching staff of the junior squad, for instilling the youngsters with great fundamentals as they make the jump to the senior ranks.
Getting to know new Charlottetown Gaudet’s Auto Body Islanders head coach Doug Hines.
Hometown – Charlottetown
Age – 59
Profession – An outreach worker with Health P.E.I.
On the shift – Don’t expect drastic players shifting all over the diamond like what is being employed in the majors. Hines said he envisions players cheating a few steps here or there, as needed, but not what people see on TV being replicated at Memorial Field. “I’m not a chart guy or an analytics person,” he said. “I coach on instincts and what I see.”
Hines on his new team: “It’s a welcoming atmosphere . . . They all want to play and they’re excited.”