In this series, we pay attention to the transactions in the highest Belgian baseball league, Baseball Gold (BBG). We continue with the team that has earned a promotion from the Eerste Klasse: The Merchtem Cats.
After being demoted at the end of the 2014 season, in which the team managed to win only four games, the Merchtem Cats are back at the highest level in Belgian baseball. With 200 members, the club is the biggest baseball and softball club in Belgium but one.
For the 2020 season, the core of the team that earned the promotion has been kept together. Some young players from the club’s own youth teams will be added to the roster. The youth players that are added to the roster are: Pieter Conickx (P), Gwendal Huijghe (C), Kyran Meganck (P, IF), Jasper Verleyen (OF), and Jens Wambacq (P, IF). The intention is to let them get experience by entering games as a substitute.
The main acquisition is an import. Joey Cooper from Bakersfield California will reinforce the ranks of the Cats.
In 2018 and 2019, the 24-year old was a redshirt junior and senior with the Cal State Northridge Matadors. The name redshirt means (from Wikipedia) a delay or suspension of an athlete’s participation to lengthen their period of eligibility. Typically, a student’s athletic eligibility in a given sport is four seasons, aligning with the four years of academic classes typically required to earn a bachelor’s degree at an American college or university. However, in a redshirt year, student-athletes may attend classes at the college or university, practice with an athletic team, and “suit up” (wear a team uniform) for play – but they may compete in only a limited number of games. Using this mechanism, a student-athlete has at most five academic years to use the four years of eligibility, thus becoming what is termed a fifth-year senior.
In the limited number of games, Joey played for the Matadors he served as an outfielder, mainly in right field. In two years at Cal State Northridge, he combined for a .223 batting average. But appearances are deceptive as his on-base percentage was .369.
After Phoenix Louvain La Neuve, which is located Southeast of Brussels, was demoted, the BBG league remains a national competition with the promotion of the Cats. The five remaining clubs are situated in the Antwerp area. Merchtem is situated in the Province of Flemish Brabant about 5-10 kilometers Northwest from the Belgian capital of Brussels.
What are the goals for the 2020 season? The club is realistic as it doesn’t have the ambition to be a contender. The club wants the young team to develop, learn a lot and have a lot of fun.
A big thank you goes out to the Merchtem Cats for providing the much-needed information to write this blog post.
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