Reliever going for record with Red Sox

by Brantford Expositor

Originally appeared in Brantford Expositor March 15, 2013 by Brian Smiley

The Brantford Red Sox resume their attack on the Intercounty Baseball League's record book on May 4 in Barrie against the Baycats.

Obviously the main goal this season for the Red Sox is a sixth straight IBL championship, which would set a league record — but there is another record that is being chased.

Fans who were at the ballpark last July witnessed history when Kevin Hinton set the IBL career hits record. Brantford won't have to wait that far into this summer for the next major record to fall.

Coming into the 2013 IBL season, Red Sox relief ace Stefan Strecker is three games away from tying Doug Landreth's career record for appearances by a pitcher.

Considering how often Strecker is used, that record of 198 appearances should fall by the time the calendar turns to June.

“Once it gets a chance to soak in (I'll enjoy it) but I'm still playing, enjoying the moment,” Strecker said on Friday at the Brantford Minor Baseball Association's indoor training facility, where he was helping Red Sox catcher Wayne Forman run a March Break camp for kids aged seven to 13.

“It's a nice individual accomplishment but I'm looking at what I can do to help this team win a sixth straight title.

“This is just something that's happened out of a little bit of luck by staying healthy and by being fortunate to be able to play for the Red Sox.”

Strecker's ride with the Red Sox began back in 2001 or 2002 – he's not sure it's been so long – and it has included time as a reliever, starter and closer.

The Grade 8 teacher in Waterdown got his start with Brantford when former manager and general manager Alf Payne was at Brock University scouting a position player.

“Alf Payne was looking at Raul Borjas and I was throwing there and he said, 'Hey, would you like to come out?' and that's how I got my start,” recalled Strecker, now 33

Strecker has always been a fierce competitor, giving the team everything his right arm could provide. But moving into the closer's role a few years ago brought on some apprehension.

“I don't throw that hard,” he said. “I'm not a typical closer. It's different. You have to be able to go at the drop of a hat. I take things personally. I don't like letting the team down. If I blow a save, it eats at me. I don't like letting the guys down.

“I've enjoyed the role. I love the role. The fan support has been great and my teammates have always been awesome. They make the plays behind me, which makes it so much easier.

“It's a lot easier not trying to have to blow (pitches) by the other guys. I just pitch to contact and let the guys behind me make the plays.”

Strecker has always relied on movement and location rather than raw speed. Making the transition to closer has been much easier as he's watched talented flamethrowers like Mike Meyers, Chris Chavez, Gabe Ribas and others take care of business in the early innings.

“I've started to embrace the closing role,” he said. “It's kind of nice being the guy out there with the game on the line but I do whatever is asked. Whatever I can do to help this team win, that's all I want to do.”

With almost 200 appearances to put on the back of his bubble gum card, it's hard to believe the only arm issue he's had is some soreness in his elbow.

“You have to listen to your body and try to do whatever you can,” said Strecker. “I work out and do the running to try and stay as healthy as possible.

“Some of it is luck . . . and like I said, I don't throw very hard so it's not like my body will be taxed that hard.”

Strecker praised owner Paul Aucoin, general manager Mike Bonanno, manager Adam Clarke and those who came before them for their trust in him.

“I've been very fortunate to play with an excellent organization and a great group of guys,” he said.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Strecker will be playing for many more owners, executives or coaches within the Red Sox organization, as retirement is on the horizon.

“We're expecting our second child in May so I'm probably going to have to miss a bit more as we get adjusted to that,” said Strecker, who has an almost-two-year-old, Brooke, at home with wife, Jacqueline, who continues to be extremely supportive.

“This probably is it. I won't say it's a 100 per cent. My wife and I have talked and it's probably 75 to 85 per cent chance it's done after this season.”

Luckily for the campers this week at the BMBA's facility, they were able to take some of Strecker's experience and words of wisdom. Listen closely to Strecker, though, and it appears he may have enjoyed the sessions even more than the young players.

“It's been a lot of fun,” he said. “I really have to thank Wayne because he puts on such a great camp. You see the enjoyment and enthusiasm with the kids.

“It's nice to give back to this city because Brantford has been like a second home for us.

“You may have a couple of up and coming Red Sox players here so it's nice that we get to help out and maybe one day we'll see the fans cheering on these guys as they go for an Intercounty championship.”

If this is his swan song with the Red Sox, there's not anything Strecker would change.

“It's been an awesome experience for my entire career playing for one team and one team only,” he said. “This is the only team I'd ever want to play for based on the teammates . . . and the great friendships I've made.

“Thanks to Paul. He makes us want to come out and compete and win because he does such a remarkable job.”

Brantford will open the home portion of its 2013 IBL season on May 11 at Arnold Anderson Stadium in Cockshutt Park with a 2 p.m. game against the Hamilton Cardinals.

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