End Of Career For IBL Star Reilly?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Time More Important Than Reilly’s Records
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

Before the coronavirus pandemic turned the world upside down in late winter, Guelph Royals DH Sean Reilly was more excited about the upcoming Intercounty Baseball League season than he had ever been during his entire 23-year career.

Then, like the rest of the sports world, the IBL came to a crashing halt when, in March, it put the 2020 season on hold, finally cancelling the campaign on July 9.

Reilly, 43, the IBL’s biggest star and all-time leader in hits, home runs and RBIs, said this season was to be his last – at least, as a full-time player. When you’re as skilled at baseball as he is, and still in great physical condition, it’s hard to let go.

Sean Reilly. Photo: Guelph Royals/Gar Fitzgerald.

But the Hamiltonian turned Guelph resident and firefighter said today there are higher priorities in his life – first and foremost family: wife, Lauren; son, Aiden, 8, who plays both rep baseball and hockey; and daughter, Ryenn, 4.

He is soon to catch on full-time with a Guelph or Toronto fire station, and currently serves with the Puslinch Fire and Rescue Service after having graduated from Texas A&M University Fire Engineering Program in 2015 – his first IBL triple crown year. In 2017, he also led the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs.

This season, Reilly eyed the 1,000 hits mark – his career total stands at 965, first all-time. He’s also the all-time leader in home runs (201) and RBIs (774). The Royals slugger had planned to either hang ‘em up for good after the 2020 season, or at least play on a part-time basis starting in 2021. But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed those plans, Reilly said.

“I checked out mentally from baseball months ago,” Reilly admitted. “COVID-19 has changed everything for everyone.

“Right now, I am 50-50 in terms of playing at all in 2021,” Reilly said, “but then again, who knows how COVID-19 is going to affect the 2021 IBL season? This was almost definitely going to be my last year playing. I’m close to 1,000 hits and wanted to get that record out of the way this year.”

Home Run Derby

Yesterday, the Royals announced they will stage a home run derby in August at David E. Hastings Stadium. An eight-player single elimination tournament with five-minute rounds and 30-second time out allowed will be videotaped for IBL fans.

Reilly will participate, with other hitters to be announced.

“(Royals owner and general manager Shawn Fuller and I) discussed it because we want to do something for the fans,” Reilly explained. “He asked me about a home run contest that can be staged while practicing physical distancing. All we need is pitchers, hitters, a few guys shagging balls. We might mic up some of the guys, and have an announcer or two, then edit it for viewing at home.”

Reilly said participants will include Toronto Maple Leafs infielder Johnathan Solazzo, and perhaps the likes of Royals infielder Justin Interisano and outfielders Josh Garton and Jeff MacLeod.

“I’m reaching out to others, but it all depends on their availability, and whether or not they want to do it,” Reilly explained. “Even when I was approached, I was hesitant. I haven’t been to a gym in months. The last thing I want to do is put my back out. And with five-minute rounds, I will be winded.”

Reilly’s Record Career

Still, last season at age 42, Reilly produced big-time for Guelph. He was fourth in hitting with a .355 BA, and in 32 games collected 44 hits, 12 HR and 28 RBIs.

During his Triple Crown season in 2015 – the league’s first since St. Thomas Elgins’ Phil Turner in 1981 – he hit .444, 17 HR, 48 RBIs. He finished one hit short of winning the Triple Crown in 2014. In 2017, he hit .448, 19 HR, 56 RBIs.

Sean Reilly, then with Kitchener Panthers, alongside IBL Commissioner John Kastner. Photo: IBL.

“But I think 2013 was my best season ever in the IBL,” said Reilly, keenly in tune with his stats. He doesn’t brag – rather, he lets his bat do the talking. But he is fiercely proud of his accomplishments. In 2013, the slugger – starting with the Toronto Maple Leafs (23 games) before moving to the Royals (11 games) – hit .404 with 55 hits in 136 AB, 21 HR (a league record) and 60 RBIs (second all-time).

Reilly joined the 1997 Hamilton Cardinals as a much-heralded IBL rookie. I was operating the league media relations office, and received a call from then team owner Brian Hanson, who spoke highly of his new recruit.

“I’ve got this new kid, Sean Reilly, who’s going to be the talk of the league,” Hanson told me prior to the ’97 season.

Boy, was he right.

Yet that rookie campaign was not a memorable one. Fresh from two years of rookie ball as a pitcher with the Minnesota Twins, Reilly went 1-7 with a 6.52 ERA, collected 45 strikeouts but walked 29 batters in 48.1 innings. At the plate, he hit. 226 with no home runs in 71 at-bats. He was, though, player of the week on June 9 of that season, but minus Hanson’s accolades he flew under the radar.

Reilly, today a 6’3”, 230-pound hitting machine (he dedicated himself to fitness and proper eating habits about 15 years ago) was a skinny, athletic ballplayer selected by Minnesota in the 29th round (800th overall) of the 1995 entry draft. Reilly was drafted out of Aldershot Secondary School in Burlington.

“In ’97, I had just come back from the Twins organization,” said Reilly. “Jim Ridley (a former scout, player and national team coach then with Hamilton) contacted me, and asked if I wanted to come out. I remember we were practicing beside the old Lakeport Brewery. I said to myself, what the heck did I get myself into? I signed for all the hotdogs I could eat and a pitcher of beer. But I had some great times there – made some lifetime buddies.”

Sean Reilly with son Aiden. Photo: Facebook.

As a Little Leaguer, Reilly could pitch and hit, but stepping up into pro ball took the bat out of his hands. He said, “I always had the itch to hit. So when I came back to Hamilton, and the team was struggling just to put nine guys on the field, I got to play a position and get the hang of hitting again. I got back into the groove, and knew I wanted to pursue hitting.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Reilly’s IBL journey has seen him play for Hamilton, Guelph, Barrie Baycats in 2011, the Royals again in 2012 before the club dealt him to the Leafs that season after he requested a trade, and to Kitchener in 2014. He signed with Guelph again in 2018.

“I came really close to retiring in 2007,” Reilly said. “I hadn’t had a summer off in a very long time. But I didn’t retire, and since then I’ve trained really hard, got myself in great shape. And I have great support from the team and the fans. So it makes it fun to play.”

Reilly’s best friend and former teammate, former Panthers and Royals bench boss Dave teBoekhorst, said in addition to unbelievable hand-eye coordination, Reilly possesses a work ethic second to none.

“He’s very in tune with his body. He’s the best damn hitter I’ve ever seen, and he’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen. On top of that, he’s probably everybody’s favourite guy in the dressing room. He keeps everyone relaxed, especially when things get animated. He calms the ship,” said teBoekhorst.

Like the rest of the IBL, Reilly waits for the world to return to normal. Until then, he’s enjoying more family time, can’t wait to get back to the gym and looks forward to his next career move as a firefighter.

On or off the diamond, he’s ready to answer the call.

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Jeffrey Reed has covered the Intercounty Baseball League as a print and broadcast reporter since 1980. In 1994, he founded the IBL’s media relations office and operated it until joining the London Majors Baseball Club as a pitcher and third base coach in 2000. An award-winning writer and three-time author, Reed is publisher and editor of LondonOntarioSports.com – London’s Trusted Source for Sports News & Information. Reach him at jeff@londonontariosports.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office https://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com. Sports journalist since 1980.

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