Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

SPORTS: Leafs prepare for postseason push (Aug. 2022)

August 17th, 2022 · No Comments

Veteran players hope to hoist the Intercounty Baseball Championship trophy at Christie Pits

Toronto Maple Leafs third baseman Johnathan Solazzo in action at Christie Pits on July 31. The Leafs defeated the Welland Jackfish 5-2. R.S. KONJEK/GLEANER NEWS

By R.S. Konjek

Prior to the start of this summer’s Intercounty Baseball League season, Damon Topolie was confronted with several holes in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ roster.  

Some veteran players had departed or would be absent to start the 2022 season.

Topolie decided it was time to experiment.

The Leafs’ vice president of baseball operations, general manager and field manager invited a group of junior players from the Toronto area, ranging in age from 18 to 22, to fill the gaps. Mother of invention and all that.

The experiment proved a success. Three months into the 2022 season, the Leafs enjoy a 20-13 record, good for fourth place in the league standings.

“When I first saw them, I thought, ‘Topolie, what have you done, these look like children,’” laughs veteran Leaf Johnathan Solazzo. “But these guys can hit. They started hitting home runs, getting hits down the line, hitting doubles, we needed that.”

Several of the rookies made solid contributions over the season’s first three months.  Luca Boscarino, Brady Cerkownyk and Aidan McAskie impressed at the plate.  Diego Dominguez, Rhys Montgomery and Ryan Wells ate up valuable innings on the mound.

“One who really stood out is Wells,” says Solazzo. “He’s nineteen years old and throwing in the 90s. He’s going to be something special.”

Most of the rookies have committed to colleges in the United States, seeking further exposure of their baseball skills in hopes of being drafted by a Major League club. As the month of August arrived, they bid a fond farewell to Christie Pits and headed south one by one.

The Leafs’ season now takes on a transitional feel.

With the postseason on the horizon and the rookies all gone, Topolie will look to the mainstays on his roster to step up.

That includes Solazzo, a twelve-year IBL veteran currently playing his seventh season for Toronto.

“It was good to finally get my first home run of the season,” he says of the blast he hit on July 6.

After a slow start, Solazzo went on a tear in the month of July. He raised his batting average 77 points to .343 while tallying 19 hits, 13 runs, 5 home runs, 18 runs batted in, and 10 walks over thirteen games. 

The Leafs’ roster has managed to stay mostly injury-free, and with the playoffs scheduled to start later this month, Solazzo sees the team peaking at the right moment.

Entering August, the Leafs trailed the Welland Jackfish, London Majors and Guelph Royals in the league standings, but all four clubs were separated by just four games.  There is no runaway favourite to win the championship this year.

“The postseason is a new season, everybody has a go at it,” he says. “I can’t say any of [the league’s other teams] is unstoppable, and we can take on any of them. It definitely would be nice if we won a championship for Jack.”

“Jack” being the late Jack Dominico who owned and operated the club for 53 years before passing away in January.

The Leafs’ first season without Dominico at the helm has been successful, as evidenced by their winning record and the large crowds in attendance for home games at Christie Pits. Maple Leafs baseball is as popular in Toronto as it has ever been.

For long-time players like Solazzo, it has been hard not to feel Dominico’s absence.

“It’s the little things, like when you walk out of the change room and he’s not there at his usual seat,” says the Leafs third baseman, who misses his interactions with the oft-irascible owner.

“I miss the late-night phone calls after games on the road. I’d be driving home, and he’d call on the Bluetooth. Jack was never pleased if you weren’t winning a championship, but he was always helping us out too.”

Dominico established a paternal bond with many of his veteran players. Solazzo believes this helped create the Leafs’ closely-knit clubhouse, which has remained intact.

“He would be proud of us.”

After falling short of a championship by one game last year, the team embraced “unfinished business” as its theme for 2022.

The regular season is winding down and the playoffs beckon. Players and fans alike hope that the Leafs will win their first championship since 2007.  

The complete Maple Leafs schedule can be found at:


Tags: Annex · Sports