Tinnish tops baseball list of All-Time Greatest Badgers
The time has finally come, as we have reached the top of our list, and standing alone at the top is Andrew Tinnish who is officially the best Brock baseball player in school history.
The acquisition of Tinnish should have been major news around campus in 1995; the team had just acquired the player that would go on to set almost every record in the programs history. Yet, Tinnish not only went unnoticed by went unrecruited, despite a scouting trip that featured Andrew's Ottawa team, by then assistant coach Jeff Lounsbury.
"By now you have all heard the story; I went to Ottawa looking to find infielders, catchers and pitchers. We already had Scot Jusiak and Rick Bottomley in the outfield and I didn't even know Andrew was interested in Brock, let alone the fact that he had already applied."
Despite the lack of hype around his arrival Tinnish soon impressed the coaching staff and instantly earned a spot on the team as their starting right fielder. In his first season he hit .326 with 31 hits in 95 at-bats, scoring 21 runs, with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homeruns, 21 RBI and 4 stolen bases.
After his first season at Brock Andrew would explode on his way to becoming the most dominant hitter in Ontario. In 1996, led by Tinnish's bat the Badgers went all the way to the CIBA Championship game, before losing in the finals. For his efforts Andrew was named team MVP after setting new career highs in almost every category. He hit .350 with 41 hits in 117 at-bats, with 37 runs scored, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 7 homeruns and 39 RBI.
With the pressure to exceed his second season building on Tinnish, he struggled in year three, hitting .262 with 34 hits in 130 at-bats, with 31 runs, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homeruns and 25 RBI.
After a down year Andrew was determined to bounce back in a big way in 1998, and he did just that having one of the most dominant years in Brock Baseball history. Andrew not only led the Badgers back to the CIBA Championship, but this time helped lift them over the hurtle as they became National Champions on the back of Tinnish's tournament MVP performance.
On the year he hit and incredible .500 with 73 hits in 146
at-bats, becoming the first player in Badgers history to ever hit
.500, he also scored 40 runs, had 22 doubles, 2 triples, 7 homeruns
and 58 RBI. He set the team record for hits, doubles and RBI's (he
would later break the RBI record).
He also chipped in off the mound working as the team's closer to record 6 saves in 12 appearances with 27 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. At season's end Andrew was handed his second team MVP Award, becoming the first player to ever win the award more than once.
After such an incredible fourth year, expectations were high for Tinnish and the Badgers in 1999, yet he and the team rose to the challenge as they repeated as National Champions, with Andrew being named the CIBA Top Hitter and tournament All-Star.
At the plate he hit .414 with 60 hits in 145 at-bats, with 44
runs, 12 doubles, 1 triple, 6 homeruns, 65 RBI (a new team record)
and 2 steals. He also had his most successful season on the mound
posting a 0.64 ERA, with a 3-0 record in just 4 appearances, raking
up 19 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.
With such a dominating season Andrew was once again named the team MVP, and this time was always recognized by the Brock Athletic Department becoming the first baseball player to ever win the school's Male Athlete of the Year Award.
At the end of his incredible career Andrew had racked up two National Championships, three MVP awards, one Championship MVP, one CIBA Top Hitter award, and one Brock Male Athlete of the Year Award. He also still holds three single season records; in hits, doubles and RBI and stands atop 6 all-time records. Overall he stands 1st in hits, at-bats, doubles, homeruns, RBI and runs, while also standing 2nd in saves, 3rd in triples and 5th in batting average.
In 2001 the inevitable decision was made as Andrew was unanimously inducted into the Brock Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming just the second player inducted.
Discussing Andrew's time with the Badgers, Coach Lounsbury says, "He was a great team player, a leader and we all know his accomplishments in baseball. He is a proven fact that hard work pays off and his desire to succeed and love of the game is his fuel."
With such an impressive career on the field it is hard to imagine anyone having more success off the field, yet Andrew has been able to do just that as he has climbed the ranks of the Toronto Blue Jays front office and now holds the position of Assistant General Manager. He now lives in Burlington with his wife and their two children.
When informed that he had been named the Best Badger Ever, Andrew was modest and quick to point out other great players, saying, "I am truly honoured to be on this list, but I can say with conviction that I was not the best player in Brock baseball history. I had two roommates, Matt Fletcher and Grant Giffin, who played premium positions and hit. Fletch shut down the running game and for two years basically hit .400 with 20 bombs. Giff could hit, run and play great defense at shortstop. It's hard to find premium position players who contribute significantly on offense and defense, and they both did that. Jeremy Walker and Raul Borjas had tools to play professional baseball. They had athleticism and strength to go along with good swings. If we were an American school they both would have been drafted for sure. Colin Tyler was the best pure hitter the program ever had. Finally, Shaun Valeriote is the best player who has ever played Brock baseball. Between makeup, tools and statistics he's done it all. I'm just glad he's part of the Blue Jays organization. 29 other teams missed."
Reminiscing about his time with the program Andrew has many fond memories, especially of the championship team's saying, "I think about the great Yankee teams of the late 90's. Teams with balanced lineups, deep rotations and bullpens. I think about our teams in 98 and 99 especially and it reminds me of those Yankee teams as it relates to depth. We had depth in pitching and 1 through 9 in the order we were strong. Hitters made each other better. I've been fortunate as a hitter at Brock. Whether it's hitting in front of Tyler, Walker or Fletch or hitting with guys like Botts, Giff or Raul on base, it puts you in a good position offensively. Pitchers often worried about who was on base or who was coming up and it led to mistakes. Whether it was a hanging breaking ball or a hittable fastball, I feel like I was put in a good position to be successful."
Andrew continues on to explain his growth as a player saying, "From 1995-97 I did things based on instincts. I didn't really think too much about an approach at the plate. I fiddled around with my swing a bit but never really fully understood what I was doing until the summer before my senior year in 98. I really struggled in the spring of 98 after a mediocre fall of 97. That summer I really worked on my swing and my approach at the plate. The key element was how I loaded my hands. I knew I needed to get into a better position to hit. I also got back to using the whole field. And it was a summer at bat versus Fabio Del Rio that turned things around. My 1st game with the new swing I faced Fab and was fortunate enough to double off of him. He was always tough so it was a confidence booster for me. From there I developed a pre-game hitting ritual and a mental approach to every at bat. My focus every time I walked up to the plate was that there are nine hitting zones. I would tell myself "middle-middle, single up the middle". I would repeat that in my head in the box over and over. My philosophy behind the nine hitting zones and focusing on middle-middle was that it put me in a position where I only had to adjust one hitting zone to get to any other strike. It worked for me. In 98 and 99 I felt really comfortable in the box and saw the ball well. And it seemed like every time I stepped to the plate there were runners on base. Those were fun years because we scored a ton of runs and won championships."
We would like to thank Andrew for his continued contributions to the program and congratulate him on being the named the Best Badger Ever. We would also like to take the time to congratulate him on his recent promotion as well.
Finally we would like to thank everyone who took time out of their schedules to contribute to this countdown and make the entire thing possible.
Don't forget our annual Alumni Game, has now turned into a full Alumni Weekend and will take place September 14th-16th and will be highlighted by several events including the induction of Dan Baribeau into the team's Hall of Fame, the Alumni Game, a Saturday doubleheader against rival McMaster and a Sunday alumni golf outing. We hope to see many alumni and their families in St. Catharines that weekend for a celebration of Brock Baseball!
Story by James Parker, Brock Baseball