The ottawa champions fit two more pieces into the roster puzzle recently and have said goodbye to one of the members of their coaching staff. The Can-Am League champs re-signed C Danny Grauer and OF Matt Helms to contracts for the 2017 season. Both played key roles in helping Ottawa capture the championship trophy in the ballclub’s second season of existence. Even though the right-handed hitting Grauer batted only .196 on the season, he did crack five home runs and drive in 33 runs while often hitting from the nine hole in the lineup. Several of his long balls won games for the Champions. His clutch hitting carried over into the playoffs when he smashed a pitch over the wall in extra innings of Game 3 of the final series to send Ottawa on its way to a 13-12 victory over the Rockland Boulders.

Returning Champions manager Hal Lanier was particularly impressed by Grauer’s defense and durability, and liked the fact that the pitching staff felt confident throwing to him.

Helms provided steady defense

The left-handed Helms provided the Champions with steady defense from the left-field position while batting .247 on the year, hitting four round-trippers and chasing home 40 runs over the course of 98 games. During the playoffs, Helms hit for a .243 average and drove in four runs over the nine-game stretch. The easy-going Helms earned the club’s inaugural Community Ambassador Award for his efforts in and around Ottawa. A veteran of the Can-Am League, Helms has played in 254 games and owns a .278 batting average with nine homers and a 106 lifetime RBI.

Team posted sparkling ERA under Horn

Meanwhile, Billy Horn, the Champions first pitching coach, has decided to leave the organization to assume the same role with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. Horn’s guidance resulted in Ottawa’s pitchers posting a sparkling 3.98 ERA, along with 733 strikeouts in 885.1 innings pitched in 2016.

He replaces Marty Janzen at Long Island. Janzen was formerly a pitcher with MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays. No replacement has been named as yet for Horn. The Champions open the 2017 season at home in RCGT Park on May 18 with a series against the Trois-Rivieres Aigles. In this, Canada’s 150th year of existence as a country, its capital city of Ottawa will host the 2017 Independent League’s All-Star Game on July 25 at RCGT Park.

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