BY IAN THORPE
One sure sign of spring is the crack of the bat on baseball diamonds. And while COVID has had a big effect on that, the sport is still up and running at most levels.
For the pros, the Major League Baseball season is well underway, though closer to home, the pandemic unfortunately caused the cancellation of the 2021 West Coast League baseball season. Local fans had been looking forward to the debut of the Nanaimo NightOwls, but that will have to wait until next spring. The upside is that the coming year will be used to do major improvements to the fencing at Nanaimo’s Serauxmen Stadium where the NightOwls will play their home games.
As for local minor baseball, the season has started and the atmosphere is very upbeat. A lot of hard work establishing safety protocols last year paid off with extremely high player registration for this season. In fact, it is the highest in the last five years, with close to 600 young players signed up and registration now capped.
Ehren Madill is the enthusiastic new president of the Nanaimo Minor Baseball Association this year, taking over from Mike Holyk. Also on the executive are first vice-president Kerry Anderson, second vice-president Craig Talbot, treasurer Mike Pellatt and secretary Kirsten Allen. Nick Holmes is the NMBA administrator and head coach, and other directors are Brandon Dornan, Nick Salahub, Mike Peters, Jenn Wedholm, Barry Wolfe, George Rounis,Dianna Laukkanen and Holyk. Division managers include Larson Bauck for U7, Steve Stacey for U9, Brandon Dorman for U11 and Geoff Schulson for U13.
Minor baseball is focused now on the spring house league, where teams have been formed for a season that began last month and runs through June. Of course, NMBA is carefully following all COVID-19 safety rules, policies and guidelines set out by ViaSport, the provincial government and B.C. Minor Baseball. With that in mind, teams to this point have been practising in anticipation of game play, which hopefully will be allowed before too long. The hope is that June will be filled with game play for the house leagues, with all-star teams then formed at the end of that month for a season that would extend through into August.
It should be noted that only certified coaches are allowed on the field with players. Spectators are asked to remain in or beside their cars and watch from a safe distance. The goal is to provide a completely safe and fun environment for young players to learn and play.
As part of the spring season, NMBA has also formed several competitive teams that will play a different schedule than house teams. Two of these are U13 AA teams to play in the Island League, with head coaches Thomas Leaf and Shane Rogers. Assistant coaches are Colin Borelli, Aden Richardson and Jake Nikirk. A U15 AA bantam team is coached by Curtis Slater, assisted by Sean Evans. On the roster are players Keenan DeWit, Marcus Evans, Damien Fraser, Ethan Garland, Hunter Hein, Matthew Hutchison, Cameron McElroy, Phoenix Poole, Max Rowe, Evan Slater, Rowan Spearing and Evan Young. The team will play in a B.C. Provincial League which runs until August.
Also in a B.C. Provincial League is a U18 college prep team comprised of players from Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Cowichan. Based in Nanaimo, the team is led by head coach Liam Goodall, assisted by Aidan Goodall and Tristan Olsen. We’ll have more on this team as well as summer all-star squads in a future column.
Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.