The Nanaimo Coal Miners know they have a full season to get ready for provincials. But they’d like to get into good habits on the ball field as quickly as they can.
The Cross & Co. Coal Miners of the Pacific International League got another season of senior men’s baseball underway this past weekend with an exhibition game in Victoria.
The season ramps up this Saturday (May 26) and Sunday with doubleheaders on the mainland against the Burnaby Bulldogs and Burnaby collegiate, respectively, and the weekend after that the Coal Miners will hold their home openers at Serauxmen Stadium.
As the only senior men’s ball team on the mid-Island, Nanaimo already has its berth secured at provincials Aug. 3-5 in Prince George.
“We always have a berth, so we take the season to get ready,” said Dale Ballance, player-manager. “That’s why usually at the beginning, it’s us just trying to fine-tune things.”
There’s always some roster uncertainty at this time of year, but the team feels like it will have the pieces in place to win games.
Hitting, in particular, tends to be a team strength every year.
“Our approach was pretty good last year. I didn’t see a lot of players swinging at bad pitches,” said Ballance. “At times we let too many good fastballs go early in a count, when those should be pitches we should take good swings at.”
Pitching is his No. 1 area of concern right now. The Miners will have an array of arms, but the staff needs to cut down on walks.
“It’s tough on your hitters when you’ve got to be out in the field while your pitcher’s walking guys,” Ballance said.
He wants his hurlers to throw strikes and let the defence make plays. If errors happen, well, they’re part of the game, he said.
Veterans Greg Wallace and Jeff Vickers are expected to be offensive contributors and Ballance is a key player both at the plate and on the mound.
The pitching staff also includes Joey Benda, Bill Hadden and others. Former Pirates outfielder/pitcher Darren Kolk is one of the newcomers to the Coal Miners this season.