Pirates pick up where they left off

Nanaimo’s BCPBL team has a 9-2-1 record so far in spring training.

Nanaimo Pirates infielder/pitcher Justin Clarkson fields a grounder at practice Thursday evening at Serauxmen Stadium. The B.C. Premier Baseball League team starts its regular season April 7.

Nanaimo Pirates infielder/pitcher Justin Clarkson fields a grounder at practice Thursday evening at Serauxmen Stadium. The B.C. Premier Baseball League team starts its regular season April 7.

Spring training is a process, and the Nanaimo Pirates are still working on all aspects of their game.

But there’s one thing that has seemed to have come right away – winning.

The city’s B.C. Premier Baseball League team has a 9-2-1 record so far in spring training, and is undefeated over its 10 games so far this month.

It’s a streak reminiscent of last year, when the Pirates won the pennant. So perhaps this month’s early returns should come as no surprise.

“We knew we’d have a good team coming into this [spring],” said Brendan McCarthy, outfielder/first baseman. “We had a strong team last year and we have a lot of returning guys, with a lot of help from junior guys coming up.”

That carry-over does exist, even after a long off-season, said Doug Rogers, Pirates manager.

“It always feels like a new start, but in reality, it’s not,” he said.

He talked about a sort of culture within the club, from premier, down through the junior and bantam age levels. Players essentially understand Pirates baseball, so they should have a head start every spring.

This year Rogers said he’s “pleasantly surprised” with the makeup of the team.

“We’ve got a group, a lot of them have been around forever with me, and some newcomers that are real, real strong additions,” he said. “We have a bit of everything this year. We have some power, we have good pitching, we have good instincts which is something that a lot of teams don’t have.”

The hitting is already an encouraging sign, as the Pirates have some ball players who clearly spent time in the off-season with their bats over their shoulders.

“Every kid wants to hit, so they spend more time at that than they do at their homework or anything else,” said Rogers.

The number of swings required to get into a rhythm is different for every player, said McCarthy.

“Some people can get hot right away, or not,” he said. “The thing is you always have to stay positive and know that it’s going to come around.”

It’s the pitching arms that seem to need a little more time to warm up after a chilly off-season.

“You can’t just throw them into game situations or have a 70-pitch-count outing, that sort of thing,” Rogers said. “You’ve got to build them up slowly. The arm isn’t meant to throw overhand.”

The BCPBL regular season doesn’t start until April 7, and on that day, the Pirates’ record will revert to 0-0. But these spring wins do help.

“It sets the tone for the series between the teams we’re playing throughout the year,” McCarthy said. “So every game matters.”

And wins just make an exciting time of year even better.

“It’s been a long winter,” Rogers said. “It’s like coming out of a cave. It’s fun. It makes a kid out of you again.”

GAME ON … The Pirates are on the mainland today (March 24) for a doubleheader against the Langley Blaze. The team will play another exhibition game Sunday (March 25) against Alberta’s Sherwood Park at 4 p.m. at Serauxmen Stadium.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com