The Pirates are about to have way more hands on deck.
Beginning this fall, the Nanaimo Pirates will become the Mid Island Pirates, better taking advantage of their entire catchment area down into the Cowichan Valley. The new regional partnership is expected to, in a way, save the Pirates.
“Do we want to say ‘save?’ Yeah, we can, sure…” said Doug Rogers, Pirates manager. “Junior premier would have been suspect, and depending on what numbers came out for the senior team, it would have been light again, just like it was this year.”
At the end of this past B.C. Premier Baseball League season, Rogers and assistant coach Keith Radix were contacted by Lorne LaFleur, coach of the Cowichan Valley Mustangs bantam AAA program.
“We essentially ended up in the situation where we had a fairly significant number of players that I think have very good ability,” LaFleur said. “And it became a situation, OK, now what do we do with these guys now that we’ve gotten them there?”
So the Cowichan Valley, Duncan, Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan associations have come to an agreement with the Pirates to field senior, junior and bantam premier teams in the BCPBL. All three teams will be called the Mid Island Pirates, with the premier squad to play in Nanaimo, the junior team to split its time between Nanaimo and Duncan and the bantam team to play in Duncan. Any of the teams might also play some games in Ladysmith.
“Over the years we’ve been seeing trickles of kids from that area…” Rogers said. “Real good players, but we haven’t been seeing the total program, all those kids.”
LaFleur said whereas in past years, two or three, or at most, four or five Pirates players would come from the Cowichan area, but said now, that number could increase to six, seven or eight, for example.
“Now all the kids coming up through any of the programming will view this as their team,” he said.
He doesn’t think the travel demands for practices and games will be unreasonable.
“Our guys already do it,” LaFleur said. “They already drive from Lake Cowichan to Ladysmith. They come from all over. They come across on the ferry boats from Saltspring and Thetis or whatever.”
Rogers said there’s no reluctance to open up and alter the Pirates program in this way. He sees it as taking full advantage of the structure that was already in place.
“If this was presented to me when I first started 10 years ago, I would have absolutely jumped at the chance. This is not something that I have any reservations over, at all,” he said. “They’re already in our catchment area. They’ve come to us with their players and they just want something better. This is an enhancement for their kids and I’m hoping Nanaimo buys into that, as well.”
LaFleur said he’s excited about the idea of a structured program with the bantam, junior and premier levels, “so that the kids can progress through and then they’re prepared to move into the senior level each year as they move along.”
Sam Baker, a graduating Pirates player from Chemainus, thinks the partnership will strengthen the program going forward.
“It’s definitely a better pipeline system to get guys moved up to the premier level,” Baker said. “So I think we can absolutely look forward to the Pirates playing playoff baseball over the next few years.”
The Pirates will begin changing their uniform and branding during the upcoming fall ball season.
For more information about the Mid Island Pirates program, please call Rogers at 250-668-0367 or Radix at 250-268-2155.