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Baseball Saskatchewan hopes for earlier return to play in 2021

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Regina, SK – After successfully playing games in 2020 under strict protocols, Baseball Saskatchewan is hoping to do the same in 2021, but is hoping for an earlier return to play date this year.

In a recent interview with Global News, Baseball Sask’s executive director, Mike Ramage said he is looking for the green light to start playing ball sooner than the third week of June, which is the timeframe that the province has set for allowing sports to return in full swing.

Ramage cites the safe and successful return to play that was executed in 2020, as a main reason for their hope to begin earlier in 2021.  “We’ve shown that we can get the games played. We can do it in a safe manner with sanitization and social distancing as we’re a non-contact sport. It’s a little easier that way for us.”

“We’ve got the roadmap from last year anyway, so we know how to do this again this year. We just hope we can kind of get it going a little sooner than we did last year.”

The province has lumped all sports in to that end of June start date, but with baseball being an outdoor sport, with no contact, or very little contact, and one that has social distancing easily built in, Baseball Sask is hoping too that those factors will allow for an earlier start date.

In addition to their successful and safe play in 2020, Baseball Sask has prepared a comprehensive set of return to play guidelines for the 2021 season and has that readily available on their website for all organizations and individuals to download and follow.

 

 

 

Baseball Saskatchewan

Youth Baseball Set to begin again May 30 in Saskatchewan

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The Government of Saskatchewan has announced that public health measures around outdoor sporting activities, including baseball, will be eased as part of Step One of the Re-Opening Roadmap, set to commence on Sunday, May 30, 2021. Outdoor sports, originally included in Step Two of the Re-Opening Roadmap, will now be added to Step One. Easing of measures for indoor sports remains in Step Two of the Re-Opening Roadmap.

The adjustment to the Re-Opening Roadmap is being made recognizing the lowered risk of transmission in outdoor settings along with the successful uptake in Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination effort in reducing the transmission of the virus. Beginning May 30, 2021, competition and game play for outdoor team sports can proceed with a number of requirements, such as:

• Participants may not compete if they are feeling unwell.
• Players and coaches should be encouraged to screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to arriving to practice and play, using the self-assessment tool on the government’s website.
• No interprovincial travel. Teams competing in regional interprovincial leagues need to contact the Business Response Team prior to beginning play.
• Individual and protective equipment should not be shared. When helmets and bats or other equipment are shared, cleaning and disinfecting must occur between each use.
• Commonly touched equipment used for game play (e.g. game ball, football) is routinely replaced or disinfected during the course of practice or play.
• Coaches, officials, umpires, referees and players who are not on the field are not required to wear masks outdoors under the public health order. However, masks may be worn if they are more comfortable with that layer of protection.
• No shaking hands, high-fives, etc.
• Hand sanitizer approved by Health Canada (DIN or NPN) or soap and water handwashing stations should be available for participants and spectators.
• No sharing of water bottles.
• Public washrooms, when available, are cleaned and disinfected regularly, and soap and water or hand sanitizer is available.
• Contact information of the coaches, officials and players should be recorded by the home team and maintained in order to assist with contact tracing for 30 days in the case of a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Unlike recent announcements in British Columbia, spectators (up to 150) will be allowed at the games, as long as they are following social distancing protocols with their “bubbles”, with masks optional for all.

Baseball Saskatchewan Executive Director Mike Ramage, in a recent interview with CKRM radio, said if the delay lasted any longer the results could have been catastrophic, especially when it came to their rural members.

“The fact that they opened it up to start this Sunday, (May 30) probably saved Baseball Sask about 60 percent of our membership base,” Ramage said. “Last year, once the long delay was there until July 1, we lost about 60 percent of the rural base, based on the fact that they are usually done by the end of June,” he added.

Ramage said those leagues are done around Canada Day to give the opportunity for family time during the summer months.

“Once July 1 hits they’re gone, they don’t play anymore ball because they’re gone to the cabin with their parents, and on other holidays, most minor ball is done by that point.” “So with the fact that we can start playing games on May 30, it gives these kids at least a month to practice play games, we’re over the moon about that,” Ramage added.

Full details on the Baseball Sask re-opening protocols may be downloaded from their web page HERE.

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Baseball Saskatchewan

Moose Jaw’s Helland off to solid start at Monterey Peninsula

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Reece HellandMonterey Peninsula Lobos

Sophomore relief pitcher yet to allow an earned run, but bad luck keeping saves from adding up

– By Randy Palmer
Moose Jaw Today

By looking at the stat line for Moose Jaw Minor Baseball product Reece Helland at Monterey Peninsula College, you’d think he was off a near-perfect start to the season.

Three appearances, no earned runs and a single hit against his ledger — the kind of numbers that normally indicate all sorts of positive things happening.

But baseball is a game where the stats don’t necessarily tell the story, and Helland has seen a bit of the good and a bit of the bad through the early going of the 2021 California Community Colleges Athletic Association season.

The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher made his first appearance of the campaign on April 17 against Cabrillo College, and it was as solid as it needed to be.

Coming on in relief of starter Nic Bouillerce in the fifth inning, Helland would face six batters over two innings of work, allowing a single walk in the fifth but forcing the next batter to hit into a double play. He’d tack on a strikeout and leave with the score tied 3-3 in the seventh, after which Monterey would put up a pair of runs in the eighth and go on to a 5-3 win.

Helland picked up his first save of the season on April 24 against Hartnell College, entering the game with two outs, runners on first and third and a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh and final inning. Helland would give up a single, allowing the run to score from third, but the trailing baserunner attempted to go first-to-third and was gunned down by the right fielder to end the game.

Helland’s most recent appearance was on May 1 in a rematch with Cabrillo, and it ended up being the strangest of all.

Once again called in to put out a fire, Helland took the mound with runners again on first and third while holding a 4-3 lead. This time it was a passed ball that would do the damage, with the tying run scoring on the play.

Helland would come back out for the 10th, and with the CCCAA using the international tiebreaker rule, started the inning with a runner on second. A flyout to centre advanced that runner to third, and two batters later a fielder’s choice would see the go-ahead run score. Helland retired the rest of the side in order, but Monterey wouldn’t be able to respond and dropped a 5-4 decision.

Monterey now hold a 7-3 record overall after winning their first seven games to start the season, including a 5-3 mark in the Coast-South Conference. All three of their losses came in the series this past weekend against Cabrillo.

The Lobos have 18 games remaining in their regular season, which will be Helland’s final in California as he heads out to NAIA MidAmerica Nazerene in Olathe, Kansas next season.

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Pothakos’ Path Covers all the Bases

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It’s not all Greek to him — but it is all baseball, with a few flags mixed in.

The machinery that is the game of baseball runs because of people who largely operate out of the spotlight, popping out when needed, but doing work that is behind the curtain, and Rye Pothakos may just be the best example of that when it comes to the impact Canadians have on the game.

Pothakos, a 62-year-old who lives in Saskatoon, has had his hands in a lot of pies — amateur and college levels, the professional ranks, and the international game. A recruiter, scout, advisor, and advocate for so many, Pothakos’ fingerprints are on the careers of many players and coaches — and he has no plans to stop being part of the action.

“It means the world to me, pardon the pun, and the opportunity to help players live out their dreams, it’s a dream for me,” said Pothakos, who was involved with the Regina Cyclones of the old Prairie League — and is now Director of Recruiting for the Regina Red Sox of the Western Canadian Baseball League.

Among many, many other things.

Pothakos broke into baseball’s influential levels in 1992, when he helped the Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks land an expansion franchise in the Northern League, considered by many as the most notable independent startup league — led by the St. Paul Saints as the flagship operation.

“I’ve been on the diamond since I was six, and the one thing I always say is to not have any regrets. I have no regrets — take the good with the bad, but you relish your experiences and you learn a lot of things and meet a lot of people. The friendships and the relationships probably mean the most, in the end.”

Because he apparently doesn’t have enough to do, Pothakos is helping the United Short Professional Baseball League, based in Utica, MI, as a scout, working with the independent loop that is now even more important for filling gaps left when Minor League Baseball contracted significantly this last year, leaving aspiring pro baseball players scrambling for opportunities.

Pothakos was born in Thunder Bay (to date himself, he reminds that it was called Fort William back then), and largely worked in sales — and that sales skillset helped him find the best opportunities for people, to develop those relationships, to foster those opportunities. He’s an associate scout for Western Canada for the Kansas City Royals, and isn’t unusual for Pothakos to help a player from high school through college and onto the pro ranks, all the steps — the successes, the setbacks, that are part of the game — along the way.

The international role with the Greek National Team started in 2018, and that developed from his efforts working with moving players from the college level to various pro spots, including European pro opportunities. Pothakos took a place on the Greek team coaching staff with Jim Essian — a 14-year MLB player who took Fergie Jenkins deep in his career, then managed the Chicago Cubs in 1991 — and then was named manager of the top team from Greece. Fielding a competitive team and putting a scare into the other top European teams is not just on the horizon, it’s already starting to happen.

L-R General Manager Tom Mazarakis, Current Manager Rye Pothakos, Former Manager Jim Essian and Bench Coach John Bissylas at the 2019 European B Pool Championship in Bulgaria

An announcement will come soon on Greece adding a U23 team, and the men’s national team is intent on using its growth to foster the further development of youth teams — right now, there are three Little League teams, playing in Athens. There’s an Athens training group, involving late teens and adults, that is seeing slow but steady growth.

Pothakos points to the improvement at the national team level as a key driver in helping Greek baseball interests in the most tangible way — field space. Softball fields exist, and those are used by teams like the Little League-level Alimos Lions.

“I spoke Greek as a kid, a little bit, and I’m working on that more and more now,” he laughed. “We have college and indy-pro guys making up what’s become a really nice club. The Greek team is close to being in that top-16 in Europe now, and that’s a major improvement in the world rankings. We’re scheduled to play in Lithuania this summer for the B-pool European championship, but we’ll see if the pandemic allows that to happen.

“The baseball stadium from the 2004 Olympics is still up, and the game has held on and grown a bit since the Athens games. I’m in Greece for six or eight weeks at a time each year, spending time with people as we keep working on growing the game.”

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