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Prince George Youth Baseball Association seeking continuation of success

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Before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out its 2020 season, the Prince George Youth Baseball Association was developing a reputation as one of the most successful programs in Western Canada. When play resumes, the PGYBA will take a swing at building on its momentum.

But, assuming there is a 2021 season, it’s likely to be one of adjustments and challenges.

“I’m hoping that by the time May rolls around, which is when our season starts, they’ll have enough vaccine that they’ll allow us to play games within our own community, which would allow house teams to take part,” said PGYBA president Carmen Martin.

“And then my hopes would be to at least allow our all-star kids – even if they’re practicing together and there aren’t normal tournaments per se – to get into a cohort bubble with somebody closer. So like Kamloops is the next closest place to us for baseball. To get them down there, even for a couple weekends here and there to play some games (would be important). I feel that if we can’t get some of these kids some games this year we’re going to lose some who will choose to play elsewhere – they’re going to move for the summer or find a different place to play. Or we’re just going to lose the numbers.”

Prince George is a city of about 75,000 people, located in north central British Columbia, six hours by car from Kamloops.

In geographically-isolated Prince George, the popularity of youth baseball tends to rise and fall with the fortunes of the Toronto Blue Jays. When the Jays are hot, so is baseball in the city known as B.C.’s Northern Capital.

In the handful of years prior to 2016, registration in the PGYBA sat between 350 and 400 players. From 2016 onward, numbers ballooned to a high of around 600 and settled out at 522 for the 2019 season.

In the all-star ranks, teams from Prince George produced a gratifying string of success stories during that four-year span. In 2016 the 18U Knights hosted and won the BC Minor Baseball Association midget double-A provincial championship tournament. The 18U Knights repeated as champs the following year and also claimed gold at the Baseball BC provincials before they capped their season with a silver medal at Western Canadians.

In 2018, the 15U Knights battled to a silver-medal finish at their BC Minor Baseball championship. Then, in a sparkling 2019 season, the 18U Knights, 15U Knights and 13U Knights all came home with gold from their provincial tournaments.

For an association on a roll, Martin said losing the 2020 season to the pandemic was “terrible.” Prior to the March 2020 lockdown, the PGYBA had been running its annual indoor training program at the Northern Sport Centre fieldhouse on the University of Northern British Columbia’s Prince George campus. Higher-level players (18U, 15U, 13U, 11U all-stars) benefited from about 10 weeks of practice before COVID-19 brought everything to a halt.

“We were not able to get back on the indoor fields, just based on the rules,” Martin said. “We could have probably gotten back on the (outdoor) fields earlier than we hoped (but) the unfortunate part is, without PGYBA running a league, nobody maintains those fields. Besides mowing of the outfields, the City doesn’t really maintain the infields. That falls to the league and it was kind of hard to get volunteers when there was COVID.”

As spring turned into summer, players from the 18U Knights were really the only ones able to throw the ball around. Thanks to some behind-the-scenes organizational efforts, they got onto the Prince George Senior Men’s Baseball League field for some limited sessions.

“They were able to get out a little bit but, overall, PGYBA, we didn’t do anything last year,” Martin said. “We just thought, ‘We’re going to take the year off, figure things out, regroup, and hopefully be ready to go this year.’”

In preparation for this season, the PGYBA has already opened registration. One positive development is the fact several families who paid their fees for the lost 2020 campaign told the league to keep the money and use it for 2021. Martin appreciates the show of faith. In return, the PGYBA is giving some of those families a bit of a financial break.

“Depending on what age group your child is in, your registration amount is different,” Martin said. “We told people if they left their money with us, even if their child moved up a division and it cost more money to register them this year, we would keep the payment from last year and we wouldn’t worry about it.”

Overall, Martin is staying positive and taking a day-by-day approach to the resumption of baseball. All-star players – under the guidance of former minor pro Craig Langille and ex-National-level baseball and softball player Craig Horswell – have started their indoor training at the Northern Sport Centre. As well, the PGYBA is offering Sunday indoor sessions for house-level players who want to get back in the game. These on-field opportunities are being carried out in adherence to COVID-19 health and safety protocols and, in Martin’s view, are good first steps.

“I’m happy that we’re doing winter ball – I’m like, ‘OK, that’s a win we can offer this right now,’” said Martin, who is also the northern representative on the BC Minor Baseball board of directors. “That will take us through to March and then I’m going to be like, ‘OK, now what’s April-May going to look like? What can we next offer?’ In one breath, things are changing slowly, it feels like, and then in the next minute in terms of sports and stuff, things can change so drastically so it’s kind of hard to make a long-term plan.”

Jason Peters is a freelance writer and editor based in Prince George, British Columbia. Visit his website at www.frontpagepublications.net.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jim Swanson

    February 25, 2021 at 10:09 pm

    Great story, JP

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Baseball BC

Prince George Knights happy to get back on the diamonds

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The Prince George Knights celebrate their B.C. Minor Baseball Association 15U double-A championship in 2019 at Nechako Park. Many of the players from that team are on the U-18 triple-A team that hosts Kamloops this week at Citizen Field.Citizen file photo

U18 AAA team to host Kamloops this weekend at Citizen Field in front of what is hoped to be a large crowd

By Ted Clarke
Prince George Citizen

Two years ago, the Prince George Knights were kings of the province.

The U-15 bantam team thrived on home cooking all week in the provincial double-A tournament at Nechako Park and earned the B.C. Minor Baseball Association crown. The U-18 Knights also brought home the banner as provincial champs from their tournament in Whalley.

Players from both teams would have loved a chance to defend their championships the following year but the pandemic prevented that, and the season was cancelled before the opening pitch was tossed.

That hardball famine is about to end and on Tuesday night the boys of summer will finally get a chance to play a meaningful game again.

“We haven’t played since the pandemic hit, but we’ve been practicing ever since then,” said Knights manager Jody Hannon. “We have been playing some exhibition games against men’s teams but that’s it.”

They’re about to be fed to the Dogs – the Kamloops River Dogs – in the first of a three-game series at Citizen Field Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Knights’ 14-player roster includes several key components of the bantam team that won the B.C. Minor title and got to the final of the Baseball BC championship in Chilliwack that same 2019 season.

Most of that high-octane Knight team in 2019 who were bantam-aged (under 15) at the time have moved up to the midget ranks (under-18) and they’ve joined the remaining talent from that powerful U-18 team that ruled B.C. two years ago.

It starts with slugger Preston Weightman, the provincial MVP two years ago, and the list of veterans continues with Jacob Fillion. Zach Fillion, Jacob Ross, Parker McBurnie, Logan Dreher, Chase Martin and James Yando. Tyson Ramsay, Jarron Fillion, Kobe Fulton, Brody LaFavor, Dillon Neufeld and Riley Zummack. Jake and Zach Fillion, Ross and Zummack were on the U-18 team Hannon coached to the B.C. Minor title two years ago.

Collectively, they’re good enough to be in the provincial U-18 triple-A mix this season.

“We’re going to be pretty strong,” said Hannon. “It’s our first season back in triple-A (for a Prince George team) since I don’t even know when. They’re a real tight-knit group and they’ve come together and have good chemistry. It’s definitely one of the stronger teams that I’ve coached.

“I think we’re going to be one of the top teams in the province and I have a lot of confidence going into the game (on Tuesday). Honestly, we’re strong all the way around the ball. We have good pitching (10 of the 14 players pitch). We hit well for contact and hit well for power. We have a lot of fast guys and we’re good defensively. It’ll be tough getting up t game speed after a year-and-a-half off, but I believe in the guys and I think we’ll have a good chance to go for my sixth title here.”

The Knights coaches are Cole Laviolette, Tommy Kreitz and Scott Walters. They started practicing with the players indoors in February at the Northern Sport Centre.

The River Dogs, who last sent a team to Prince George in 2016, have the benefit of playing teams from Kelowna and the Lower Mainland this summer in the college prep league. The Knights are of similar calibre, but Hannon said they won’t be part of the league due to the fact the Lower Manland teams did not want to have to travel to Prince George.

The River Dogs and Knights meet again in a Wednesday doubleheader at 9 a.m. and noon at Citizen Field. Hannon is hoping people will turn out in droves to watch them in action this week.

“We want to pack the stands, there’s no restriction for us to fill the stadium,” said Hannon. “We want to bring baseball back in a big way because the boys got robbed last year. They’re excited and it’s going to be college-calibre games.”

The Knights will be on the road several times this summer with one tournament in Kamloops and three om Kelowna, including the Final Five championship in August. Prince George has an automatic berth and will face the top four regular-season finishers.

FLY BALLS: The U-18 Knights are part of the five-team Domino’s Pizza Prince George Senior Baseball Association, which opens its season on Wednesday at Citizen Field. Each team plays a 12-game schedule which starts with the D.O.B. Contracting Gladiators taking on the Queensawy Auto World Mariners Wednesday evening. On Thursday, the Inland Control & Services Tigers face the Knights. The JRJ Contracting Orioles will have to wait until Friday to play their opener against the Mariners. All games start at 7 p.m…. Hannon and current double-A pro infielder Jared Young were teammates on the powerhouse Knights team that won the B.C. Minor double-A midget championship in 2012 at Citizen Field. Young now plays in the Double-A South League for the Tennessee Smokies.

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Baseball BC

Play Ball! BC allows expanded game play with move to Step 2 restrictions

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On June 14, 2021 the BC Government announced a move to Step 2 in the British Columbia Restart Plan that takes effect today, June 15, 2021. This movement further allows sport to ease restrictions and permit limited spectators and travel within the province for the purpose of sport. As such Baseball BC is advancing notice that the following activities are now permitted within the sport of Baseball;

Regular game play amongst participating teams province wide – This means leagues like the BC Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) can now resume, with teams freely travelling to play one another. Previously such teams could only hold inter-squad games against themselves.

A maximum of 50 spectators (per field). – Under Step 1 rules, no spectators were allowed at any games.

Tournament play is now allowed

Baseball BC is very pleased with the step forward by the government of B.C.; however, the situation may differ by area, therefore, we must all continue to follow the BC health authority’s guidance and require all members and affiliated clubs to do the same. We also understand that each municipality has potentially different restrictions and limitations for bookings/activity, therefore, please work with your local cities/municipalities to adhere to any requirements to ensure you are providing a safe environment for all participants. We would also like to ensure that all organizations defer to their provincial level member organization on programming decisions or sanctioning, should it be required.

We would again like to share the following amateur sport programming reminders (as of June 15, 2021);

  • The activity must always comply with the general measures, recommendations, and any gathering restrictions issued by the BC health authorities.
  • Physical distancing not required on the field of play, including dugout area.
  • 2 metres social distancing is still required outside the field of play.
  • Keep a participant record for contract tracing needs, including symptom screening.
  • Communicate to participants any hygiene measures in alignment with current information issued by the BC health authorities, including staying home if sick.
  • Remind all players to bring their own refreshments and do not share water bottles.
  • Please adjust current safety plans to align with this Return to Play Plan for Baseball and ViaSport’s Restart Sport 2.0 Chart, including updating Emergency Response & Outbreak Plans.

We would also like to again remind that some participants may need additional time to fully return to traditional programming. It is required that all participants and member organizations work collaboratively to ensure all stakeholders do so safely and when they are ready. Possible examples of this are as follows;

– There will be some officials who will require time to adjust to traditional positioning mechanics, or will elect to continue with the modified mechanics based on the training they received in preparation for 2021. Return to traditional positioning is not a mandated change and some officials who do not yet feel safe about returning to working behind the catcher, may elect to continue with the modified positioning. Please take direction from the Local Sport Organization (LSO’s) Umpire in Chief in this area.

Should any member organization and/or affiliated club wishing to add stricter guidelines, measures and precautions they are able to do so for the baseball activity they oversee within their specific organization.

Please direct any questions you may have on this topic to Baseball BC Executive Director David Laing at 604-586-3312.

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Baseball BC

BCPBL Welcomes Mike Addy as Executive Director

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The British Columbia Premier Baseball League (PBL) would like to welcome Mike Addy as the new executive director of the PBL.   Mike will be replacing Clyde Inouye who is one of the founders of the PBL and has served as President of the League from 1995 until 2002 and Executive Director of the League from 2002.

Mike is a person who has been involved with baseball from being a player in the early 1990’s to coaching with Little League, BC Minor Baseball, and the PBL.  He was on the coaching staff of the 2008 Senior Little League Canadian World Series team.   In addition, he extensive volunteer experience for major events like the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, 2015 Women’s World Cup and billet coordinator/volunteer with the Langley Rivermen Junior A Hockey Club.

Mike has worked with the PBL since 2007 and has been the Webmaster and Pointstreak guru for a number of years.

When he is not working with the baseball community, Mike spends his time as the owner of an Expedia Cruises franchise and is also employed by the Surrey School District.

Mike will be working with Clyde over the summer and fall with the objective of allowing Clyde to retire from this role in December of this year.

As everyone is aware, Clyde has played a leading role in establishing the League and has been instrumental in the operation of the League for the past 26 years.

Ted Hotzak – President, PBL

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