Jim Leith has been serving as the youth baseball organization’s public-address announcer
White Rock, BC – Jim Leith hadn’t been to a ball game in a long time, and it had been even longer since the retired radio broadcaster had been in the booth behind a microphone.
But earlier this month, he found himself in exactly that position – at a baseball game, serving as the volunteer public-address announcer for the White Rock Tritons.
And after being largely isolated and stuck at home in recent months due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Abbotsford senior was thrilled.
“It’s been a long time since anyone’s been able to go to to a ballpark as a fan… and I have a lady friend in White Rock, Linda, and we’re both big baseball fans, so we were out a couple weeks ago and said, ‘Hey, let’s go to the ballpark,’ because I’d heard that the Tritons were playing,” he explained.
While watching the game at South Surrey Athletic Park, both Leith – who has decades of experience doing sports play-by-play and public-address work – and Linda were impressed with both the ballpark itself and the quality of talent on the field.
All the other hallmarks of a traditional baseball game were there, too – from the crack of the bat to the emphatic calls from the umpires to the on-field chatter of the young ballplayers themselves.
But something was missing.
“We both kind of wondered, ‘What’s missing?’ and one thing we thought of was that there was no P.A. system. We saw these kids coming up to bat but we didn’t know who they were,” Leith explained. “Linda kind of gave me a poke in the side and said, ‘Maybe they’re just looking for volunteers and they don’t have anyone to do it.’
“She said, ‘You know all about this – this is your thing.’”
Leith’s broadcast resume is a long and varied one. Over 30 years in Victoria, he spent time as the play-by-play broadcaster for the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Cougars, and then transitioned to basketball, where he was on the mic for University of Victoria men’s basketball games during the team’s string of seven straight national titles. Along the way, he also worked countless track-and-field meets and baseball games, and also served as the announcing co-ordinator at a pair of Commonwealth Games – in Edmonton in 1978 and Victoria in ’94.
Leith admits he didn’t exactly leap out of his seat and volunteer for the Tritons’ gig – not at first, anyway. Mostly, he was worried about having to make the frequent commute from Abbotsford. However, he soon relented, and at a later game, went and found a member of the Tritons – Keith Fluet, who is a member of the organization’s board of directors – and offered his services.
“There was a desire from Keith and Kyle (Dhanani, Tritons general manager) to improve the game presentation and I thought hey, if I could help them with that, then great,” he said.
His offer was quickly accepted and, with Linda sitting next to him, he soon found himself back doing what he’d done for most of his adult life – announcing sports.
“I’m still shaking off a little rust, but I guess I’ve got a bit excited about it, because we’ve got to know some of the people, and around the park we’ve met some of the kids and we’ve just been quite impressed with them,” he said.
“It’s a gig that’s kind of given me some new life, and I’m just enjoying the ride.”
Leith has worked a handful of games already, and he’s been busy over the long weekend, as the Tritons’ senior team hosts the BC Premier Baseball League’s season-ending tournament. And while discussing his busy schedule, Leith took the opportunity to praise the organization for how they’ve treated him.
“I just volunteered – I didn’t ask for anything. And then Kyle came to me and said, ‘Hey, Friday is going to be a long day. Would you like us to get you a hotel room so you don’t have to drive all the way back to Abbotsford?’
“That just smacks of class, and how can you not try to do your best for people like that?”
Leith said he wasn’t making any definitive plans to return to the job next spring – “I’m taking things day by day,” he said – but whether he’s behind the mic or in the bleachers with Linda, it’s clear the the BCPBL, and the Tritons, have a new fan.
“It’s not the Blue Jays or the Mariners, but doggone it, they put on a good show.”
Parksville Royals Deagle and Plant sign with Golden Tide
It’s a nice way to start the season if you can swing it.
Two Parksville Royals will head into their last season in purple with their September college plans all sewn up. Campbell River’s Ryan Deagle and Courtenay’s Thomas Plant have both signed with the Victoria Golden Tide baseball team of the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC).
Head Coach Frank Kaluzniak was quick to praise his players as they enter their final season with the Royals. “Great accomplishment for these guys. They’ve been Royals since day one and have shown tremendous and consistent improvements throughout their tenure with the program. I wish both Thomas and Ryan all the best moving forward. They have been a pleasure to coach.”
Thomas Plant, 6’ 1” and 195 lbs, battled injuries early in 2021 and then showed off an all-around skill set during the season. Plant demonstrated a patient hitting approach with break-out power from the right-side as well as grit and execution on the mound. “I have been training with the Tide this fall/winter and signed to play with them next year,” said Plant. “I want to thank the Parksville Royals as they have helped me become not only the ball player but the person I am today. My goals with the Tide are to bring a championship to Victoria while also getting a good education.”
Signing with the Tide caps off a tremendous 2021 for Campbell River’s Ryan Deagle. Deagle, 6’ 2” and 215 lbs, absolutely mashed at the plate this past season hitting .333/.453/.547. Over the course of the COVID-shortened season and playoffs he drove in a team-leading 22 RBI and hit two home runs to go with 6 doubles and 2 triples. Following the season, the team awarded Ryan the Tyler Phillips Memorial award for outstanding performance. “I wouldn’t be the person or player I am now without the help of coaches Frank, Bruce, Kevin, and Russy. All of my coaches helped promote me to colleges all over North America and always answered my questions. When I left for four months to train with the Golden Tide this past fall, my coaches with the Royals were extremely supportive checking in with me multiple times. Playing with the Royals has been a great experience and I have countless memories of my teammates in so many games and on the road at tournaments,” said Deagle. “The recruiting process with the Tide was easy as I trained with them for 4 months and enjoyed their ways of training and practices. My goal at UVIC is to study sciences and play there for one year and move onto a Division I school on a scholarship.”
“We’re really excited to have Thomas and Ryan join us,” said UVIC head Coach Curtis Pelletier. “We have three coaches who are Royals alum including myself so we believe in what the Parksville program is doing. I’ve had the chance to coach the Biro brothers back in the day as well as Connor Russell. I know the focus on development is strong in Parksville and any chance we can get a Royal on board, we’re ready to jump at that opportunity. Royals alum Ethan Dean has had a great fall for us and we’ll be leaning on him come conference to be a front end guy. Thomas and Ryan spent the fall here in Victoria training alongside the Tide and they have shown extreme work ethic and are ready to compete at the next level.”
Royals Winterball kicks off Jan 9 for players Grade 8 to 12. For more information, go to http://parksvilleroyals.pointstreaksites.com/view/parksvilleroyals/news/news_538180
New Look, Slightly New Name for PBL Jays
We are excited to announce a minor, but significant, change to our organization’s name.
While we pride ourselves on our long standing tradition of developing strong, competitive teams comprised of fine young ball players who work hard on and off the field, we felt it was important to make a minor tweak to our name to more accurately reflect it’s geographical makeup.
The North Delta Blue Jays and the Delta Tigers will now be known as the “Delta Blue Jays”.
We realize that our team’s name can’t encompass every single person who will suit up in the ‘Jay’ blue, however we feel changing our name to the Delta Blue Jays will make us much more inclusive, and better reflect the overall makeup of our club‘s Bantam, Junior and Senior teams. This will also align us with other programs within the PBL. We will be proudly developing players from all three Delta’s – Ladner, Tsawwassen, North Delta, as well as Richmond and other communities.
This name change also syncs us with our Bantam Prep program, the Delta Tigers, who will also now be known as the Delta Blue Jays. The Bantam program has been a pillar of success at the Bantam level over the years, and have been an essential partner with the Junior & Senior Blue Jays in the development of these hard working kids, even long before the Tigers and the Blue Jays officially became one in 2019.
We look forward to the continued accomplishments of our Bantam Prep, Junior BCJPBL, and Senior BCPBL Delta Blue Jays – working with our community’s kids, helping them grow into fine, young adults who will have earned the opportunity to continue playing baseball after their high school years are done.
With our name change, we also felt this would be a good time to refresh our brand’s logo. We are excited to reveal our team’s new crest, which is best described as ‘a dash of the old, crafted into exciting and new, a tiny bit borrowed – all in our familiar blue’.
Delta Blue Jays – Bantam Prep
Delta Blue Jays – Junior
Delta Blue Jays – Senior
Thunder Roar! UBC Captures first ever BC Junior Premier Baseball Championship
Full BCJPBL Championship Wrap-Up
Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart
August 30, 2021, Surrey, BC – The UBC Thunder captured their first ever BC Junior Premier Baseball League championship on Sunday afternoon, defeating the host Whalley Chiefs 10-1 on a beautiful day at Whalley Athletic Park in Surrey.
UBC’s Lucas Huynh reacts and flips his bat after walking against the Chiefs (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
The Thunder broke open a tense, scoreless tie by scoring eight runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and cruised from there, using a solid defence and great pitching to keep Whalley batters at bay and to shut down any potential threats before they got started.
UBC’s Levi Soper delivers a pitch in the final game against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Lucas Soper got the start in the final and while he was not 100% perfect, his defence picked him up early, including a perfect throw to the plate to nail a Chiefs baserunner trying to score and he got some clutch outs himself that kept the game scoreless into the fourth.
UBC catcher Rico Domingo puts the tag on the Chiefs Eric Burshtynski on this play at the plate early in Sunday’s final (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
The Thunder used some solid defence against the Chiefs early to keep the game knotted at 0-0 into the fourth inning (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
When he faltered later in the game, reliever Jaron Palaschuk stepped in to get out of an initial jam and then went the rest of the way to get the final out and begin the celebration.
UBC’s Jaron Palaschuk (left) is congratulated by Freddie Sale after getting UBC out of a jam late in the final against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
The Thunder, who finished the regular season with one of the best records in the BCJPBL (21-15), had a bit of a scare en route to the finals, winning a pair of close and tense games in the round robin portion of their tournament Friday, including a 3-1 win over the White Rock Tritons and then holding on to defeat a pesky Victoria Eagles team 3-2.
UBC’s Ryan Kennedy catches North Shore’s Cam McLeod in a rundown in the semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
That was enough to earn them a first place seed and a re-match with White Rock on Saturday in the ultimate play-in game in their pool. White Rock, who had beaten the Eagles 12-9 Friday, earned the re-match by beating the Eagles again Saturday, this time by a close 5-3 score.
The Twins Cam McLeod slides safely into second ahead of the throw to UBC’s Ryan Hsu during the semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
In the play-in game, the Thunder dominated, cruising to a fast 7-0 win and moving them into Sunday’s semi-finals against the North Shore Twins. The Twins earned their way into the semis thanks to a pair of nail-biting round robin wins over the Victoria Mariners (5-4) and the Chiefs (7-6).
They would not have the same luck against the Thunder however, as UBC would score runs in each of the first four innings and cruise to a relatively easy, 13-hit 7-4 win.
Twins left fielder Declan Barry makes a valiant effort for this hit in the semis against UBC (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Relatively easy because starter Freddie Sale went the distance and kept the Twins at bay, allowing the four runs on just seven hits while striking out three.
UBC’s Freddie Sale had a complete game win over North Shore in the semi-finals Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
For the Chiefs, their route to the finals, was straightforward because as hosts, they had a bye to the semi-finals. They did play spoilers early though, defeating the always strong Langley Blaze 6-4 on Friday – a loss that combined with the Blaze’s 4-3 loss to the Mariners knocked them out of contention – before dropping the 7-6 decision to the Twins and an 8-3 decision to the Mariners.
Whalley’s Parkor Sarai (33) and Dio Gama (34) head around the bases en route to scoring on a triple from Ryan Holford in the first semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
The Chief’s Ryan Holford strokes a two-RBI triple in the semi-final against the Pirates (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
In the semis, the Chiefs met up with the surprising Mid-Island Pirates (16-20 in the regular season), who in perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament, defeated the (26-8) Coquitlam Reds 3-0 Saturday night in the deciding game of the Pool B round robin to earn their way into the final four.
Whalley reliever Marcus Siemens was solid in relief against the Pirates in the first semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Whalley second baseman Lleyton Anselmo reacts after scoring against the Pirates on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
It appeared in Sunday’s highly emotional semi-final that the Pirates magic would continue, as they held a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning, however the Chiefs would stage an amazing comeback, scoring six runs in the top of the inning and then blanking the Pirates in the bottom half, to escape with the 8-4 win.
The Pirates had plenty to celebrate for most of the game Sunday as they took a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
The Pirates Trevor Foley does his best Freddie Mercury impression after a double against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
In the finals, UBC’s Soper and the Chief’s Dowon Kim went toe-to-toe through the first few innings, both teams helping their pitchers out with solid defence, until Kim seemed to run out of gas in the bottom of the fourth, an inning that just seemed would never end, as the Thunder kept finding ways to score.
Whalley second baseman Lleyton Anselmo looks for the call after putting the tag on the Pirate’s Graham Stephen on this play at second in the first semi-final Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Whalley would finally break the goose-egg with a run in the fifth inning, but it would not be enough as the Thunder would add another in each of the fifth and sixth innings to close out the 10-1 win.
The Chief’s Kai Scheck was a key hitting cog for the Chiefs in their route to Sunday’s final (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Like the Premier league finals held over the August long weekend, Sunday’s Junior finals, put as normal a finish on the season as it could, given the delayed start of the season because of COVID and early travel restrictions that saw many teams only play one opponent over the first eight games of the year.
UBC’s Lucas Huynh celebrates a hit by catcher Rico Domingo during the final against Whalley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
However, the bottom line is that for all players involved, many of whom have not had the chance to play meaningful games for a season and a half, just being back on the field, playing a game they love, was reward enough. This was evidenced by one Thunder player overhead on the bench just prior to the completion of the finals, “I’m so pumped! We’ve waited two years for this boys!”
The UBC Thunder celebrate their win as Whalley’s Kai Scheck (25) and Head Coach David Hadlow (64) walk off the field (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
Congratulations to the UBC Thunder on their 2021 Junior title and season. And congratulations to the Chiefs, Pirates and Twins on their playoff runs, as well as to all teams in the BCJPBL for making the best of the 2021 season.
The 2021 BC Junior Premier League Champions UBC Thunder (Photo: Christian J. Stewart)
All photos from the Junior Premier Semi-Finals and Final, plus a couple of round robin games on Saturday will eventually find their way to Christian J. Stewart’s web site at https://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/jpbl2021
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