A Royal return
The sweet sounds of chin music returned to Springwood Park on Saturday as Parksville’s Quality Foods Junior Royals baseball team marked their return to the fold.
A feeder team for the Sr. Royals, one of the founding teams of the high performance BC Premier Baseball League, the junior Royals were sidelined last year when the numbers were such there weren’t quite enough players for two full teams, so it was decided to field one large senior team heavy in young players.
That team, which went 18-26 and just missed a playoff spot, is back almost to the man this season — still loaded with talent, and a year older, a year bigger, and a year wiser.
Both the senior and junior Royals have been practicing outside for about a month “but it’s been tough sledding with the weather to say the least.”
With the seniors on track, the focus is now squarely on the Jr. Royals, a bit slim in numbers right now, but deep in enthusiasm. On Saturday up at Inouye/Wallace Field for their first home sets of the new season — seven inning scrimmages against their counterparts from Nanaimo and Victoria — the young Royals looked surprisingly sharp for this early in the process.
Back for his 18th season as skipper and mentor, Royals’ head coach Dave Wallace has charted the same course he does every season; encouraging as always, upbeat and into the moment; a wealth of knowledge when it comes to teaching the grand old game, and clear to his players there are expectations at this level and that the focus is first and foremost on the fundamentals.
On Saturday you could see the players from all three teams were happy to be finally playing in a game situation, and the fact it wasn’t raining was a bonus. The Jr. Royals opened the pre-season the week before in Nanaimo, and they came to play on Saturday in front of friends and family.
“Very encouraging,” Dave said easily from alongside the third base line of game two when The News stopped by.
The final scores are by no means that important in exhibition games, but the Jr. Royals did bag their first pre-season win in the opening game Saturday when they clubbed the Pirates, 8-4.
“It was a good game, and it’s always nice to get a W, but it was a scrimmage game,” said Wallace, adding more important then the final score “was the chance to see our first year players in a game situation, and they acquitted themselves quite well. We’ve got lots to things to work on, but it was encouraging to watch.”
Working the hill in game two against Victoria was right-handed pitcher Nick Annau, one of four juniors Wallace is particularly pleased with, and part of a strong contingency of local players.
“He was very impressive for his first outing of the year. He’ll be one of the leaders on the junior team this year, and he’ll get some games with the seniors as well,” Wallace said of Annau, who pitched three and two-thirds strong innings Saturday in which he had most of the Mariners fishing with a good selection of pitches.
As for the return of the junior team, Wallace said it’s imperative in the big picture and for the future of the club to have a feeder team. He said the players from up-Island has tailed off, but makes the point that opens the door for more local players to get in on the action.
“We may be a short a bit in numbers, but the approach and the commitment of the kids that are out is tremendous — they’re very keen,” said Wallace, adding that commitment on the part of the younger players was a big part of why the board decided to field a junior team this season.
The Sr. Royals were in Nanaimo at Serauxman Stadium against the Pirates on Sunday for their first two exhibition games of the year, coming up on the short end of 2-0 and 4-3 finals.
“Two very good games, I was very pleased with our pitching, with our hitting, with our approach at the plate. We had some good swings, so that was encouraging,” said Wallace.
The Sr. Royals have 14 returning players from last year, which is almost unheard of.
“Yeah, virtually the whole team,” said Wallace, adding, “I think we’ve only got five Grade 12s in there and of those I think three can play again next year (because of where there birthdays fall) so yeah, those young kids that we had in grade 10 playing on the senior team last year took some lumps, but they gained a wealth of experience, and they’re ready to compete this year.
“And,” he pointed out, “we still have the Big Kahuna, Clayton Isherwood — he’s only in Grade 11.”
Isherwood is the Royals six-foot, standout southpaw pitcher from Texada Island that recently returned home from a strong showing on the hill with the Canadian Junior National team in Florida. Look for Ish to start in the Royals’ upcoming home opener.
The Royals’ rosters don’t have to be finalized until May 1, and to that end coach Wallace is putting the word out he still has room for a few more junior players. Anyone interested can reach Dave at 250-755-6759 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
The Sr. Royals wrap up their pre-season at the highly-scouted Best of the West tournament in Kamloops this week, featuring the top club teams in Western Canada. The Royals open the 48-game 2011 BCPBL regular season at home Saturday, April 9 against the defending playoff champion Victoria Mariners. Opening pitch of the double header goes at 12:15 p.m.
The Jr. Royals open their BCJPBL regular season the following weekend (Saturday, April 16) at home against the Victoria Eagles. First pitch of that double header is 12:15 p.m. as well.