Early start for local baseball

Royals tryouts begin; juniors work out for the Bantam Blizzard

Liam Njihoff was part of a strong crop of players vying for a spot on the team

The sounds of baseball returned to Springwood Park on the weekend as the boys of summer took to the field for their first outdoor practice of the season.

Sunday’s brief blizzard aside, the weekend “was actually quite nice all things considered,” said longtime Royals’ skipper Dave Wallace, clearly in his element as he gears up for his 18th season with the local club, which will also see him working closely with the Bantam AAA Blizzard team.

The weekend practice was a first of sorts, as those players trying out for the Blizzard team were also on hand being put through their paces, and the skill set of the youngsters was surprising.

“It’s extremely encouraging,” said Wallace, adding, “there are 31 kids out vying for 15 spots on the roster, and the talent of some of those kids is better than I expected,” he said of the players, who come from four different associations — Oceanside, Alberni Valley, Campbell RIver and the Comox Valley.

The two teams practiced together at times both days. On Sunday, the Royals had a 90 minute practice before then the Blizzard had a two-and-a-half hour inner-squad game.

The Blizzard will compete in a province-wide Bantam AAA league for 14 and 15 year olds — a 40-game league schedule that starts April 14 and wraps up August long weekend.

“It’s a very competitive league,” said Wallace. “Most of the kids that play in this league will go on to play in the PBL (B.C. Pacific Baseball League).”

The Blizzard first surfaced around 12 years ago but the team has sputtered the last five seasons and was sidelined the last two.

“Having it reinstated is going to be a tremendous support to our program and to baseball on central Vancouver Island,” said Wallace, pointing out who gets to play this season will be a tough decision.

“We’re going to have to cut some pretty good players.”

The Royals’ junior program, he said, “filled the void, but the Bantam program is a far superior option for us in terms of our development aspect. Virtually all our players went through this program, kids like Taylor Green and Carter Bell … all our elite players played for the Blizzard.”

Bruce Biro is back as an associate coach with the Royals this year and will take on a bigger role in the running of practices.

As for this year’s crop of young players, “I cant say enough about the quality of kids out there … the depth … there’s some very good players, and certainly lots of potential, and they’ll get a lot of help this year.”

Indeed. Coaching the Bantam Blizzard this year will be former Royals; standout and Junior National team member Ryan Chenard. He is now a teacher in Campbell River, stepping in as head coach. Jared Hendry, who led the BCPBL in hitting in his junior year (2007) and Scott Wallis, who went on to play pro ball with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Pioneer League, will assist.

Missing from the practice this weekend were six Royals who are down in Tuscon, Arizona for a high-performance, 10-day spring training camp put on by San Diego Giants’ scout Jim Chapman from Vancouver.

This is Wallace’s 18th season with the club, “and it’s still enjoyable,” he said. “I love it — these young kids coming up … hopefully this has sparked some more interest in the game.”

 

 

 

PLAY BALL

The Royals’ BCPBL regular season home opener is Saturday, April 14 when they host a double header against the Whalley Chiefs. All home games start at 12:15 p.m. Their fist league game is April 7 in Victoria against the Eagles.

The Blizzard’s Oceanside home opener is April 21.

 

Just Posted

Oceanside RCMP hunt for man after pair of indecent exposure incidents

Elderly woman grabbed by man who had been masturbating in the woods

Nanoose Bay traffic update: paving postponed but closure extended on Northwest Bay Road

Mainroad Contracting halts paving while City of Parksville waits on contractors

Group aims to preserve French Creek tree

Save Estuary Land Society says bald eagles used tree for nest

Farewell to Parksville Beach Festival for 2019

People’s Choice Awards tallied, organizers report another successful year

Oceanside RCMP officer makes Alexa’s Team

Munro able to stop and process 15 impaired motorists during the past year

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Pile of wood mulch ‘spontaneously combusts’ at Vancouver Island industrial site

Business owner thanks fire department for quick response

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Vancouver Island RCMP hunt for man after pair of indecent exposure incidents

Elderly Qualicum Beach woman grabbed by man who had been masturbating in the woods

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Most Read