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Sundre Minor Ball plans early start to season

Indoor practices for minor ball in Sundre scheduled to begin early in April
MVA Sundre Minor Ball Ryder and Waylon
Sundre Minor Ball's season is poised to begin early with indoor practices set to start the first week in April. Ryder Chapman takes a swing last year while Waylon Jensen ran past in the background in anticipation of catching the ball for coach Shauna Bartholow, who at the time was lobbing them pitches. Last season was cut short as a result of heightened pandemic-related restrictions. File photo/MVP Staff

SUNDRE — Minor ball players will get a chance to start practising sooner this season.

“We’re starting a month earlier than we usually do,” Jason Bird, Sundre Minor Ball president, said on Wednesday, March 23 during an interview.

Registration had just recently wrapped up the week prior with a good turnout, said Bird.

“We got quite a few teams,” he said.

With a little more than 170 players registered in both baseball and softball, a few late comers ended up being placed on a wait-list, he said.

“We’ve been able to make pretty even teams, but then we had some late registrations,” he said, adding efforts were underway to find places for them.

Organizers of course want to get players out on the ball diamonds, but are also focused on ensuring teams are well balanced so none of the kids end up spending most of their time on the bench and they all get a fair crack at the bat, he said.

“Any team over 13 players, there’s just so many players sitting in the innings because you can only have nine out on the field at a time,” he said. “So, we kind of worry about that or else we’d have 15 or 16 on a team.”

There are a dozen teams so far, including all age ranges from the T-ball league of tykes being introduced to the basics all the way up to the more seasoned squads with adolescent players aged up to 18, he said.

To accommodate the early start to the season, organizers have already scheduled indoor practices during the first week of April at both the Sundre Community Centre as well as the Timber River Station horse arena in the Westward Ho area, he said.

Usually starting either mid or toward the end of April or a little earlier provided the weather allows, the season doesn’t typically get into full swing until later in May and goes until June, he said.

Because of late season snows or sometimes spring rains, the teams can’t usually get onto the ball diamonds much before then anyway. And even in instances when the weather is nice, they don’t have access to the fields before mid-April and must wait until the municipality has gotten around to preparing the diamonds. That was largely the motivation behind booking earlier times for indoor practices, he said.

“Our thought was, we do have a short season, and so the more practices we can get earlier, the more games we can play later,” he said.

“We have indoor practices booked all through April,” he said. “But if the weather’s good, we will be out at the diamonds.”

Additionally, minor ball is working to arrange several clinics for both players as well as coaches, he said.

“We got like four that we’re going try and set up,” he said, adding among them are a pitching clinic for softball, a skills clinic for baseball, and a coaching clinic.

There are different styles of clinics, and the session for coaches is more in-depth, including a blend of theoretical aspects like webinars and classroom lessons as well as practical hands-on experience, he said.

Fostering opportunities for coaches to further develop and learn new skills or techniques through clinics “is a big win for Sundre Minor Ball” since they impart their knowledge to the players and by extension help the teams improve their abilities, he said.

And with the vast majority of pandemic-related restrictions having been lifted including mask mandates and group gathering capacity restrictions, organizers are optimistically anticipating the closest thing to a regular season since prior to COVID-19, he said.

“I think this year is going to be more of a normal year,” he said. “We are looking at kind of a normal season — I think everyone’s excited.”

Largely new board

Although Bird remains president for another term, he said minor ball’s annual general meeting held earlier in March resulted in some changes to the executive.

“This was a big year for the board — we had quite a few experienced members step down,” he said.

Although the meeting was not necessarily as well attended as hoped, perhaps partly attributable to bad weather at the time, the people who did participate were willing to step up to the plate, he said.

And even though there are many new faces, they bring with them prior experience volunteering on other boards in the community, he said.

“We were able to pretty much recruit a replacement for each position. So, that was very promising. It was a successful turnover for board members," he said.

While he looks forward to working with the new board members, Bird said he’ll also miss those who had previously been involved for a long time, including Susie Smith who had put in 12 years with minor ball.

“There’s only about four of us left and the rest are all new,” he said.

Bird said the organization now has a new vice-president, Ashley Edgar; secretary, Alexa Blackhurst; and treasurer, Rachel Crouch. He added a few other positions were also shuffled among members who remain involved.

Discussions to get a jump start to the season began before the annual general meeting, but it was the new board that initiated conversations to look into the possibility of hosting numerous clinics, he said.

“If we can get all of those to line up, I think it benefits Sundre Minor Ball,” he said.



Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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