Sports

Okanagan junior Athletics open B.C. Junior PBL season this weekend

The Okanagan Junior Athletics baseball team hits the road this weekend, opening up play in the B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League for its third season in operation.

The Junior Athletics features a roster of 18 players—mostly in Grade 10—and acts as a feeder team to the Okanagan Athletics PBL club, the elite midget baseball team.

"We have a strong core of players," said manager Todd Russell. "This team is going to be  a scrappy bunch. they're going to have to work hard every inning to achieve wins. We have a great work ethic and a strong defence."

It's the third season that the Junior Athletics have been in operation in Kelowna. It's a regional team with most players hailing from Kelowna but players also on the team from other cities such as Vernon, Kamloops Salmon Arm and elsewhere around the Interior.

The Junior Athletics open their season this weekend in North Delta, kicking off a 44 league regular season. The team will also play as many as 20 games in tournaments with its season stretching into August.

Russell says the two teams in the Athletics program—the senior and junior Athletics—are providing the elite baseball opportunity to kids that want it.

"When kids join the program the play is it's a three to four year development for them," he said. "That's part of the education process, telling people what is available in the area for competitive baseball. There are lots of opportunities in baseball, for players to go to college or to play professionally."

Russell points to Toronto Blue Jays player Brett Lawrie as the poster boy for the PBL program. Lawrie played in the PBL and is now starting in the major leagues.

After opening on the road the Junior Athletics will play its first home games of the season next weekend against the Walley Junior Chiefs in a four game set at Edith Gay Park.

kparnell@kelownacapnews.com

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