Sports

Okanagan Athletics to host B.C. bantam AAA baseball

The best 13- and 14-year-old baseball players in the province will be in Kelowna this summer after the Okanagan Athletics were awarded the 2014 bantam AAA provincial championship tournament.

The Athletics will host the tournament July 30 through Aug. 4 at the Edith Gay baseball facility in Rutland with its bantam AAA baseball team playing host to 9 other teams at the five day tournament.

The Athletics are the only team outside of the lower mainland and Vancouver Island to play in the league and organizers say it will be nice to have the provincials on their home field as well as a big event for Kelowna.

"I think this will be good for the Okanagan and good for our program," said Athletics bantam AAA general manager Dean Mandryk. "Anything we can do to drive more tourism. We have 10 teams coming and they will be here from Wednesday to Sunday. I think this will be great for baseball in the Okanagan. Anytime you can host a tournament like this it's a good thing."

The bantam AAA Athletics are the youngest team in the Athletics baseball stable. The senior Athletics play in the Premier Baseball League while the junior club plays in the junior PBL. The bantam team also plays in a province-wide league and is a feeder program into the Athletics two PBL level teams.

Athletics program head coach Evan Bailey says hosting a provincial tournament is a nice feather in the cap for the program, which has been growing as well as finding success on the field over the past several seasons.

"It's going to be fun, I love hosting big tournaments like that," said Bailey. "Getting to see see the highest level Grade 8 and 9's across the province and having it here in our backyard will be great."

This year the Athletics bantam club has at least nine players returning from last year and the A's are closing in on announcing a coaching a staff for the team this year. It's been a bit of a struggle to recruit players into the program and hosting a provincial championship at the bantam level is an important part of the growth of the program. The Athletics take players from Kelowna, Rutland, West Kelowna and Vernon baseball associations, giving them a high-end baseball team to strive for.

"When you can get kids from a young age you are able to develop some consistency and teach them the same things in terms of how we run our defence and how we run our offense," said Bailey. "You get to keep your eye on these kids for four or five years and gives you time to develop them and work with them. The numbers thing is always a struggle. Hosting the provincials and getting these kids to have a great experience like that in bantam can help our program for years."

Organizers say they will need volunteers to help with various jobs at the event and they are also looking for corporate sponsorships to help offset costs.

For more information e-mail Dean Mandryk at deanmandryk@shaw.ca.

 

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