WCL success accompanies new Falcons' coach
As a player and coach with the Corvallis Knights, Billy Clontz won three West Coast League championships.
The Kelowna Falcons are undoubtedly hoping the 28-year-old Corvallis, OR native can bring a little of that magic north of the border for the 2014 baseball season.
From his many visits to Elks Stadium as an opponent over the years, Clontz developed a healthy respect for both the Falcons and team GM Mark Nonis.
So when the chance arose to spend the summer in the Okanagan coaching baseball, Clontz didn't hesitate to say yes.
"We've had a relationship with Kelowna for a long time, with our (Corvallis) president and owner, and with the Nonis family here," said Clontz, who has also coached in Klamath Falls in the WCL, and in Australia. "The opportunity was granted and I couldn't turn it down.
"I always respected Mark and the way they run their ball club. They've been very supportive and the players we've gone after, and the route they've taken to build a ball club…I'm just very thankful for the opportunity."
From Mark Nonis' perspective, landing a coach of Clontz's experience, background and familiarity with the WCL is an ideal fit for the Falcons' organization.
"We have Bill coming in from one of the best programs in the league, (Corvallis coach) Brooke Knight knows what he's doing, he's groomed Billy into how he does things," Nonis said. "Billy's staff also comes from great programs, all these coaches have been around and know what they're doing. They're going to have the respect of the players, its a well-polished staff, so we think this will be a nice club."
In compiling the team along with Clontz, Nonis believes the two have put together one of the strongest rosters—at least on paper—in Falcons' history.
With a deep pitching staff and a lineup featuring both power and speed, Clontz also wants to see a gritty, hard-nosed mentality emerge from the Falcons.
And in addition to playing good, fundamental baseball, Clontz said it's imperative for his players to develop team unity.
"The summers get long and we're around each every day," said Clontz, who will be assisted by Dylan Jones, Richie Jiminez and Casey Harmes. "We played over 50 games in 60 some days, so the bottom line is we've gotta like each other, we all have to have the same goal, and just go aggressively into this thing together. When you mix some of those traits together, you put a good product on the field."
The 2014 Falcons will feature some local content with Kelowna's Dawson Yates (Texas A and M) returning for his second summer, while infielder Josh Croft (San Jacinto, Texas)—a former teammate of Yates with the Okanagan A's—is here for his first season with the Falcons.
Kelowna opens the West Coast League regular season at home Friday night against the Victoria Harbourcats in a 6:35 p.m. start. at Elks Stadium. In keeping with tradition, the home opener, sponsored by Telus, will be free of charge.