It was touch and go for the Okanagan Athletics junior baseball program this summer, but 13 players will kick off the season in the B.C. Junior PBL, a feeder league for Premier Baseball League teams.
Locally the Athletics parent club is the A’s in the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
“The junior program is the feeder team for the senior team,” said assistant coach Todd Russell. “We strive for player development, building young men and winning. It’s fun to win but we have to develop baseball players.”
This winter it was looking like there wouldn’t be enough players to fill the junior Athletics squad but that is no longer the case as the team hit the field running this weekend.
It’s a nice addition to the Kelowna baseball system with the competitive team featuring the majority of its players in Grade 10 and 11, looking to advance on to the PBL, one of the top midget leagues in Canada.
Russell says he likes the make-up of the team.
“I think it’s going to go really well,” he said “Our team will be a gritty, determined group, similar to the senior team. We’re going to have to scratch out wins and work together as a unit to get things accomplished.”
The junior PBL team basically replaces the Kelowna midget AAA program, which was a regional team made up of players from the Kelowna, Rutland and Westside baseball associations.
The junior A’s are much the same as they will be run by a board made up from the three associations. The A’s can take players from anywhere East of Hope as they are the only junior program running outside of the lower mainland.
“This is really good for baseball,” said Russell, a longtime member of the Rutland Minor Baseball Association. “We’re finally having players from the Coast come here to play and we’re finally having players from our program go to college. This is a stepping stone to high school elite programs and then to college and then returning to play for the Jays or the Falcons. Personally I see the next step as those kids eventually coming back here to coach.”
The junior A’s open their season this weekend with four games in Abbotsford.