In 2017, youth will be the operative word for the Okanagan Athletics.
The youngest team head coach Evan Bailey has had since taking the helm eight seasons ago, the A’s open the new B.C. Premier Baseball League campaign this weekend at home to Abbotsford.
With six 15-year-old players and just three seniors on the roster, Bailey and his staff will have plenty of teaching to do over next several months. Still, Bailey looks forward to seeing the A’s grow and develop as the season progresses.
“I see young team that’s going to be a lot of work, but they’re a good group of kids, so I’m excited for this year,” said Bailey. “They’re pretty receptive, fairly opened-minded kids who are willing to put in the work with a desire to get better.
“I don’t know yet how competitive we’re going to be but we’re going to find out.”
The A’s are coming off their best regular season ever, posting a 30-14 record in 2016, then finishing third at the provincial championship.
Gone from last year’s squad are the likes of Sam Avila, pitching ace Matt Brodt, McCoy Pearce and David Tongue.
Bailey will be leaning on the club’s seven returnees for leadership—Austin Brown, Dylan Faulkner, Cole Van Every, Kade Kozak, Keaton Mandryk, Colton Schaper-Kotter and James Fischer.
Brown, Van Every, Kozak and Mandryk will anchor the pitching staff which Bailey expects to be the team’s core strength.
“We have a lot of depth in our starting rotation, some good arms who will throw a lot of innings for us,” said Bailey.
The A’s will play a 44-game schedule, with 20 of those at their home park.
Saturday’s doubleheader at Elks Stadium between the A’s and Cardinals is set for 2 and 4:30 p.m.
Sunday’s games go at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.