For the second year in a row, the Okanagan Athletics will enter the season with one of the smallest rosters in the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
And once again, the success of Evan Bailey’s A’s will hinge on a complete team effort, from top to bottom.
“On one hand it doesn’t give you a lot of room for things like injuries, but on the other hand a small roster like we have forces guys to become better players,” said Bailey, now in his sixth season as head coach.
“All of them are going to play and all are going to have to be big contributors for us to have success. When you only have 15 or 16 players, every one of your pitchers plays a position, too. So we’re going to need everybody.”
The Athletics raise the curtain on the 2015 PBL campaign this weekend at home to the Whalley Chiefs.
The teams will meet for a pair of doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday at Elks Stadium.
Okanagan returns nine players to the lineup this season, including pitchers Easton Forrest and Trevor Lofstrom, catcher Chase Decosse and outfielder Trevor Mlait.
However, an injury will prevent Lofstrom from pitching this weekend, while Mlait, the team’s leadoff hitter, is injured and won’t be available for at least his team’s first four games.
“I told the guys we’re running on fumes right now, with 13 healthy guys we have to have everybody going,” Bailey said.
Still, as the A’s proved last year, a small or depleted roster doesn’t necessarily equal a losing team in distress. In 2014, the Athletics “overachieved” in Bailey’s eyes, posting a 28-20 record and finishing in fourth place.
If his team can execute the same principles as last season, the head coach believes the A’s can have success again.
“We did the small things well last year and we’re going to have to do that again,” Bailey said. “Things we can control, like base-running, mental communication…those are things that can help you win those tight, one-run games.”
As for what to expect from the rest of the league, Bailey said with exception of the favoured North Shore Twins, it’s hard to predict exactly where the other 10 teams will fall.
Once again, the A’s goal will be to make the post-season.
Saturday’s doubleheader between the A’s and Chiefs begins at 2 p.m., while Sunday’s starts at 11 a.m.