If the Okanagan Athletics are lacking any key ingredients heading into the new B.C. Premier Baseball League season, experience isn’t one of them.
All 16 players on the team’s roster saw action in the PBL during the 2015 campaign.
Still, head coach Evan Bailey said the A’s will need to rely on more than just experience to be successful again in 2016.
“We’re an experienced team, but we’re still going to have to focus and be a hardworking club every day to have success,” said Bailey, now is his seventh season at the A’s helm. “The guys are going to have to accept certain roles and buy in to what we’re doing.
“It may take some time to find our identity but I’m sure that will come.”
The A’s will start shaping that identity when they open the new 44-game PBL season this weekend in Coquitlam with four games against the Reds.
Returning starter Matt Brodt (4-3, 2.62 ERA) is expected to be the ace of the pitching staff this season, with a solid supporting cast of arms backing him up.
“I think Matt’s as good as it gets, in my mind the best in the league,” Bailey said. “I think our pitching staff is a big strength, all nine guys that can throw are all above average. Some years we scrape to find enough guys to throw, this year that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Sam Avila and Pearce McCoy will anchor a fully returning infield which Bailey expects to be a stabilizing influence on this year’s club.
“We have some versatile players in the infield and I think (Avila and McCoy) give us the best middle infield in the league,” added Bailey. “And with the other guys we have returning, we’re solid and will make plays defensively.”
With veteran Chase Decosse having graduated, Bailey said the catching position will be work in progress this season but, with time and patience, expects progress to be made.
Bailey said the A’s outfield will be in good hands defensively, with as many as seven players capable of rotating through the lineup.
And led by the likes of Avila (33 RBIs), McCoy (.307) and Markus Glowacki (.296), Bailey said there’s also ample offensive potential in 2016.
As far as team results are concerned, Bailey once again expects at least a top-five finish in the 12-team league in 2016.
Still, Bailey said with more than a few good teams stacking up for the season, nothing can be taken for granted.
“I think this may be the strongest the league has been for a quite a while,” said Bailey. “There are a lot of good teams, I think the talent is pretty well dispersed, so it should be a fun year. I still fully expect us to be in the top five.”
Following this weekend’s series in Coquitlam, the Athletics will kick off a 12-game homestand, Saturday, April 16 against the North Delta Blue Jays.
The A’s will also be running both junior and bantam programs this season.
Okanagan will open the BCJPBL season April 16 at Edith Gay against the Langley Blaze.