If Mark Nonis has a mantra for the 2014 edition of the Kelowna Falcons, it might well be that there is strength in numbers.
The general manager of the Falcons, along with new coach Billy Clontz, have compiled a list of 39 players they hope will compete for jobs for the upcoming West Coast League baseball season.
“One thing we wanted to be sure of is that we won’t be short of players,” Nonis said. “I like to call it ‘hell-week’, that week at the beginning of the season where you’re never quite sure how many guys will actually report to us.
“This way, we make sure that when we have to be down to 28 players in July, that we still have enough bodies around to fill the roster.”
When the Falcons open the WCL season at home to the Victoria Harbourcats on Friday, June 6, Nonis expects the roster to be loaded with pitching depth.
Twenty-one pitchers have been contacted and Nonis anticipates the club will still have as many as 15 arms in Falcons’ colours when the final roster is settled.
“(New Falcons coach) Billy Clontz was an assistant at Corvallis, and they’ve done well in this league because they always have pitching,” Nonis said. “In talking, we realized that pitching ultimately wins in this league, so we wanted to load up on arms.”
As for position players, Nonis hopes to see a couple of solid pro prospects with the Falcons this season—Oregon State catcher K.J. Harrison and Southeastern Louisiana slugger and outfielder Andrew Godbold.
Both are expected to get some attention in the upcoming MLB draft, which may or may not affect their decisions to come to Kelowna.
“K.J. is a big pro prospect and we expect him to go in the top 10 rounds,” said Nonis. “As for Andrew, Billy and I aren’t sure how he wasn’t drafted already. He’s 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, a freak athlete who has pro potential. It would be nice to have both guys with us.”
The Falcons of 2014 will also have some local flavour as Kelowna-bred infielder Dawson Yates (Texas A&M Corpus Christi) returns for his second season. One of Yates’ teammates with the Okanagan Athletics in 2013, infielder Josh Croft (Central Arizona), will also spend the summer with the Falcons.
The roster will also consist of a trio of UBC Thunderbirds—infielder Kevin Biro, and pitchers Alex Graham and Jeremy Newton.
The Falcons talent pool comes from every corner of North America, including 12 different states. And when it comes to the overall skill level, Nonis likes what the Falcons have to offer in 2014.
“I’ll go on record as saying, on paper, this one of the best teams I’ve seen in my time here,” he said.
The Falcons will be part of a 12-team WCL this season, and will play out of the four-team East Division with the Yakima Valley Pippins, Walla Walla Sweets and Wenatchee Apple Sox.
Falcons players, with the exception of those still in playoffs, will be arriving in Kelowna early next week.
The team’s home opener on June 6 at Elks Stadium features, as usual, free admission.