Bryan Donohue will hit the ground running in his first season as field manager of the Kelowna Falcons.
While the 32-year-old from Gresham, Oregon is new to Kelowna, the West Coast League club isn’t entirely unknown to Donohue.
He played, coached and has built a friendship over the years with former Falcons’ head man Billy Clontz, who has provided Donohue with some invaluable knowledge heading into his first head coaching assignment in the WCL.
“Knowing Billy was huge, having someone you trust was monstrous for me,” said Donohue who also coaches at Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon. “Otherwise, it would have made things a lot harder to do on the fly.
“I’ve learned some things through Billy’s experiences. It gives me some confidence, so that friendship with him was real nice. I’m excited to get started here.”
Donohue and his new crew of Falcons open the 2016 WCL season Friday at Elks Stadium against the Bellingham Bells. Featuring free admission, game time is 6:35 p.m.
Donohue inherits from Clontz a program that is coming off the best season franchise history. Kelowna won the Eastern Division title and advanced to the WCL championship for the first time last August.
But like all summer college programs, the Falcons have experienced a major turnover from the previous season with just four players returning—league all-star Max Carter, Jared Morton, Lane Lacrone and Joey Crunkilton.
The Falcons will also be short-handed to start the season with just half the roster—six pitchers and 13 position players—on hand, with the rest of the players to arrive in the coming weeks.
Still, Donohue said it won’t stop his club from getting down to business right from the first inning and begin carving out an identity.
“My biggest thing is let’s find out who we are as early as possible and run with that, Donohue said. “The first week or two, numbers-wise we’re going to be smaller than other clubs, but this group of guys, from what I know, it’s going to be a fun challenge to take on. Guys are going to play a lot early, and get their at bats.”
As Falcons GM Mark Nonis knows from experience, it’s always difficult predicting how a club will fare, particularly with players coming together from all across North America.
Led by the likes of Jonathan Kamies from Central Oklahoma (.390, 18 home runs) and Tim Lichty from Western Nevada (.400, 59 RBIs) Nonis expects the 2016 Falcons to produce runs like no team before them. Combined with a pitching staff that may lack some depth, Nonis wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of runs scored this season.
“We’ve never had such a power numbers team and I’m confident in their ability to score runs,” Nonis said. “We’re a little bit light on arms though, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some high-scoring games this season. If that’s the case, then there’s going to be lot of excitement for the fans.”
There will be plenty of local flavour on the Falcons this season, with three former Okanagan Athletics on the roster—outfielders Trevor Mlait and Davis Todosichuk, and first baseman Trevor Lofstrom.
Mlait played this past season at Utah State University Eastern, while Todosichuk and Lofstrom played with the Okanagan College Coyotes.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, I grew up watching Falcons’ baseball,” said Mlait, who is from West Kelowna. “Now to be playing, with them, being back here is great. I have a lot of friends and family who can watch me play, so it should be fun.”
Friday’s home opener is free of charge, courtesy of Telus. The Falcons and Bells will meet again Saturday at 6:35 p.m. and Sunday at 6:05 p.m.