Unlike Kelowna Falcons teams of the past several seasons, the West Coast League club’s roster this year won’t be predominantly made up of NCAA Division 1 players.
In 2013, new head coach Geoff White will have a vast and varied concoction of players from both Div. 1 and Div. 2 schools, as well as community and junior colleges from across North America.
“We’ve gone a bit of a different route, we have more of a mix of players from a lot of different places,” said White, who took over as coach of the Falcons in October. “We’ll have seven or eight guys from Div. 1, and then a nice blend of junior college and Div. 2 guys. It should be a good mix.”
Even with considerably less Div. 1 talent than usual on the roster, White isn’t concerned about fielding a competitive team—even if the Falcons will also be a relatively young ball club.
“I think we’re going to be fine talent-wise,” said White, a Kelowna native who previously coached the Falcons on an interim basis. “We are going to be pretty young, we have a lot of first-year guys, but that’s OK, too. What that means is, a lot of them have played a lot of baseball in places like Div. 2, maybe 40 or 50 games, so they should come in here ready to go.”
White and Falcons GM Mark Nonis have put together a roster of about 35 players, with an emphasis on offensive power.
The club will feature a hard-hitting catcher in Nolan Johnson from Minnesota State, who recently played in the NCAA Div. 2 World Series.
Chandler Tracy, a 6-foot-3 outfielder from St. Martin’s University in Washington hit 12 home runs and batted .301, is also expected to add punch to the middle of the order.
“We have a lot of big dudes coming in here with power,” White said.
White is also high on Nate Robertson, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound shortstop from Colorado-Mesa University who hit .381 this spring with 41 RBIs.
“I’m excited to be here,” said Robertson, 20, from Montrose, AZ. “I just want to put in a good summer, continually get better, work hard and help this team win some games.”
One player who may be familiar to Kelowna fans is Tanner Morache, who played with the Okanagan Athletics in 2010. The third-baseman from Surrey hit .390 this season at Southern Idaho.
As for the pitching staff, White is playing a wait-and-see approach as only Preston Gray returns from last year’s team.
“We have a whole new group and it might be our biggest question mark right now,” he said. “We have some guys with some good numbers so we’ll find out what they can do.”
The Falcons do have a highly-touted pitcher on their roster in Elliot Morris, a 6-foot-4 right-hander from Pierce Community College. However, if he is selected, as expected, in the first five rounds of this week’s Major League White said there is a strong chance Morris may sign a pro contract and not report to Kelowna.
The Falcons open the new season on the road on Wednesday against the newest franchise, the Victoria Harbourcats, to start a three-game series.
The Falcons’ traditional free home opener is Saturday at Elks Stadium against the Bend Elks. First pitch is 6:35 p.m.