The boys and girls of summer hit Andy Bilesky Park this weekend as Trail Little League baseball throws out its first pitch on Saturday to open the 2015 Minor and Major season.
Following three evaluation camps for local players last week, Trail Major coach and organizer D.J. Ashman was impressed with both the numbers and talent of the over 100 players that participated.
“We had 111 last year, and this year I think were at about 113-114 which is awesome.”
The age 11-12 Major division will see two Trail teams compete again this year in an eight team league that welcomes Okanagan Falls and Salmo into the fold, along with a Castlegar team, the defending champion Beaver Valley Yankees, and two Nelson squads.
“I think it’s going to be good,” said Ashman. “I think we have two pretty balanced Trail teams and I just think it’s going to be a fun year. For Mike (Boisvert) and I, we’re coaching like nine of 12 kids on our team that we haven’t coached before so it’s going to be awesome.”
In the age 8-10 Minor division three Trail teams, the Red Sox, Pirates, and Mariners will take to the field against three Castlegar teams, two Nelson squads, Beaver Valley, Salmo, Kaslo, and Grand Forks. In addition, four rookie teams of 7-8 year olds will play in a format that concentrates on development and will rotate between playing games and practising skills throughout the season.
“Compared to two years ago, we’re like up 30 per cent, so it’s really good and we’re trying to grow it as much as we can,” said Minor coach Jim Maniago. “We’ve got great coaches all the way through, great coaches in the rookie division. We’re pretty excited actually, it’s a great bunch.”
During the season, Ashman and Maniago will identify players for the Major and Minor Allstar teams, and run tryouts in early June to select the teams and prepare for provincial playdowns.
“I’m always looking and I’ve already talked to Jason Startup in Fruitvale and he’s going to keep us posted, and talked to one of the Nelson coaches about Allstar because three or four of the kids played on that 9-10 team,” said Ashman.
The addition of Okanagan Falls and Salmo is a surprising if not a strong addition to the Trail Major league, and reportedly OK Falls will also field an All Star team that will play against Trail for the right to advance to the provincials.
“So it looks like for Little League we’re going to have a district championship this year for the first time in I can’t remember how long,” said Maniago. “ So they (the Major All Stars) will have to play off against Okanagan Falls and Cranbrook, and we’re hoping that the Minors will be the same, that we’ll have to play off against Cranbrook to get to the provincials.”
But first, Trail Little League will showcase its players on opening day with the first game going between the Minor league Mariners vs the Red Sox at 10 a.m. The Opening Ceremonies go at noon with a special nod to Brad Elliot who was invited to throw out the first pitch. Elliot retired this year after 49 years of umpiring.
“He (Brad) is a guy that’s been around for a long time and has contributed so much, and we just wanted to acknowledge all his years, and the contributions he’s made,” said Maniago.
At 12:30 p.m. the Major Dodgers play the Rangers, and at 2:30 p.m. the Minor Pirates face Castlegar, while all four rookie teams hit the small field after the opening ceremonies.
The concession will also be in full swing for residents to enjoy a hotdog or hamburger and a little Little League action on Saturday.