The Trail AM Ford Orioles men’s baseball team will shake off the winter rust with a three-game series against the Calgary Wolfpack this weekend at Butler Park.
As they did last year, the AM Ford Orioles will host a group of ballplayers from Calgary itching to get on a field without snow.
“The Calgary team is coming back again,” said Orioles manager Kevin Oliver. “It’s hard to call them anything. It’s the guys that want to travel, some are from the Wolfpack, but they’re the die-hards. It’s still snowing up there, and they train all winter in a fieldhouse, so they just want to get outside.”
The three-game warmup kicks off a particularly significant season for the Orioles. The team hosts the 2019 BC Senior Men’s Baseball Championship at Butler Park in August and have organized a series of games against teams this summer to help hone their competitive edge.
“This year especially, because we’re hosting it (provincials), the guys seem to be a lot keener. We have some guys coming back that haven’t played for a couple years or moved back to town. I think we’ll be pretty good.”
The Orioles head to Kamloops for a series of games June 8-9, then will play a pair of matches against a team from Cuba two weeks later. The Cuban team is set to play in the Grand Forks International tournament and was looking for exhibition games prior to the event.
“It’s really exciting,” said Oliver. “They wanted some exhibition games, so the Grand Forks organizers called us.”
The O’s will play the Cuban team in Grand Forks on June 22 and host the Cubans at Butler Park on June 23.
Trail will travel to Calgary to play in the Stampede Longhorn Baseball Tournament July 12-14 and then return to Butler for a three-game tilt against Vernon July 27-28.
The Orioles last hosted the BC Senior Men’s provincials in 2014, and made it to the playoff round before losing to the Coquitlam Angels in the semifinal. With Trail products Pat Brown and Cam Strachan in the line up, the Kamloops Sun Devils went on to win the championship, taking a 16-inning thriller against defending champion Langley Blaze.
This year, the O’s would like to take it one step further, and began working out in the Willi Krause Fieldhouse last month.
“We’ve started in the Fieldhouse in March going twice a week,” said Oliver. “The pitchers look really good because they’ve been throwing for over a month, which normally we’d be just starting now. The hitters look pretty good too and we had a good practice Tuesday night.”
Trail has a competitive core of veteran talent with Darrin and Chris Kissock, Joey Underwood, Scott Reinhold, Brian Mahon, Jim Maniago and Matt Larmour leading the way.
“Reinhold and Mahon are really good pitchers,” said Oliver. “Those guys stepped out of it for a little bit but now they’re back here and they are keen. I don’t know if their wives gave them the green light, but they are good.”
A youth movement for the Orioles will see college players like Kian Johnston (Douglas College) and Ross St. Jean (Prairie Baseball Institute) return for the summer, and join local young talent like Bradley Ross, and Colton and Luke Miracle.
The Orioles will also get a boost for the BCs from a handful of pickups from the defunct Kelowna Jays Men’s team, and also from pitcher Jordan Kissock, a 2001 draft pick of the L.A. Dodgers and cousin to Darrin and Chris.
Game times this weekend will see the Orioles play Calgary at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, and at 10 a.m. Sunday at Butler Park.
The senior men’s baseball provincials run Aug. 2-4 at Butler Park.