With the Trail Minor provincials just wrapping up, the 11-12 Trail Major All Stars will begin their run at a B.C. Little League Major Championship in Langley on Saturday.
The team has been working insanely hard with two-a-day workouts in stifling heat, and competitive tournaments in the U.S. on weekends in preparation for the B.C. Championship.
In practice, the players are in constant motion, going from drill to drill with intensity, focus, and fun. It is a baseball workout strategy Trail coach D.J. Ashman attributes to an unlikely source.
“I’m trying to overtrain and over-prepare the kids so that when it comes time for these games, they are not going to be phased,” said Ashman. “I’m using the philosophy of Pride Gym. Glen Kalesniko’s philosophy is if you’re training for a five-round fight, you prepare for eight rounds, so if it’s a six-inning game we try to train them for a nine-inning game.”
The hard work has paid off with the All Stars finishing second at the Chataqua Days tourney in Chewelah, WA. on the weekend, which followed a third-place finish in Kalispell, Mont. the week prior. The good results against the tough American teams are indeed promising heading into the provincial tournament.
“I would say as a coach to see kids coming together like this it’s just awesome. I’m just very excited about this year.”
Part of the excitement comes from the presence of a solid core of veteran players that will lead Trail against six of B.C.’s best Little League teams.
“We have one of those teams where each player can play like three or four positions. It’s very versatile.”
Hitting will be one of the teams’ strengths as they have been teeing off on 70-mph fastballs and hard looping curve balls hurled from a pitching machine in practice for the past few weeks. Yet, pitching will be key for the Trail team, as it is in any tournament where pitch counts prevail.
“We have seven pitchers that we think can get us out and throw us strikes. Right now at the tournaments we’re just doing our pitch counts and, as coaches, as the pitch counts come up we kind of make a decision about what we would do if it was a Little League game.”
The players may not be use to this kind of intensity in House Little League but they are enjoying it.
“It’s been good, pitching is faster, everything is harder and stuff,” said Trail’s Jordan Sheets. “Everything is more intense, if you make mistakes you’ll pay for them.”
The B.C. Championship is the first step on the way to the Canadians in Quebec, and the Little League World Series in Williamsport, and all the players are eager to get started.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he added. “We’ve been practicing at provincial speed for batting practice, and working really hard.”
As for Allison Schroder, one of only two girls in the tournament, she is excited but cautious.
“I think we have a pretty good team, but the competition will be hard.”
Ashman is again supported by coaches Mike Boisvert and Jason Startup who have been working just as hard as the players to get them prepared. As for the longtime coach’s expectations, Ashman is uncharacteristically succinct.
“Compared to most years, I like our chances.”