The Northern Central Alberta Baseball League (NCABL) Senior
‘AA’ Red Lions are stepping back up to bat for the 2017 season, but already things are off to a bit of a delay.
“We are just starting to get going here. We were going to get out to the batting cage, but I think with the weather, we’re going to have to put that off,” said Red Lions player/manager Adam Sawatzky.
The Lions should be able to get in a few swings this week if the weather holds up, as their first game of the season is set for May 7 against St. Albert at Keller Field.
“St. Albert’s got a lot of younger players on it and they haven’t finished very high in the standings for the last several years, but they always seem to play their best against us, so it’s a good test for us right off the start,” he said.
The Red Lions were named league champions in 2015, while bowing out in the league semifinals in 2016.
“I think last year, having won the previous year and making it as far as we did, we counted that as a successful season for us,” he said.
“I think at the end it came down to execution, so I don’t think we’ll change our practise schedule too much. We’re a pretty veteran team, so I think we’re able to learn from our past mistakes and stay competitive.”
For the most part the same guys are returning for another year, with the addition of a few new players, but the league will see some changes as the Barrhead Orioles backed out a few months ago.
“I don’t think our fan’s expectations should be any different,” Sawatzky said. “We’ve been in the playoffs consistently over the last several years and looking forward to this year.”
This season also marks the 50th anniversary of the NCABL. In honour of the occasion, the league is celebrating during the Westlock Fair Aug. 18-20 with a gala, fun events and playoffs. The Red Lions will be helping out the league with organizing the celebrations.
“There’ll be a big focus towards that and a big build towards the playoffs during the Westlock Ag Society Fair,” he said.
“We’re really going to try and make sure we’re in the playoffs and involved for that weekend. It’s a little bit of extra motivation for us. Like I said, we’ve been in that playoff spot for several years and we’re not anticipating dropping down, so we’re going to be giving our best to get there, especially with the 50th anniversary celebrations that weekend as well.”
Up until then, the Red Lions will have plenty of time to get in a few more swings before the big event.
The annual John Golinowski Invitational Tournament runs July 8 and 9 and although the invites haven’t been sent out yet, Sawatzky said he hopes to draw in six teams.