Opportunities for Reds
It's been three years in the making and the Strathmore AAA midget Reds are ready and willing to begin league play for the first time.
The team sprang up when Strathmore baseball product Zane Anderson returned home from playing college ball in the US and started the club as the team's head coach. The team began with a tournament only schedule that suited the team's young makeup.
"We've sort of building up towards this year," said Anderson who continued that when the team started they were primarily Grade 10 players and the midget league went up to Grade 12. "This year is our best shot at putting a strong year together and finishing top three in the league."
The team will begin play in the NorWest Midget Performance league, the highest level of midget baseball run by Baseball Alberta, in late April or early May depending on the weather playing on average three games a weekend. This will provide the players with many opportunities, not the least of which being preparation for possible higher level ball.
"Tournaments were definitely good but league play is a little more structured," said Anderson. "If kids want to play college ball this is sort of what it's going to be like."
That structure allows the players to get an opportunity to play teams several times in a season, allowing for more prolonged interactions with opposing pitchers or hitters something that is at the very foundation of the game.
While Anderson said that it won't give the players much exposure to college scouts, that will take place at the four or so tournaments that the team will attend, some of the younger players will be exposed to Baseball Alberta scouts for a shot at the provincial team.
Not only will the kids get more exposure but being in the league will provide the team a shot at more prestigious titles including provincials, westerns, and nationals.
"That (getting to nationals) is the overall goal," said Anderson. "The provincial champion gets an automatic bid for nationals and the runner up gets an automatic bid for westerns."
The league play will also allow for more steady competition, something that tournaments didn't always provide.
The team has been practicing all winter, and players are right now both practicing and coaching at Strathmore Minor Baseball's winter development camp meeting at Crowther Memorial Junior High School once a week. But the fleeting snow has added a sense of urgency to the players.
"We're starting to pick it up a little bit," said Anderson. "The players can start to see that the snow's melting and we're going to get a chance to play soon so it's starting to get a little more serious."
Despite not playing in a league the past two seasons have been invaluable in moving towards that goal. The nucleus of the group have been together since the beginning and the team will have to lean on that if they are going to have the success they expect to have.
"I think pretty much the whole team has stuck together, so about 10 or 11 guys have been together for the whole two years," said Anderson. "It's pretty good team chemistry which is good for a high end competitive team like this."
The coach said that his teams skills on the field aren't any slouch either, and that combination of mental preparation and play on the field could lead to a very successful season.
"I think that we have the guys that one through nine in the lineup we can match up with any team in the province, we just have to execute defensively and make our pitches," said Anderson. "It's a pretty well rounded lineup, it's not just all speed or all power we've got a little bit of everything."