The Brooklyn Dodgers of the late 1940s had an unofficial slogan, when it came to the success of their major-league baseball team: “Wait till next year.”
And though it’s been more than a few decades since that hopeful phrase was uttered in baseball circles, it’s an expression that could very well work its way into the lexicon of the White Rock Tritons, as members of the under-18 BC Premier Baseball League team reflect on the just-completed season, and look ahead to a future they hope will include more consistent success, as opposed to the one-year in, one-year-out playoff fortunes of recent seasons.
The Tritons finished seventh in the BCPBL with a 21-23 win-loss record, and wrapped up their season two weeks ago, losing their first-round, best-of-three playoff series in two straight games to the rival Langley Blaze. Those two losses aside – as well as the fact the South Surrey-based club limped into the playoffs with six consecutive losses to end the regular season – the team’s general manager was still bullish on the campaign as a whole, and like those Brooklyn Dodgers, already excited about next spring. And the one after that.
“They had some nice success. I know at the tail-end of the season they would’ve liked to have performed a little bit better… but even in that last game, it was 2-0, and was a close ballgame that could’ve gone either way. We had opportunities to win,” said Marty Lehn.
“All in all, there were a lot of positives from this year. Would we have liked to have had a little more depth on the pitching staff? Yes, of course, but we’ll have more depth next year and the year after that. This year was a good start… it was the first year on the job for (head coach) Kyle (Dhanani), and he made a real strong impression on the guys.”
The team will have a handful of returnees next year, and they’ll be joined, Lehn said, by a handful of very strong players who will graduate from the White Rock Junior Tritons.
Lehn said preaching patience, while focusing on the upcoming crop of “premium talent” to arrive next year, will serve the organization well in the long run.
As is the case every year, and with every PBL team, the Tritons will lose a handful of key veterans to graduation – among them Adam Van den Brink and Allan Hogg, who led the team in home runs this season. Hogg was also the team’s most consistent pitcher, and led the team in games started and strikeouts, and was tied for the team-lead with three wins.
Among the young players set to return for another season are second baseman Jared Crossley, who hit .407 and stole 19 bases this year; outfielder Tate Dearing, who is a member of Canada’s national junior program, and shortstop John Vulcano, who played 35 games with the U18s despite being eligible for the junior squad. Keith Manby and Georgi Sugimoto, both of whom played key roles with the team this year, are also expected to be back as seniors for 2018.
“What you do is just stay the course. I think we’ll be very, very competitive next year – a few ticks better than this season – and I won’t be surprised if we’re in the top half of the standings. But the year after that, when our Grade 10s are seniors, that’s the year where, if I was a betting man in Vegas, I’d say we can really go for it and have a chance to win a championship.”
The Tritons have won two PBL champions in their history – in 2001 and 2003 – but in the 14 seasons since their last title, have largely been a middle-of-the-road squad, sometimes making the playoffs, sometimes not, and rarely advancing into the final rounds.
Lehn expects that inconsistency to change going forward – at least, that’s the goal, he said.
“We got into the playoffs this year, and we’d be very disappointed if we weren’t there next year as well,” he said.
The Tritons now have a bit of time off – though Dearing, Vulcano and junior Triton Lukas Frers are currently in Winnipeg, competing with Team BC at the Canada Summer Games – before reconvening for training and an exhibition schedule in the fall.
By then, Lehn said the team will focused solely on the next season, having put 2017 in their collective rearview mirror.
“We got into a little bit of a funk there at the end. But when you look back on the year, you realize that you took some steps forward, and we know we’ll be that much better for it moving forward.”