The COVID-19 pandemic may have wiped out the entire 2020 BC Premier Baseball League season, but now, nearly a year later, the White Rock Tritons and their rivals are preparing to play ball.
In fact, all three Tritons’ squads – the seniors, juniors and bantams – have 24-game schedules planned and cohort groups set, with the season scheduled to begin the second week of April.
In the meantime, the three teams – which have been practising in various physically-distanced formats for months, throughout the various phases of the province’s return-to-play plan – will continue to prepare even if the province’s newest restrictions, implemented late last year, have caused the team to alter its plans on the fly – again.
“We have our pods (cohorts) set up, they’re putting the schedule together right now and we’re just getting ready to go,” said Tritons general manager Kyle Dhanani, who ceded the head-coaching duties to Chad Stang last year.
The Tritons practised mostly outdoors, in small groups, throughout the fall – only a few sessions had to be cancelled due to weather – and then after a few weeks off, the team began its strength-training program. However, the gym sessions were suspended in November when the province announce new COVID-19 restrictions.
“We were rolling, but then had to switch, so the kids were just doing their own training at home by themselves,” Dhanani explained. “But I think the feeling of being together, working hard in the gym (initially) has carried over to their home workouts.”
Those good vibes have been present at all the team functions, Dhanani noted, despite the challenges they’ve been faced with. Even now, with socially-distanced indoor sessions at the South Surrey Athletic Park’s baseball facility, the players have adjusted to wearing masks while they work, among other changes.
“They all wear their masks and for the most part it’s been fine. It’s maybe a little tough when they’re hitting but they got used to it,” Dhanani said. “And the guys have been really good so far about staying diligent – if they’re sick, they stay home, or if there’s been an exposure at their school, they stay home.
“We’re just happy we can do some baseball stuff.”
Dhanani said the team – especially the management and coaching staff – is also happy to potentially have a real season to look forward to, even if it’s shorter than usual and the games are only against limited number teams.
Near the end of last summer, the Tritons were able to play some games against other teams in their cohort group, but by that point in the lost season, those involved were just happy to be out there. That, combined with the fact that the games were exhibition tilts, didn’t always translate into the most competitive atmosphere, Dhanani admitted.
“There still is some of that feeling – that feeling that we’re just happy to play – but our organization as well as a couple others have really been pushing to make sure these kids have something to play for,” he said.
“It might not be Baseball BC provincials, but we need to make sure these guys get some competitive games going.
“It’s important not just for the team’s goals but for the players’ own personal goals as well. Especially for our graduating players, it’s important to make sure they’re prepared for college baseball. Because those colleges (in the U.S.), where a lot of our guys go, they’re still playing down there.”
Even without a season last summer, the Tritons’ U18 team – which will play in a group including Whalley, North Delta, UBC and Coquitlam – already has a pair of players signed to play at the U.S. college level next season, and a few more are close to signing, Dhanani said.
The team did get on the field enough last summer to create recruiting videos for the senior players, he noted, and added that they should be able to do the same again this year.
Despite missing an entire season and having to deal with all manner of training disruptions and changes, Dhanani doesn’t feel like his players have lost much in the way of development.
“We did get a lot of practice in. We had those two months where we did nothing and the kids were pretty much on their own – doing their own training, sending us videos – but we didn’t take as big of a break in August as we usually do, so we tried to catch up as much as possible,” he said.
The team also didn’t take much of a break in October, as they normally would, he added.
“I knew the guys would still want to be out there. There wasn’t much burnout from a long season, the guys were still hungry.”
Now, they’re motivated further with the prospect of a new season.
“We’re just looking forward to having a schedule, staying within the protocols and getting as many games and practices in as we can,” Dhanani said. “I think we’ll be good to go.”