University of Calgary swings into summer

By Kelly Shippit

Well, it’s spring again which means baseball season has officially started. While the major leagues are charging upwards of $40 per ticket and our hometown Cannons charging at least five, there is a third option that will provide all the thrill of these two at no charge. The Alberta Baseball Association is operating in full force this season on a ball diamond near you.

After nearly two years of exhibition play against the likes of the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge and the five universities in British Columbia, the University of Calgary is joining the well established Calgary Senior Men’s Baseball League, led by manager Jim Lawson.

The league, which originally consisted of nine quality ball clubs, hosts some of the best talent in Canada and plays weekday night games and weekend double-headers at the Deerfoot Industrial Baseball Diamond.

The stalwart teams are welcoming the new club with open gloves and swinging bats–and the excitement seems to be reciprocated by the U of C–who seriously needed strong, regular competition. However, there are a few impediments threatening the league’s ability to run efficiently.

The largest problem facing the league is the maintaining their facility. As a senior league, there is a serious lack of corporate sponsorship, which means the league depends upon virtually non-existent community support. The Jaycee Park Group owns and operates the league’s facilities, but, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous, the field and the league are neglected.

In its current state of disrepair, the field is not suitable for hosting tournaments, which in turn could generate enough money for the league so that it could maintain the facilities on its own.

On the junior front, the two teams flying under the university banner have joined the Alberta Junior Baseball League. Many of the players on the summer squads are not actually enrolled at the U of C. Instead they spend the winter months south of the border, either at Division I universities or at junior colleges working towards full-ride scholarships.

"Its a dream for a lot of ball players and not a lot of kids from here will make it," explained Brent Allardyce, program director of the U of C squads. "But, Canadian players
are late bloomers and given the opportunity, some of these guys are able to compete."

Allardyce, with assistance from Campus Recreation–and more specifically from Associate Director Mark Eckert and Intramural Program Director Mike Boyles–have increased these young men’s opportunity for success south of the border.

Another key ingredient in the Junior clubs’ success has been the homegrown quality of its skippers. Many of the coaches are former Senior team players. As such, they teach from first-hand experience and relate to the players from a cultural perspective.

"It is really exciting to see old faces from the program helping to develop the young guys after they’ve retired," said Allardyce.

Adding competitive U of C clubs who are hoping to gain varsity status from the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union will surely raise the standard to an even higher level.

So, if you’re yearning for some outstanding action at an unbeatable price, head out the ball diamond on Saturdays this summer. There is no doubt you’ll get your fill.

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