Victoria Mavericks Baseball is stepping up to the plate this season, bringing hot bats, strong pitching and a revamped league.
The oldest amateur baseball league in Canada has been running the bases since 1863, but organizers felt the Mavericks had become watered down the last few years. When 17-year Maverick veteran Lanny Burrows took over as president in the off season, he knew things had to change.
“I’m a Lambrick guy for life, and I didn’t want to see the league become obsolete,” said Burrows, a U.S. college player in the ’90s. “We wanted to play competitive ball, where it’s not just a beer drinking league.
“We wanted to build back that reputation. We wanted a fresh look and fresh perspective on our league.”
Burrows called in friends and favours and created a new website, new logo, and signed up with Pointstreak to have statistics available online. And the changes continued on the field at Lambrick Park. To return to the highly competitive ball familiar to the many former college and pro players in the league, one of the weaker teams, in this case the Giants, was dissolved, creating stronger lineups for the remaining four squads.
“We really feel that this year we’re stepping up the quality of our game,” said Graham Campbell, a former Victoria Seal, who’s a manager and player with the defending league playoff champion Padres.
“We lost a few players because of [the decision to dissolve the Giants], but each team now has more depth.”
As in most recreational adult sports leagues, players with families and jobs can’t always commit to every game and practice. Now the Padres, Blue Jays, Athletics and Dodgers will have some extra capable bodies in their dugouts, unlike the past, when teams often arrived at the park short of players.
“We had to be calling up high school players or anybody kicking around the park to make a lineup,” Campbell said.
The league has long been a place where talented players could play a reasonably high calibre of ball, and this year is no exception. Besides Campbell, a pitcher and outfielder, Charlie Strandlund, a pitcher, outfielder and second-baseman for the Athletics, also played with the Seals.
“You get to feel what it feels like to earn a spot. At the pro level, you need to produce if you want to play,” Campbell said about the experience. “[The Mavericks] is nowhere near the top level, but you play the same way.”
Burrows’ Blue Jays teammate Curtis Pelletier, at first baseman, played pro with the Victoria Capitals a decade ago, the Blue Jays’ Sean Murphy is a former college infielder who carries a “big stick” to the plate, and six-foot-two, 240-pound Shawn Loglisci is a scary presence on the mound.
“He’s a muscle-bound pitcher,” Campbell said of the former Los Angeles Dodgers draft pick who throws for the Athletics. “His claim to fame is his fastball, and he’s a bit of an intimidating guy.”
As well as the veterans, many of whom have taken on organizational roles, Burrows and company wanted to regain the interest of young college players needing some quality reps in the summer. He said in recent years the Mavericks hadn’t seen that wave of newcomers showing up each spring. As it turned out, however, the word spread quickly this season that the league was returning to form.
“We had phone calls from a bunch of guys wanting to play,” Burrows said. “There’s a ton of youth coming into the league this year. People have to fight for spots.
“It’s good baseball.”
The Mavericks teams began their 27-game schedule last weekend, with the annual Doug Conn Memorial Tournament, featuring the Mavericks All-Stars, set for the May long weekend. The first Thursday night under the lights was rained out, but tonight, weather permitting, it’s the Padres and Jays, while the Athletics take on the Dodgers on Sunday. Both games begin at 7 p.m.