Mariners, Eagles idle as B.C. Premier baseball diamonds silent

The COVID-19 pandemic has removed James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, Tyler O’Neill and Rowan Wick from Major League Baseball diamonds.

It has done the same for players in the league that produced them. The B.C. Premier Baseball League season was scheduled to begin today. That, obviously, is on hold as sport across the globe has ground to a halt outside a few outpost pro soccer leagues in Belarus, Tajikistan and Nicaragua.

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The BCPBL has produced the likes of Pivetta from the Victoria Eagles and former MLB players Rich Harden and Michael Saunders from the Victoria Mariners along with the likes of Hall of Famer Larry Walker, Ryan Dempster, Jeff Francis, Brett Lawrie, Adam Loewen and Justin Morneau.

But the dreams of current potential BCPBL pros have been put on hold, at least through the spring and early summer, for players on the 13 league teams, including the Eagles, Mariners, Parksville Royals and Mid-Island Pirates of Nanaimo.

“We are looking at a lot of different scenarios — possibly July 1 or July 15 starts to the season running through Labour Day,” said Victoria Mariners head coach Mike Chewpoy.

“It’s about getting the kids on the field when it is safe. Baseball players are creatures of routine and habit.”

Trying to keep those rituals as active as possible, in individual settings, is the current challenge for baseball coaches.

“From Google Classroom, Instagram and Twitter . . . we are using all the social-media avenues we can to communicate to the players,” said Chewpoy, who is also an administrator of the Lambrick Park Secondary baseball and softball academy.

“We want to be as prepared as possible if we get the green light.”

But going from red to green is far from a certainty at this point in sports.

“We are trying to be as optimistic as possible,” said Chewpoy.

So preparation still matters if a start to the season happens. Not that it’s easy to do with fields and diamonds closed and group and team training and practices banned.

“Do the players even have walls they can bounce a lacrosse ball against to practice fielding?” noted Chewpoy.

“It’s things like lifting cans of paint if you don’t have weights at home. There is a lot of improvising going on.”

Another matter for BCPBL players headed in the fall to U.S. university or collegiate baseball teams is the recent NCAA decision to grant another season of eligibility to seniors in cancelled spring sports.

“That could create a logjam for the players from our league [who were looking to enter U.S. college or university ball next season as freshman],” said Chewpoy.

Chewpoy knows the BCPBL is hardly alone locally.

The Western Lacrosse Association, which includes the Victoria Shamrocks and Nanaimo Timbermen, and pro Canadian Premier League of soccer, including Pacific FC, have postponed the starts of their seasons.

The remainder of the Victoria Royals’ Western Hockey League season, including playoffs, was cancelled. The B.C. Hockey League and Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League were scrubbed mid-stride in the playoffs.

Several international sporting events planned this spring and summer for the Island have also been affected. The Canada men’s soccer fixtures against Trinidad and Tobago, considered crucial for 2022 World Cup Qatar qualifying in CONCACAF and scheduled for last month at Westhills Stadium in Langford, were cancelled. So too the annual Times Colonist 10K slated for this month.

The annual Stars on Ice, featuring former world championship and Winter Olympic figure skating medallists and scheduled for May 12 at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, has been cancelled. The Canada Sevens women’s rugby tournament, planned for May 2-3 at Westhills Stadium, has been postponed.

The Tokyo Olympic basketball qualifying tournament, originally scheduled for June 23-28 at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, will likely be rescheduled to next summer to coincide with the new Olympic starting date of July 23, 2021.

The West Coast League of baseball, which includes the Victoria HarbourCats, has yet to make an announcement. Neither has the annual pro golf DCBank Open tournament still slotted for June 4-7 at Uplands on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada. The Canadian Little League baseball championship Aug. 6-16 at Layritz Park is dependent on whether the 2020 Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, goes ahead or is cancelled.

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