Coach Rob Virginillo is hoping youth continue to fall in love with fall baseball, a trend that is slowly continuing to make its way in southern Alberta.
“I’ve tried for almost five years to get some sort of high school fall league going to get a few teams on board in the Lethbridge, Fort Macleod area, but they just haven’t,” said Virginillo.
“Medicine Hat has two fall teams, Calgary probably has three different fall teams. Strathmore, Edmonton, Okotoks have them, so there are a lot of other areas that have been doing fall ball for a number of years.”
A pilot project of the Junior Spurs fall baseball team had 16 players on its roster in the fall of 2013.
“It is to basically get kids into the mindset that there is great weather in the fall and they can play too. We played 20 games last year, it was awesome,” said Virginillo.
Given the unpredictable nature of Mother Nature in the spring, Virginillo added you can get more baseball in, in the fall than you can during many high school baseball seasons.
“I think the team got the message there’s plenty of good weather in September and early October to get plenty of games into fall baseball,” said Virginillo.
This year the team will be called the Bow River Raiders to better emphasize where the team draws players from which includes Vauxhall, Taber and Brooks.
“It encompasses the whole geographical area,” said Virginillo, adding thanks to the generosity of three major sponsors for new uniforms and equipment for the new team name.
Tryouts for the 2014 Bow River Raiders fall baseball team will go Monday, Aug. 25 and Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. each day at Jets Stadium in Vauxhall. Players that are eligible to try out are from Grade 9 to 12.
“I took 16 kids last year because it was our first year and I wanted to get kids introduced into doing it. That will be the high end where we’ll likely be taking between 14 to 16 players,” said Virginillo.
“Last year was a good start to show kids they can play fall ball, but seeing the competitiveness of other areas, we want to be competitive too. We had a lot of good games last year. We didn’t win a lot of games, but we were close in many of them.”
Virginillo is hoping the catch the upward swing of numbers baseball has enjoyed in the area to help continue to promote the sport well into the fall.
“Right now this area is in a good time. The Spurs have three years in a row where they’ve gone to State and those kids are still playing. I know my numbers in high school (Vikings) winning provincials, we have some good numbers in the next couple of years,” said Virginillo.
“Taber is coming back a bit again. For the next two or three years it looks good anyway and after that we will see. Even if there are kids playing hockey, unless it’s ‘AAA’ somewhere, it doesn’t really conflict much. Kids play two sports all the time.”
Bow River Raiders will kick off its fall baseball season with a home tournament at Jets Stadium Sept. 5-7. The team will then follow up with possible tournaments in Calgary, Medicine Hat, Edmonton and Strathmore.