By Dale Woodard
Alta Newspaper Group – Lethbridge
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prairie Baseball Academy’s season ground to a halt before it barely had a chance to start.
So as the PBA’s fall roster took to the field at Lloyd Nolan Yard for their Canadian College Baseball Conference season opener last week, spirits were understandably high.
With good reason, considering the PBA’s season was just underway when the pandemic sent the season back to the dugout in mid-March.
It was under aptly sunny skies that the PBA got back on the field for home opener No. 26 in the program’s history.
It was a much better feeling than the one the PBA was dealt five and a half months ago.
“It was March 12 when we just shut the doors to the building and kind of walked away,” said PBA head coach Todd Hubka. “We’ve had a lot of time to think about it and get ready for opening day and we’re really excited about it. We think we’re going to be pretty good this year. We have some talented kids here and hopefully we can build them and get ready for our spring.”
Still, there was a past summer of no baseball as the players made do with whatever routines they could.
For third-year pitcher Matthew Kohle, that meant working his arm against inanimate objects in his hometown of Red Deer.
“I’ve been throwing out every fence I could in a park, just find it and throw at it,” he said. “That’s about all you can really do. You could lift weights, but there’s not a lot of stuff open during the pandemic. You have to make do with what you had.”
Which made Kohle’s mound session a welcome one for the pitcher.
“More excited than ever,” said Kohle. “I can’t wait to start the season. Just the feeling to come out here every day and throw has a blessing. Being around a good group of guys and the coaches are great, I can’t be happy enough that we’re starting again. I’ve been looking forward to it all summer.”
The PBA will have a roster of 61 this year, said Hubka.
They all come in following a unique summer of preparation.
“Some kids used this time to get bigger and stronger and some kids just ended up working,” said Hubka. “We went into that this year talking to the group and telling them that we get that there wasn’t a lot of baseball played this summer, so be honest with yourself and the coaches. If you’re not at 100 per cent, please take care of yourself and that’s what the fall is for, to build and get them bigger and stronger.”
With no concrete schedule set for fall baseball, Hubka said he was hopeful the PBA would be able to get in some games against Vauxhall, Okotoks or some Calgary teams.
“Moving forward I think we’ll be OK and I think the way we can do this is with certain cohorts.”
Whatever pans out, Kohle plans to be ready.
“Everyone will work really hard during the fall so we are ready for the season. But I’m pretty excited for the intrasquad, the hitters can see some pitchers and we can pitch to some guys. I think it’ll be good.”
The tough break they were dealt in March will no doubt fuel them.
“It was pretty upsetting to have to leave early and not finish the season,” said Kohle. “You have to toughen up and look to next year and get them next year. We’ll go into this wanting it more than ever and wanting to win the championship.”
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