By Cole Parkinson
For Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The ball diamonds in Taber are preparing for the return of the W.R. Myers Rebels boys’ baseball team. This week sees game action for the squad after a few tryouts earlier this spring. And with warmer weather hopefully sticking around, the team is itching to get back out.
After tryouts wrapped up, the coaching staff saw tons of players readying for games. This year’s team sees quite a few younger players, which could work out to the advantage of the Rebels.
“We ended up taking a nearly-max roster of 17 players. With a ton of Grade 10s, we decided to schedule a few junior varsity games, on top of our regular league schedule, to give everyone some playing time. It is still a very young roster, so the added JV games will give a lot of kids some valuable experience,” explained Garrett Simmons, coach of the Rebels.
Looking at their roster heading into the first several games of the spring, the coaching staff is encouraged by the players that have made the team. With two teams at the school this year, players will have tons of opportunities to earn playing time.
“Pitching-wise, we should have four to five reliable arms on our senior squad. It’s going to be a little more challenging on the JV squad to find players that can consistently throw strikes but in the end, it’ll be a work in progress all season. At the plate, our top six is going to be pretty strong and after that, we’re going to rotate players in and see who can get hot as the year goes on,” continued Simmons.
While last season didn’t result in many wins for the young squad, this year the coaches and players are hoping to rack up some wins. Building on the experiences they had last season, players are no doubt ready to show the opposing teams what they’ve learned and how they’ve gotten better over the offseason.
“Expectations are higher this year for sure. Last year, we had a mix of extremely young players, with a lot of Grade 9s and a group of inexperienced players. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable seasons I could remember but wins were really hard to come by. I expect this team to make a solid run in the regular and have a real chance at a title at the end,” stated Simmons.
Like any other year, pitching will be a key component for the Rebels. With a fairly reliable crop of pitchers on the SV side, the coaches are excited to see what they can bring this season. But keeping those arms as healthy and as fresh as possible is a huge factor for the teams as they try to win tons of ball games.
“Pitch counts certainly make it an interesting process in terms of carefully planning out your pitching rotation. The top priority is always protecting young arms,” continued Simmons. “For us, and virtually every team in this high school league, finding players that can throw strikes is critical. You can’t defend against walks, and the quickest way to have innings get away from you is for your pitchers to issue free passes. I hope we can find a group of pitchers that can develop and grow throughout the season and give us a chance to be very competitive.”
The high school baseball season is a quick one that goes by in a blink of an eye and the Rebels want to capitalize on games early on. And the unpredictability of southern Alberta’s spring weather adds another challenge.
“High school baseball is an extremely short season, and the unpredictable weather makes it even shorter. We’ll only have one full outdoor practice under our belts with the entire team, before Tuesday’s season opener. We spent most of the spring in the gym, and that’s always frustrating. That said, we need to get off to a solid start, string some good innings together and build some early confidence. We play in a very tough division, with mostly Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams, so that provides a good challenge for us as a Tier 3 team,” stated Simmons. “We’re also set to host the Tier 3 provincials the weekend of June 2 weekend, so that gives our players something to really look forward to. As I’ve told the group, the regular season is a time for us to really hone our game and get prepared for provincials, when we’ll be playing teams in our tier. The coaching staff is excited to see how this year’s team progresses.”
The Rebels’ season kicked off on Tuesday night with a showdown against Vauxhall High School.
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