By Greg Price
Youth will be served this season for the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets.
The team has taken its share of lumps in the loss column so far this young season, but the leaning curve has shown improvement.
“This early in the fall, this is by far the youngest team we have ever had,” said Les McTavish, head coach of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets.
“We have a lot of talent, but we are a young group. We have taken our share of lumps so far early in the fall, probably more so than we have in the past, that being said, slowly we are picking away with some good strides.”
The majority of the games the Jets have played so far this season have been against college-level programs.
“We played PBA five times, we’ve played Okanagan College once and we play PBA again this weekend and we play the university of Calgary the following weekend,” said McTavish.
“We have three 10th graders this year, and certainly as a 15 year old playing against a 20-plus year old, it is certainly an adjustment. Okanagan College is a four-year program and so they thumped us pretty good. But that being said, that’s why the guys are here, it is to learn and to get better every week and they are certainly putting the work in with a solid work ethic.”
Having three Grade 10s, seven Grade 11s and 12 Grade 12s, with nine of those Grade 12s brand new to the program, it is just as much of a mental adjustment as it is a physical one in adapting to the higher level of play.
“Baseball is a tough enough sport to begin with. Handling failure is very, very important. The players on our team were the best players on their former teams,” said McTavish.
“They are not used to failure. Our three Grade 10s, they are coming from bantam baseball where they are not even used to playing at 90-foot bases. It is a huge adjustment. Mental part is huge, confidence is huge and dealing with failure is huge. At the same time they are extremely powerful. No matter the age, confidence can go the other way. We have gotten beaten up at times, but I think we are much better at this point than we were a month ago, we are happy with the progress for sure.”
The Jets have a look of more of a small-ball squad this year in which pitching and defence will dictate the team’s success for 2015-2016. That fact is evident with a combined no-hitter that was tossed at a Kelowna tournament this past week in a 7-0 win over Whalley Chiefs. Ben Erwin started on the mound, going three innings, allowing three walks to go with three strikeouts. Garrett Nicholson threw the final three innings with five strikeouts.
“I think pitching is going to be our strength. We have three national team pitchers in Josh Burgmann, Branden Hatley, and Carson Perkins,” said McTavish.
“Moving forward, our strength will be our defence. I don’t think we will have as much power as we have had with teams in the past, but we won’t strike out as much either. The pieces of the puzzle are there, it just a matter of making them fit. This winter will be really important, working on the swing, fine-tuning skills and getting stronger.”