By Cole Parkinson
While the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets have seen their fall season come and go, things were both different from previous years and exactly the same.
The additional safety measures and lack of travel was certainly different from previous years as many Jets’ players usually go east to Toronto for the Tournament 12 at the Rogers Centre but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was cancelled.
Even with a different type of fall season in 2020, returning player and Lethbridge product Kalem Haney, was just happy to be back on the diamond after their spring season was completely cancelled a few months back.
“In some ways, it has been different and in others, it has been the same. We are taking many precautions for COVID like wearing masks on the field and using hand sanitizer in the dugout. The most important thing is that we are playing baseball.”
While Haney didn’t have long to travel to come back to Vauxhall, Jets players come from all over the country.
This year, players hail from coast to coast as their roster consists of players from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
While travel has not been something everyone is comfortable with, Haney says players were more than willing to continue with the team as they knew proper precautions would be put in place for players, the coaching staff, teaching staff and Vauxhall High School students.
“We knew that the school board and the program would take all precautions and keep the players as safe as possible. Also, Vauxhall has had no issues with COVID-19 so it’s a very safe town to be in,” explained Haney.
With 14 Grade 12 players making up the Jets 2020-2021 roster and after they played less in their Grade 11 year, many are still on the search for scholarships to continue their baseball careers past high school.
While Haney has committed to the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, he was still anxious to get some reps in this fall before heading into the crucial winter training and spring season.
“I was relieved when coach (Les) MacTavish was able to get games approved this fall. We are here to further our education but also play baseball at the college level,” he said.
The Jets 2020/21 roster is primarily a Grade 12 heavy squad but they are joined by six Grade 11s and two Grade 10s.
As a senior and one of the longer-serving Jets on the roster, Haney explains welcoming in the new players has been even more important this year as it wasn’t a typical year for the Jets.
“Being a returning player on the team there is obviously going to be some more responsibilities, helping the younger guys adapt to a different environment is important to building the team. COVID has brought new challenges but it has really brought us closer together as a group and we are really looking forward to building towards the spring 2021 season. We are a tight-knit group early in the season because we have the opportunity to be together 24/7 on the baseball field and around the dorms,” he said.
One of the major bonding times for VAB players each year is the trips in the spring when they head down to Las Vegas, Utah and Montana for a slate of games.
As the border remains closed with no timeline for when it could be open to non-essential travel again, VAB is hopeful they will still be able to get some games in the United States.
The program approached Horizon school board earlier in the fall requesting they review allowing the team to go down south by bus if the border does open.
Players no doubt have those games circled on the schedule each year and Haney is hopeful everything lines up for the team to continue the tradition of playing games in the United States.
“The trips to the U.S. are really important for the team to bond together but also for all the boys to get exposure to US colleges. I hope that the border opens so we don’t miss out on this opportunity like we did in the spring season of 2020.”