Preseason preparation gives way to opening day in the B.C. Premier Baseball League (PBL) this weekend.
The provincial league for players 18-and-under has a dozen games scheduled to be played Saturday and Sunday, including four featuring the Whalley Chiefs.
Named the PBL’s Organization of the Year in 2014, the Chiefs begin their 44-game season in Kelowna, where they will play four games in two days against the Okanagan Athletics.
The Chiefs are coming off an 18-30 (won-lost) regular season in 2014, which saw them finish in 10th place. Okanagan was 28-20, placing fourth.
The Chiefs began preparations for the 2015 season three months ago, attending the 2015 Martin Luther King Tournament in Phoenix, Arizona Jan. 16-20.
For the second consecutive winter, the Chiefs took two teams to the tournament. This season, the Whalley coaching staff was assisted by five professional players currently living in the Phoenix area.
Cole Armstrong and Adam Loewen, two former Chiefs players, were among the five Canadian pro players who offered instruction during the team’s stay in Arizona.
Armstrong retired as a player following the 2013 season, ending an 11-year career in baseball’s minor leagues, four of which were at the AAA level.
Loewen was drafted fourth overall in the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft, and made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles in 2006. He is currently in the Philadelphia Phillies minor-league system.
Taylor Green, Dustin Molleken and Emerson Frostad also took time to work with the Chiefs.
Green, a former PBL player with the Parksville Royals, played third base at the major league level with the Milwaukee Brewers. Molleken recently signed with the Cleveland Indians and is pitching in their minor-league system, while Vancouver native Frostad is attending Arizona State University after a 10-year professional career in the minor-league systems of the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers.
“They are genuinely interested in the development of the high performance programs in B.C. and Canada like the Whalley Chiefs,” said Chiefs general manager Paul Hargreaves.
The Chiefs will play their first home game next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Whalley Stadium against the Abbotsford Cardinals.