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Soggy start to baseball season for Whalley Chiefs, who have Springenatic back on the bench

‘I enjoy it, I’m good at it, I’ve been successful at it, and I like helping the kids,’ the veteran manager says
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Whalley Chiefs Premier U18 baseball team manager Dennis Springenatic in the stands at Whalley Athletic Park, with some of the “hall of fame” player banners behind him. “They’re guys I coached, most of them,” he said. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

A familiar face is back on the bench with Whalley Chiefs’ Premier U18 team, a squad that manager Dennis Springenatic hopes to return to glory days of the 1990s and 2000s.

For the Chiefs, it’s been a relatively slow start to the season in the 13-team British Columbia Premier Baseball League (BCPBL), with two wins in five games played in pretty soggy conditions.

“The weather hasn’t been great, but that’s no excuse,” Springenatic said as his team practiced at Whalley Athletic Park (WAP).

“We lost our first three games by one run each,” he continued. “We couldn’t hit, and you gotta hit to win. We pitched good and played good defense, we just didn’t getting any clutch hits with kids on base.”

On Sunday afternoon (April 16), the bats came alive in a 20-5 Chiefs win over the Mariners in Victoria, a day after Whalley’s first win of the season, 7-2 over Victoria Eagles.

Whalley Chiefs Premier U18 pitcher Kai Fyke is among tops in the 13-team British Columbia Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) this season, according to manager Dennis Springenatic. (Submitted photo: Chiefs)
Whalley Chiefs Premier U18 pitcher Kai Fyke is among tops in the 13-team British Columbia Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) this season, according to manager Dennis Springenatic. (Submitted photo: Chiefs)

Win or lose, Springenatic says he’s happy to be back coaching the Chiefs’ top team for the first time in more than a decade. MLB veteran Kevin Nicholson had the job until his “day” job (running the Bat Cave batting cage in Langley) took too much of his time.

Last season it was Nicholson who asked Springenatic, a former coach of his, to come back to the Chiefs, where Springenatic coached starting at age 22, in 1989, and stuck around for more than two decades. Along the way he earned national Coach of the Year honours and helped players reach the Majors in an organization launched by his dad, Orest, back in 1972.

“All of these guys on the board here? They’re guys I coached, most of them,” Springenatic said, pointing to the top of the bleachers and the banners of Chiefs’ “hall of fame” players, including Adam Loewen, Cory Stuart and Cole Armstrong.

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“Kevin’s up there, too, and he called me when I was on my couch at home,” Springenatic added. “He says, ‘I’m back in Whalley, what are you doing? Come help me.’ I said, ‘I’m just riding my motorcycle and kinda working, you know.’ He pretty much begged me to come back, and I did, with the junior team last year, my first season back in 11 or 12 years. I coached that because I prefer to be the head guy, run my team. And then after some of those players moved up to this team, and I was going to help out, but now Kevin is busy and I’m coaching these guys (Premier team).”

Nicholson’s son Markus was supposed to be on the roster, but he’s rehabbing an elbow injury, Springenatic explained. He named Kai Fyke, Dio Gama, Gray Harmer and Kai Sheck as “the leaders, the senior guys” for the Chiefs, whose 2023 roster also includes Lleyton Anselmo, Eric Burshtynski, Damon Cameron, Jacob Crowder, Richard Fong, Chris Gibson, Ryan Holford, Will Paterson, Juan Puerta, Michelle Roche, Parkor Sarai, Emerson Selby and Markus Siemens.

“Some of them have been around a long time, for all the losing in recent years,” Springenatic added. “Those three games we lost to start the season, it’s tough to know how to win when you’ve lost so much – how to pick up your teammates and not get down, how to rally to win when it’s still close. Those are the things we need to coach, too. It’s a mental thing, to think more of themselves sometimes.”

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A straight-shooting guy from a family with a long history in Whalley-area baseball, Springenatic says it’s good to be back, but misses the Chiefs’ winning ways.

“I enjoy it, I’m good at it, I’ve been successful at it, and I like helping the kids,” he said of coaching . “My wife and I didn’t have kids, so this is me teaching kids I like being around. It’s been a struggle to come back, because if you look back 10 or 15 years ago, that’s when the Chiefs were a top program, in the top two or three in the league for a lot of years. I’m here to help bring that back.”

Following a pair of road games this week, the Chiefs return home to WAP for five games from April 25 through May 4. The schedule and other details are posted on whalleychiefs.com, including info about the organization’s Junior and Bantam teams.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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