The White Rock Bantam Prep Tritons currently sit second in their under-15 league standings with a record of 31 wins and nine losses.
They’ve won seven in a row – many by lopsided margins – and have won nine of their last 10 games.
Not bad for a team that’s not actively trying to win.
That’s not to say the team doesn’t want to win, but it’s just not the coaching staff’s number-one priority.
We’re a development team, so we’re trying to develop everybody and help them grow so they can all move on to the next level – that’s the goal,” said head coach Grant MacDougall.
“We’ve been training and working as a group of 15 – we don’t just play nine guys and work the rest of the players in sometimes. We have our few core guys, sure, but we move players in and out (of the lineup), we move them around – we want everyone to play… if they’re not playing, they’re not getting any better.”
The strategy seems to be working. Last weekend, for example, the Tritons won four of games against the Okanagan Athletics, by scores of 12-2, 12-4, 16-2 and 17-0.
“And we didn’t even use any of our top three pitchers,” MacDougall said.
Of course, MacDougall is quick to point out that pinpointing the team’s top three – or even top 10 – pitchers is something of a challenge, considering nearly every player on the roster can pitch if called upon. So far this season, 14 of the team’s 15 players have toed the rubber at least once.
The pitching depth was improved in the last few weekends, MacDougall said, once some of the team’s younger players were given a bigger role.
“A few of the younger guys, they’re starting to get a little bit stronger, a bit smarter – they’re throwing with more control,” he said. “They’ve been really good for us.”
The team is relatively young, too, even for the U15 level. Only seven players will move up to the junior (U16) ranks next year, and just one player on this year’s team – pitcher Tyson Dias – is a holdover from last year’s squad.
Having such a deep pitching staff is something of a rarity, admitted MacDougall, who has coached youth baseball for “40-something” years. And the reasons the team have developed such a big group of hurlers is twofold. First, the more pitchers a team has available means, typically, less stress and strain is put on young arms. And secondly, MacDougall wants all of his players to be able to play multiple positions.
“I’ve been coaching a long time, and I understand these kids need time to rest. If they have even an inkling of pain, we let them rest and heal. It’s not about wins and losses, it’s about development,” MacDougall re-iterated.
“We don’t always pat them on the shoulder – sometimes there’s a bit of tough love there – but we’re trying to develop them mentally and physically, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
As for playing multiple positions, MacDougall said that philosophy is also one that was borne with development – and the future – in mind.
“As these guys move up and get into things like provincial teams or national teams, what if you have a guy who has only played shortstop his entire life, but now there’s five better shortstops?” he said.
“Maybe now you don’t make that team because you can’t play another position.”
MacDougall said that roster flexibility has resulted in success for this group this season, because players are confident they can contribute in a variety of ways. Coaches, too, are confident that whoever they throw out onto the field will be successful, he added.
The Tritons have just four regular-season games left this season, but regardless of whether or not they can catch the first-place Langley Blaze in the standings – Langley has a half-game lead on the Semiahmoo Peninsula team – they’ll be hitting the field at provincials in August as hosts. The U15 provincials are set for Aug. 9-13 at South Surrey Athletic Park.
In total, 10 teams from across B.C. will be taking part.
“We don’t want to just be a host – we’re going in to win it,” MacDougall said.
In the meantime, the team will continue to prepare. This weekend, the Tritons are in Tsawwassen’s Winskill Park, taking part in the Kyle Losse Memorial Tournament.
The Junior Tritons, meanwhile, are set to play at the Can-Am Tournament in North Vancouver, while the senior (U18) Tritons are in Portland, taking part in a 25-team showcase tournament that will be well-attended by college scouts.
“It’s a big tournament weekend for everyone,” said Junior Tritons coach Kyle Dhanani.