One season after making their debut in the Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League’s midget AAA division, the Northwest Prairie Pirates program is already expanding.
With increased numbers coming up from the bantam level, the Pirates will now offer two teams this season, which will easily be able to handle the 28 players they currently have, as well as a few more that may join in the weeks leading up to the first pitch of the season.
Originally it was thought that the second Pirates team would play out of the North Saskatchewan River Baseball League (NSRBL), however, the Northwest team was one of four new teams to be introduced to the 17-team midget AA league of the SPBL, along with North Battleford, Humboldt and Macklin.
With a AAA and now a AA team in the SPBL, it basically means there is more opportunity for midget ball players in Lloydminster and the local area.
“The numbers this year dictated that we would have more than just one team,” said Derek Flasch, committee member with the Pirates baseball club. “The absolute one thing we didn’t want to do was turn away kids who wanted to play baseball. We realized you need to keep your grassroots going and you need kind of a feeder system if you want to keep your team at the premier level.”
With numbers increasing in baseball across Lloydminster, it was the perfect opportunity to keep baseball strong locally and give players a chance to play at their level.
Prior to the Pirates organization, midgets played in the NSRBL against older players before playing in the provincial tournaments. The NSRBL was only a 14 game schedule, which wasn’t a lot of baseball for the midgets, whereas in the SPBL they will play a 30 game season and provincial tournament.
It simply means more baseball for more players, and that is exactly the direction members of the Pirates and Lloydminster Baseball wanted to take the program.
“What we are trying to do is keep baseball alive at the midget level for kids that would want to continue playing ball without playing at the elite level as well,” said Flasch. “As kids get into peewee and bantam, they don’t have anything to look forward to to continue their baseball career. This is a way to keep kids active in baseball, whether it is at the AAA level or AA level.”
Flasch believes some players will be pulling double duty on both teams, especially at the pitching position, and the AA will be able to feed the AAA team should they become in need of a player to fill a position.
So far there is no set coach for the AA team. Flasch said it could be a committee approach to coaching, while the AAA Pirates will continue to be coached by Chris King.
The Northwest Prairie Pirates are a zone team in the SPBL, made up of players in the Rivers West (Zone 7) area. In the past a number the Rivers West zone has promoted the fewest kids to the Saskatchewan development baseball team, but over the last couple of seasons there has been an increase in numbers from the area.
“Over the last four years we have had six or seven kids that have played on that development team,” said Flasch. “So it is a good opportunity for the zone as well to promote baseball and get kids to another level, too. If they are going to play at the next level they have to be exposed to that kind of competition.”
The Pirates will travel to Medicine Hat on April 24-25 for two double headers because the season opens in May.