For collegiate players of any sport, the past 12 months haven’t been easy, as the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with schedules, travel – or schools being open at all.
Which is why White Rock Tritons general manager Kyle Dhanani is even more impressed when he scans the list of recent alumni from his BC Premier Baseball League squad – many of whom are currently playing in the U.S. as the college baseball season heats up.
The list of recent BCPBL graduates is a long one, and includes Marshal Luiz (Jackson State University), Jason Hill (Central Washington), Keith Manby (Miles Community College), Jackson Hogg (Marion University), Noah Bryerton (Centralia College), Josh Fluet (Allen County Community College), as well as Jansen Crossley, who recently finished a four-year career playing at Elmira College in New York and is now attending graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh.
“It might be (the most alumni playing in the U.S.) we’ve ever had,” Dhanani said last week. “These last few years we’ve had a real good group of guys moving on, and it’s impressive that most of them are staying there and following through. Every year, some guys stay, some don’t – it happens with every (BCPBL) program – but these guys look like they’re sticking down there.
“I don’t know if they’re just better prepared for it, or they’re just at schools that are really good fits for them. But after everything that’s happened in the last year, it’s pretty awesome to see these guys down there finishing up school – which is the number-one thing they went down there to do.”
With COVID-19 protocols different state-to-state – though few are currently as restrictive as B.C. regulations – U.S. teams are all at different stages of their respective baseball seasons, though Dhanani said for the most part teams are playing non-conference games in advance of regular-season conference play.
“Guys are trying to make their way onto the starting roster before conference play starts,” he said, noting that Hogg has two home runs already, and pitchers Fluet and Manby are both excelling so far with their teams.
In addition to the former Tritons south of the border, a handful more are waiting for their Canadian seasons to begin. A number of graduates – Logan McNiel, Cameron Dunn, Darius Opdam-Bak, Corbin Smith and Brogan McDougall – are set to play this spring, health restrictions permitting, at Douglas College, while others include Matthew Rachman (McGill University), Sam McPherson (Vancouver Island University), Kieran Ritchie (Carleton), Kiestin Evans and Andy Lee (both Thompson Rivers Universit), Caleb Kaufmann (Concordia) and Jason Blouin and Travis Klein (both University of the Fraser Valley).
“Everybody in B.C. is just getting ready for the next phase. I know all the schools are just creating as many contingency plans as possible so they’re ready to play (at some point),” Dhanani said.
“The news from a few days ago about universities planning to (have students) on campus in the fall, that’s big news for our guys, and something for them to look forward to. That experience is part of the whole package.”
On the BCPBL front, Dhanani – who ceded head coaching duties of the U18 Tritons to Chad Stang last year – said teams are just waiting for the go-ahead to resume games, whether they be in cohort groups as they were briefly last summer, or even just intrasquad games.
“We’re prepared and doing as much as we can – as much as we’re allowed to,” he said. “We’re taking the first week of spring break off but it would be amazing and well-deserved if we could get the green light to play some intrasquad games at the end of March, because all the teams in our league have done such a good job of adhering to the protocols.
“If that happens, it would be awesome.”
Until they hear otherwise, Dhanani said all three Triton teams – the bantams, juniors and seniors – are still planning for a projected April 10 start date, within a cohort group.
“We’re still preparing for that date, but if we have to, we’ll adjust accordingly.”