Shawn Corness was feeling bold Tuesday morning.
Coaches in any sport at any level don’t often make predictions or set expectations too high.
They open themselves up to second guessing if they fall short, so they just keep their mouths shut. But Corness, the newly-minted head coach of Chilliwack’s newly-minted collegiate baseball team delivered a doozy at the introductory press-conference.
“My hope is within three years we’re competing in the final game for a Canadian College Baseball Conference championship,” he said.
The six-team league his team joins has been dominated by the Lethbridge-based Prairie Baseball Academy, winners of the last five CCBC championships.
They are the big dogs Corness and company will be chasing down, and he anticipates epic clashes with PBA.
“Todd (Hubka) has done a great job of recruiting, has some good connections across the country including a really strong one in Nova Scotia,” Corness said. “He’s drawn a lot of quality players from back east. They have a great facility. He runs his program well and I look forward to bringing us up alongside.”
Corness has his own network of Canadian contacts, developed over the last decade, seeking recruits for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. He doesn’t feel overmatched by anyone in the recruiting game and feels he has an edge building a roster that will be competitive from day one.
“We’ve been on the go about two weeks now and we already have 15 signed recruits,” Corness mentioned. “We have another 10 guys who are excited about this and close to signing. They’re excited about being the first guys in here to kick this off.”
“We’re giving them the challenge of a new program where, ‘It’s not going to be easy boys, but you get to be the first guys in something that’s going to grow and flourish over the years.’”
Corness leaves a championship calibre program at UBC to do this.
There’s excitement as he starts something from scratch and puts his own stamp on it.
There’s also nervousness, a little fear of the unknown.
“When you talk about UBC you’re talking about the number one program in the country, so it wasn’t easy making the decision to leave,” said Corness, who served as UBC’s pitching/assistant coach. “I had 10 years and a lot of great experiences there, and when you start something new there’s a lot of, ‘What’s it going to be like next week? Next month? Next year?’ So yes, there’s nervousness. But also a lot of excitement.”
Still up in the air is how closely, if at all, his program will be affiliated with the University of the Fraser Valley.
Corness sounded confident something will happen, but UFV was more cautious, saying the application is still ‘in process’ with nothing green-lighted.
No matter what, the program will hold ‘club team’ status for the first two years, with a long term goal of becoming a UFV varsity squad.
“Down the road hopefully UFV looks at us, sees a really formidable club and thinks we should be a varsity program.” Corness said. “Having varsity status with UFV would get us support from the school, financially and otherwise, which helps. And just having that affiliation with them and being the UFV Cascades would make it more legitimate.”
“Our players will have to be enrolled in a minimum of six credits the first year, and academics will be first and foremost with our program.”
Of the 15 recruits Corness has landed so far, six are from Chilliwack, including Liam ‘Soupy’ Campbell.
“My goal for a long time has been to play university baseball, and I thought I’d have to leave Chilliwack to do it,” Campbell said. “I was selected to play for the Premier Baseball League’s Abbotsford Cardinals, but when I heard about this I decided to stay.”
“It was the best baseball decision I ever made because I won a Western Canadian Championship with Shawn’s midget AAA team last summer, and now I get this opportunity to stay home and still be coached by him.”
Corness seems to inspire rave reviews from all his players, and Campbell’s no different.
“A lot of coaches will get mad and scream and throw stuff, and punishment running’s a big thing with some guys,” he said. “Shawn’s a guy who’s easy to play for as long as you stay focused and play hard.”
Campbell was offered a spot this year on one of Chilliwack’s soon-to-be rivals, the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack.
But the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new program was too appealing.
“I think this will be much more rewarding,” he said. “We’ve got guys here who are ready to work hard. We’re going to have a good young team and I think we’re going to be very competitive.”
Get CCBC info at ccbc.pointstreaksites.com/view/ccbc