Even though we are technically into spring in this province, Mother Nature is still keeping the lid on outdoor sports like baseball from getting underway but that hasn’t stopped the Red Deer Riggers from getting prepared.
“We went to the Collicutt Centre, kind of got the dust off a little bit, shook off the rust and took some swings, some ground balls and got some throwing in,” said Head Coach Curtis Bailey.
It was the first official get-together for the Senior AAA provincial champions and Bailey said there were just under a dozen bodies with most of them returnees from last year and one new face, Jason Lewis, who caught the skipper’s eye.
“He played against us last summer in one of the tournaments with an Edmonton team,” said Bailey. “He’s originally from the St. Albert area and he went down and played college somewhere. He’s a younger guy and I don’t really know him that well but he can swing a bat pretty good.”
The Sunburst League is a senior loop so Bailey said while the Riggers aren’t really an older team there are some players who aren’t quite as active over the winter months and to be able to get into the baseball frame of mind is a benefit and it prepares them for the upcoming months.
As with any team the Riggers are not immune to turnover of players from season to season and Bailey said this year will be no different with about 15 players returning with some others questionable to play this year due to various injuries.
One Rigger not expected to suit up is first baseman Matt Fay who is off the to the east coast to go to school for several years to embark on a career in oral surgery.
“He’s been with the team for 10 years and took on a leadership role. He did a ton of work off the field and you couldn’t find a more committed and passionate guy about the game,” said Bailey.
The Riggers are scheduled to start the 2104 season May 9th in St. Albert but outdoor workouts are of course weather dependant plus the fact the City needs time to prepare the diamonds down at Great Chief Park with a traditional opening to teams of May 1st.
“If the snow melts quickly and they can get us on the field sooner then we can maybe arrange some exhibition games.”
Bailey said last year’s edition was a team which had plenty of power through the majority of the lineup but he feels the greatest strength was the fact the Riggers had seven pitchers who were dedicated to just pitching instead of alternating at a spot in the outfield or infield.
“We may lose a couple of those pitchers but at the same time we’ll pick up hopefully a couple more,” he said. “Defensively we’re pretty strong and we’ve got guys that can hit with power and guys that can hit for average so I look to kind of build on that.”
This season as the provincial champions the Riggers will have an eye on nationals in Newfoundland where the Riggers won a title in 1997 but Bailey said another provincial crown will be the first goal.
“But then after that we’re gearing up for nationals and we know that we have to play our best baseball to get to where we need to be.”