The 2019 Powerline Baseball League season can officially begin. All nine teams met in Tofield on Thursday night to discuss the upcoming season and the direction that the league will go in the next few years. Here are some highlights of the meeting;
- The league unanimously voted to expand the schedule from a 14 game season to a 16 game season. This change was the result of an unbalanced schedule last season which saw teams play two opponents only once. Teams will now play each team twice. The league will have to add an additional nine games to the back end of the schedule before releasing the final version to the teams.
- For the first time in recent memory, the league will have a final date for the completion of the schedule. Teams will have until July 12 to get any make up games scheduled and played to ensure that the playoffs start in a timely manner.
- The Holden Blue Jays will continue to expand their reach into Vegreville in 2019. The Jays will host the Camrose Axemen on May 11 in Vegreville to start the 2019 PBL Season and the Tofield Braves will also play the Jays in Vegreville on Thursday May 16. The Jays are also considering a permanent move to Vegreville starting in 2020 to better reflect where the team roster is actually from.
- Teams agreed to finalize their 21 person roster by June 8 for submission to the league.
- There will be a pair of tournaments hosted by PBL teams this season. The Rosalind Athletics will once again host their tournament in conjunction with the Rosalind slo-pitch tournament and a Saturday night dance on June 21-23. The Canada Day tournament in Tofield will once again be hosted by the Braves on July 1. It is the third year in a row that the historic tournament is running after a lengthly break as Tofield was without a team since 2010.
- The league agreed to keep the Wild Card game and not expand the playoffs to include two Wild Card games. The proposal was to see the third place team host the sixth place team and the fourth place team host the fifth place team on the Tuesday, with the lowest seed remaining taking on the Pennant winners while the highest seed remaining would take on the second place team. It was a close vote, however teams elected to keep just the fourth vs fifth game for 2019.
A lengthy discussion was had by teams to clarify the playoff game rule regarding suspended play due to the elements. PBL rules state that a regular season game must be five complete innings, while a playoff game must be seven complete innings unless the mercy rule is invoked after five complete. The new rules regarding playoff games are now;
- Should a game get called before the completion of five innings, the game will revert back to a new game and teams will meet on the next playoff game to replay the game from the start with lineups reset. The ten run mercy rule after five innings is still in effect, as is the rule that a playoff game must be seven innings long.
- Should a game be called after the completion of the fifth inning, teams will meet again the following playoff date with the score from the last fully completed inning and will re-start a new game, with the score for the postponed game being honoured, with reset lineups. The ten run mercy rule after five innings is still in effect, as is the rule that a playoff game must be seven innings long.
Two recent examples were used to highlight the need for a more clear rule that respects the fact that lineups cannot stay the same in a senior league and players are travelling often an hour or more to make the game.
In 2018 the Holden Blue Jays and Armena Royals game was stopped in the fifth inning due to a storm that rolled into Armena. The Royals were up 3-2. The options available were to give the Royals the win, have the two teams meet back the following day to complete the game starting in the bottom of the fifth, or to have the game continue in a lightning storm. The game continued in rather unsafe playing conditions to see the Royals defeat the Jays 5-3 as neither team wanted the game to end up being shortened.
With the league’s new rule, the game would have been postponed until the following playoff date, with the score reverting to 0-0 and the teams resetting their lineups if need be. If the game would have been stopped in the sixth inning for example, the game would have been postponed until the following playoff date, the score of 5-2 Armena being honoured and the teams could reset the lineups if needed and the game would start with Holden up to bat in the top of the first inning. If the game was tied in this scenario in the sixth inning. Teams would meet the next playoff date and play out the last portion of the game, potentially only a couple of outs, with the same lineups needed. Teams didn’t seem to think this was ideal in a senior men’s league as Holden, whose players all hail from Vegreville, would have to travel to Armena for potentially only a couple of outs if their offence couldn’t tie the game in the top of the seventh, or Armena invoked the ten run mercy rule in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The essence of the rule change is to ensure that any game shortened by the elements will be replayed the next playoff date, with teams getting a minimum of five innings to play with new lineups if needed. Teams did not want to lose a playoff game due to the weather, nor did they want to win a playoff game due to the elements. Discretion of when the game needs to be stopped is still left up to the umpiring crew.
A final big note from the PBL Spring Meeting is the changing of the league executive for the 2020 season. President Bret Keohane will see his three year term end after the 2019 season as the league decided last year to have termed presidents with each team contributing. Keohane will hand the league over to Stephen Hrabec of the Holden Blue Jays after the 2019 season. Hrabec as been in the league executive as the Vice-President during the last two seasons and was unanimously voted into the role after the nomination. This will leave the position of Vice-President that the league will need to fill after the 2019 season. Trevor Pahl, who is the current league treasurer is also stepping down from his role after the season. Stepping up into the role will be Andrew Koziol from the Sherwood Park Athletics who was unanimously voted into the role after the nomination.
The league owes Bret a big thank you for his work as the President for the last two years and the upcoming season. He was provided the league with stability through expansion which included the Tofield Braves and Sherwood Park Athletics in 2017 as well as the Edmonton Expos and Camrose Axemen in 2018 bringing the league up to nine teams. Bret has also worked diligently with the PBL vs Battle River Baseball Annual All Star Challenge, organizing and hosting the event in Camrose. Bret will continue to be a part of the league as the Camrose Roadrunners representative after the season.
So there you have. The 2019 Powerline Baseball League season can begin! The first games are scheduled across the league on Saturday May 11 with 2:00pm start times in Rosalind, Vegreville, Armena and Tofield. Stay tuned for a finalized schedule soon.