Wrapping Up 2019 and Looking Ahead to 2020
Posted November 4, 2019
It is seeming more and more unlikely that the Powerline Baseball League executive will be convening for a fall/winter meeting to wrap up the 2019 Powerline Baseball Season. With time running out before the always busy holiday and hockey season, the league executive may now be looking for a bigger meeting in the spring to set up the 2020 season.
There are some important issues that have popped up during the 2019 season that the league will need to have resolved before next season begins. I have tried to capture those things below;
Firming up the League Executive
It was at the Spring 2019 meeting that the League Executive voted to have Holden Blue Jays player/manager and PBL Vice-President, Stephen Hrabec take over the role of PBL President after the 2019 season was completed. PBL President at the time Brett Keohane would have his three year term end after the PBL Championship was handed out and the league felt Hrabec was the right person to take on the role. It would however leave the position of Vice President vacant once that transition took place. In the Spring of 2019 the PBL also elected to have positions on the League Executive be limited to three years and include a clause where once a team has satisfactory fulfilled a role on the League Executive, they can move down the list to ensure other teams have their opportunity to be a part of the League Executive. Recent PBL Presidents have included Keohane (Camrose Roadrunners), Craig Neufeld (Bardo Athletics), Steven Pahl (Leduc Milleteers) and Josh Banack (Camrose Roadrunners).
Currently it is believed that Hrabec is leading the PBL while the position of Vice-President is yet to be filled or even nominees. This was originally planned to be done at the Fall 2019 meeting. Over the last three seasons the PBL has seen growth under the leadership of Keohane, with additions of the Sherwood Park Athletics in 2017 as well as the Edmonton Expos and Camrose Axemen for the 2018 season. During his tenure the seemingly impossible happened as two bitter rivals, the Bardo Athletics and Ryley Rebels, merged to form the Tofield Braves. The league is as competitive as ever atop the standings, with 3-4 teams in the hunt ever season while there is always a 2-3 team race for the final playoff spot as well. Under Keohane the PBL also worked out playoff rainout and game stoppage rules/procedures as well as the implementation of the PBL Wild Card game, adding another level of excitement to the end of the season.
Another position that needs to filled is that of Treasurer. In the Spring Meeting, Trevor Pahl of the Leduc Milleteers announced that he would be stepping away for the position after the 2019 season as well. At the time, Andrew Koziol of the Sherwood Park Athletics took on the role after a successful nomination and vote from the league. Unfortunately the Sherwood Park Athletics folded a few weeks into the season, more than likely leaving this position vacant as well.
Current PBL Executive
President: Stephen Hrabec (Holden Blue Jays)
Secretary: Ian Sherbaniuk (Armena Royals)
As I am sure everyone is fully aware, the PBL had the misfortune of seeing a franchise close it’s doors during the season for the second time in fifteen seasons. After the Sherwood Park Athletics folded the league was sent into a tail spin trying to figure out what to do with regards to the games already played and the remaining games in the A’s schedule. Ultimately through a lengthy email chain, and an airing of grievances on Twitter, it was decided to keep the A’s record and issue a total of eleven forfeits until the end of the season.
A big issue was that the PBL had no specific rule in place with regards to forfeits and specifically the consequences that come with a team forfeiting, causing mass confusion. The PBL already allows teams to start a game and play with only eight players, which seemed to be utilized a lot in 2019, so would implementing a forfeit rule around a number of forfeit sustained prior to an additional punishment might not work in the league. Perhaps the teams can be encouraged to work on a mutual agreement between them to find another date, but this does little to deter a team for asking to postpone a game because they don’t have the right players vs enough players.
The league will need to come together for two things, first to set the specific rule regarding a team folding during the regular season as well as the a team is issued multiple forfeits in a season (both the Camrose Axemen and Leduc Milleteers were guilty of this in 2019). Second, and maybe a bigger issue, is finding the balance between being fast and loose with the league’s list of rules and having something in place that is thorough enough to avoid confusion and email chains to set rules and policies.
Rule Book/Policy Book/Hand Book
The PBL has changed significantly over the past few years and there appears to be more of a desire, and perhaps need, to have the league as organized as ever. One thing that could drastically help the league and it’s teams is the implementation of a PBL rule book or something to that effect. Basically an expanded look at the short list of rules currently set out by the league which includes a more detail on situations that could arise with forfeits, playoff tie breakers and rosters for examples.
A major focal point of the expanded rule book/policy book/hand book for the league would be to have teams reference the contents when something occurs as opposed to causing a informal email thread vote that takes a few days to a week or more to complete. There have been a few big issues that the league has had to tackle in the last number of seasons. There was the Tavaroli Rule that challenged and changed the old way of rosters, there was the infamous five way tie for first place in 2014, there was the playoff game stoppage that resulted in a game between the Armena Royals and Rosalind Athletics that needed to be then played over two days and in 2019 there was the folding of the Sherwood Park Athletics in the first third of the season. All of which needed to be corrected on the fly and resulted in fairly large changes to the league as a result.
It could also create standard rules around what the league needs to do in order to change or implement a rule or policy either in during the off season or as we have seen in the last couple of seasons, during the season. Teams should probably be required to make substantial changes to the fabric of the league in a league meeting setting and not via email in a reactionary manner. This would be a big change to the way things are and have always been done in the league but it would put more emphasis on teams coming together in a face to face setting to solve a problem. For example in 2019 the league had no plan for the unfortunate loss of the Sherwood Park Athletics. There was precedence from 2004 when the Chipman Crackerjacks ceased operations in the middle of the season and the league elected to just add forfeits to the end of their schedule. From 2004 until 2019, there was no known motion to rectify this by implements a policy on how the league will handle it. Fifteen years later it happened again, this time getting to play out on social media as the league struggled to find a solution.
While the PBL doesn’t have to be as robust as some other leagues with their policy manuals and league manuals, there is probably a big benefit for the league and teams to have something slightly more thorough in place.
Annual Harry Andreassen All-Star Challenge
It has been a staple in the local baseball schedule since the start of the 2000s. The Powerline Baseball League All-Stars square off against the Battle River Baseball League All-Stars at Harry Andreassen Field in Camrose. The best of both leagues face off with a trophy and bragging rights on the line as well as the Doug Wolbeck Memorial MVP trophy, which was added three years ago.
The game has appeared to have fallen on a little harder times than in the past. At one point the game would be held on a week night in Camrose, under the lights, with the PBL often scheduling either a Tuesday or Thursday off it’s schedule so teams could play. The game was often in mid/late June, in the heart of the baseball season. It used to be an event that more players were willing to go to, maybe because it was still during the season and on a weeknight already scheduled for baseball.
The last few years has seen the game be pushed to the end of the season, typically into the second weekend of August and on a Sunday afternoon. There has also been less and less players willing or able to go as a result it seems. Perhaps it is a weekend in August which becomes family time, fishing weekends or vacations or perhaps it is because the game occurs a month or more after a portion of both the BRBL and the PBL teams have stopped playing baseball. In 2019 for example the All-Star Challenge was held on Sunday August 11, while the Camrose Roadrunners and Camrose Axemen last played on July 7 with the Leduc Milleteers (as a result of a couple of forfeits) hadn’t been on a field since July 4 and the Tofield Braves last saw action on July 15 in the Wild Card Game. It appears that once the league play is over for teams, players scatter and getting players to commit to playing after a month of no baseball is becoming tougher and tougher. In 2017 the All Star Game was on a Tuesday night in August, however the PBL was without the Holden Blue Jays and Rosalind Athletics who were playing game three of the PBL Championship Series that night down the highway in Rosalind.
So what is the solution? Perhaps the league can try to organize the game in the middle of the season again, mid/late June or early July, when both the BRBL and PBL is in full swing. Either the leagues need to come to an agreement on a weeknight in the middle of the season that they can schedule a game day off for teams so that players can attend or find a weekend afternoon in the middle of the season so allow players the extra time to travel to the game. The push back for this is that teams don’t want to have pitchers throwing a few innings in the All-Star Challenge because league games take precedence. Both leagues, and fans, want the best players from both leagues to square off, the leagues should be able to work together to find a suitable date for that to happen, commit to it and announce it early in the season to ensure players and fans know about it.
PBL Media & Platforms
In 2019 the PBL slowly moved away from its previous website hosting services to a different provider to ensure fans and players get a more baseball specific approach to news, scores and standings. There was also a hope that the league will continue to be able to work with local weekly newspapers such as the Camrose Booster, Tofield Mercury, Leduc Rep and Vegreville News Advertiser to continue to promote the league and teams. There was some mixed support and interest from the media outlets in 2019 as some seem to have moved to requiring payment for anything related to promotions or advertising a business or service, such as a league schedule. We will continue to try work with the these outlets to ensure that people in the community is aware of their hometown team’s action and at the same time look to continue to offer PBL information on social media platforms to compliment the teams individual work as well.
Twitter has become the main source for fans to get immediate updates on scores and game information. Some teams are more diligent than others but the league will continue to report scores and game news in 2020. One option is for each team to perhaps send the league a photo of the scoresheets, if possible, to ensure information is more diverse to the fans as opposed to just a score. The pre-social media and texting era saw teams submitting information to a league source or a local news paper via phone. Hopefully the league can better use some of the technology it has at it’s disposal in 2020 to ease this burden. The PBL appears to already be quite ahead of the curve with regards to the use of a website and social media, hopefully there is a way to continue with this trend next season.
There are also a handful of items that are, for the time being, blue sky thinking or perhaps more accurately wishful thinking due to some significant league culture and logistic hurdles.
First there was a conversation about league wide awards. A PBL MVP, Cy Young Award (top pitcher), Silver Slugger Award (best hitter) and a Home Run Champion Award. This might be the most doable of all the wishful thinking items but it will still require the league and the teams to button down on tracking some very basic stats like pitcher wins and home runs submitted to the league would be a start. The conversation would lead to a discussion around a stats option in the league, which was quickly shut down due to not all teams even keeping a scorebook to teams keeping one but not accurately with relevant information. A year end vote by teams, asking them to submit a ranked listing of their top their pitchers they faced and their top three hitters could be a start, although the same push back with regards to league wide All-Star voting would surely happen as each team only plays each other twice and might not get to see a player during those games.
The second blue sky item was the creation of a PBL Hall of Fame. Obviously this would simply be something of record keeping and acknowledgement versus a physical space dedicated to the PBL and its eighty plus years. There have been some tremendous players in the league who were year in and year out at the top of the league for a long time and there have been some instrumental builders who have worked within their communities to ensure the PBL would be as successful as possible. It would be daunting to determine who is worthy of the honour as the league has been around since 1933 and there have been periods of time, especially pre-2000, where information on players and teams is fairly limited. To get it off the ground the league would need to get together and compile a list of players, if they had knowledge of any, who would be deserving of the honour. Then a committee or the League Executive would have to filter through the information to select a name or two every year. The league would without a doubt need to consult with some of the elder statesmen of the league and perhaps the local fans to get the idea off the ground.
Another idea was for the league to work towards building a PBL All-Star team to compete for the Senior Provincial Championship in August. The idea was for the league to identify an interested manager within its ranks who would then work on creating a roster from players within the league by invitation to play in provincials. There would be an obvious expense concern that the league would have to look at overcoming, with say the purchase of jerseys. The other obstacle would be the now lack of interest in provincials across the province. Since 2017 there appears to have been next to no interest from teams across the province, for example in 2019 the Edmonton Blackhawks of the North Central Alberta Baseball League were announced the province’s western representatives early in the spring due to a lack of interest. The league would need complete buy in from players to commit to a weekend tournament in August to make a decent showing.
There had been some tongue in cheek comments in the past about the PBL being split into two divisions, such as an east and a west with the idea that teams closer to each other could play more and only have to travel a longer distance once or twice a year. Perhaps this is an idea that the league could look at if the league expanded into a couple more markets but with eight teams, it might be a little more difficult to divide them into two groups to limit travel. Would the Camrose Axemen, Camrose Roadrunners, Armena Royals and Rosalind Athletics be grouped together while the Leduc Milleteers, Edmonton Expos, Tofield Braves and Holden Blue Jays be the other division? Or would Edmonton, Leduc, Armena and either the Axemen or Roadrunners be in the west with Tofield, the other Camrose team, Rosalind and Holden being in the west? Perhaps a better solution for the league would be to look at the teams that are the furthest apart (Rosalind/Leduc or Leduc/Holden) and have the teams play both their games for the season in a double header and alternate the home team of those double header’s each year. So in 2020 Leduc travels to Holden to play an away game and a home game against the Blue Jays and in 2021 the Blue Jays head to Leduc to do the same.
There are lot’s of ideas that floated out there in casual conversation with people in the league. It would be interesting to see the appetite of the league to try and think of ways to keep moving forward and continually add to it’s lengthy history.