Summer Collegiate Baseball Taking A Hit In 2021
Posted April 14, 2021
For the second baseball season in a row, the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically effected local summer collegiate baseball in Edmonton, leaving many players and fans with a void that will need to filled.
Today, the West Coast League (WCL) expansion Edmonton Riverhawks announced that they will be postponing the launch of their franchise in the river valley until 2022. This disappointing news, while not overly surprising given the current restrictions in place, came on the heels of the WCL announcing that the entire Canadian division will not play in 2022. Earlier in the spring the Kelowna Falcons announced that they would be suspending operations in 2021 are now joined by the Victoria HarbourCats, Kamloops NorthPaws, Nanaimo NightOwls and the Riverhawks in a season off.
Previously, the WCL released a modified regular season schedule that would see an American division and a Canadian division operate separate from each other to avoid the current border restrictions.
While the Edmonton Riverhawks will have to wait until 2022, they are not sitting on their hands. "We've been very busy overseeing the installation of new artificial turf and LED lighting to upgrade this iconic baseball stadium," said Riverhawks managing director Dr. Randy Gregg in a team release. The team was also in the process of updating the old scoreboard with a modern LED scoreboard and changing the food and beverage operations at RE/MAX Field.
One of the biggest obstacles facing local summer collegiate baseball teams is the need to bring American players into Canada for the season. This was felt by the WCL teams as well as the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) who announced that they would operate a 2021 season with Canadian only players.
The WCBL also had announced that the Saskatchewan contingent of the league, the Swift Current 57's, Regina Red Sox, Weybrun Beavers and Moose Jaw Miller Express would also not be participating in the season and would return in 2022. The Fort McMurray Giants and Medicine Hat Mavericks were still undecided about the 2021 season at the time of the WCBL's release on March 25, 2021.
“Just like 2020, the WCBL is aware of the logistical differences between communities in the league and those logistics may result in some franchises having to make the difficult decision to accept an emergency leave of absence,” WCBL President Kevin Kvame said in a league statement. “However, we also feel it is important to provide a platform for our strong Canadian talent that needs to continue to develop this summer and, as such, we have assembled key franchises who can pull off this endeavour.”
That leaves the WCBL operating with the Lethbridge Bulls, Edmonton Prospects, Sylvan Lake Gulls and two Okotoks Dawgs teams would be making up the league. These teams will still face a handful of logistical concerns such as fans in the stands, quarantining processes and where to find enough Canadian talent to fill out a roster.
It is a serious blow to baseball in the area as a pair of quality summer collegiate baseball leagues will once again have to wait until next year.
About the West Coast League: The West Coast League is the West’s premier summer collegiate baseball league. Encompassing Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and now Alberta, the WCL showcases pro prospects from major collegiate conferences around the nation. Every summer, the league features unparalleled fan and player experiences, with North America’s best baseball weather. The 2019 MLB amateur draft began with former Corvallis Knight Adley Rutschman selected with the overall No. 1 pick by the Baltimore Orioles. Also in 2019, 317 WCL alums were active in affiliated professional baseball, including 45 in the major leagues, while overall attendance in the West Coast League increased to nearly half a million fans.
About the Western Canadian Baseball League: The Western Canadian Baseball League (the “WCBL”) is Canada’s pre-eminent summer collegiate baseball league. The predecessors to the WCBL date back to 1948. Over the past 56 years the league has gone by such names as the Canadian-American Baseball League, the Northern Saskatchewan Baseball League, the Alberta-Saskatchewan Baseball League, the Western Major Baseball League, the Saskatchewan Baseball League and since 2000, the WCBL. The WCBL boasts a long standing tradition of creating a showcase for top Canadian professional and college prospects while at the same time offering American college players the opportunity to hone their skills in front of enthusiastic baseball fans in towns and cities throughout the Prairies. The WCBL is a wood bat league in the tradition of such outstanding American collegiate circuits as the Cape Cod League, the New England Collegiate League, the Coastal Plains League, the Northwoods League and in the nearby Pacific Northwest, the Pacific International League and the newly formed, West Coast Collegiate League.