Peter Shepert is welcomed by his Jiffy Lube All-Star teammates.

Mike Falkins positions himself to block an errant pitch.

Jordy Brand, a consummate infielder, delivers a throw during the All-Star game.

The Jiffy Lube All-Stars celebrate a good inning

Click on picture for larger print

Sherwood Park Athletics claim first ever Championship crown
by defeating the Red Lions in two close games at Keller Field.

Red Lions Will Clash with the Athletics For the NCABL’s Top Prize

Following two semi-final series which went the distance and which provided some great baseball action, two familiar foes have emerged and will face one another for the NCABL Championship on Saturday, September 19th and if necessary again on Sunday, September 20th. All the action will be taking place at Keller Field in Westlock. The first pitch in game 1 of the LCFS will be at 1:00 PM with a second game set to begin at 4:00 PM. If a third game is necessary it will be played on Sunday with a 2:00 PM start time.

These two clubs have met on several previous occasions in the post-season. In 2017, the League’s 50th anniversary, the Red Llons swept the Athletics by scores of 6-4 and 8-7 to capture their most recent Championship. In the following year (2018), The Athletics met the Red Lions in the LCSFS and pushed the Red Lions to a third and deciding game which they won in convincing fashion only to fall to the Blackhawks in straight games. Last year (2019) saw a repeat of the same for the Athletics who embarrassed the Red Lions in straight games but could not solve the spell that the Blackhawks held over their cross town rivals. Again, the Athletics were denied the top prize after toiling in the North Central Alberta Baseball League for a full decade. But 2020 is a new season, one which offers yet another opportunity to make one’s mark in a highly competitive League which has overcome the challenges of serving up a season during a pandemic. The Athletics will be facing the pennant champions, a proud veteran group of players with a sprinkling of youthful up and comers. The Athletics will not be taking their opponent lightly. But in this series, they too will be bringing experience to the diamond along with the memories of too many opportunities left unfulfilled. This alone will underscore a new appetite for victory. Be there on Saturday to witness a piece of history in the making. Admission is only $5 per event day.

League Championship Semi-Final

Series A of the League Championship Semi-Final continues on Monday, September 14th, with the third and deciding game being played at Wally Footz Field in Edmonton between the Red Lions and Primeaus. Game time is 7:00 PM. Admission is $5.

Series B of the League Championship Semi-Final Series between the Sherwood Park Athletics and the Parkland Twins begins on Sunday, September 13th with games at 1:00 PM and 4:00PM at Centennial Park in Sherwood Park. Admission is $5.

Series B of the League Championship Semi-Final will also see a third and deciding game to decide the winner in that series. The Parkland Twins will be hosting the Sherwood Park Athletics in Sherwood Park at Centennial Park on Tuesday, September 15th. Game time is 7:00 PM. Admission is $5.

Red Lions Capture Pennant in Short Season

The Red Lions managed to execute plays at the right time while keeping to their conservative approach to the game in sliding past the favoured Sherwood Park Athletics in what amounted to a short sprint to the Pennant. The Red Lions registered seven victories against no defeats and one tie due to a game called due to darkness. The Parkland Twins who were selected to play in the same pool showed steady improvement over the course of the short season and came into their second season in the League with more depth on the bench and a far stronger team performance. The new entry from Fort Saskatchewan were competitive but inconsistent play proved costly for the young club dubbed the Reds. The abbreviated season was a good test for them and with a longer training regimen in the future, this young club should prove capable of winning a few games next season.
In the only other pool of three clubs so limited due to the League’s adherence to Covid regulations, the Sherwood Park Athletics emerged with a strong showing which was good enough to place the club atop the pool. The Edmonton Primeaus, however, despite a dramatic turnover in personnel, proved to be extremely pesky adversaries whenever facing the Sherwood Park club. The Edmonton Athletics played some of their best baseball in recent years despite failing to qualify for the post season and despite managing only two wins. Defensive lapses continued to plague the Edmonton club who showed a willingness to compete in most games and along with that more promising results next season. The St. Albert Cardinals did not participate in the regular season due to the limitations imposed by the formation of cohorts as defined by AHC. The club was granted a leave of absence while retaining their tenure within the NCABL. Hopefully the 2021 season will be kinder to the Cardinals who hope to return to the fold and challenge for the League Championship crown.

An NCABL Fall Classic

It took 53 years and a world wide pandemic to convince the NCABL to push baseball into the month of September. Never has it been attempted before. The baseball experiment may not quite parallel the majors who have always designated the month of October as the best time to crown a champion, but it does make a statement that the game is adaptable to change and that fans can still take in a relaxing game at the ball park while breathing in the freshness of an approaching fall. Even with social distancing, baseball has maintained its place as a family friendly spectator sport where the sound of a bat cracking against a pitched baseball can be as endearing as a much needed hug after months of quasi isolation. The baseball post-season in 2020 will continue to feature four clubs competing in two separate series scheduled to start in Keller Field in Westlock on Saturday, September 12th, before shifting to Centennial in Sherwood Park on Sunday, September 13th. Both series would see a single evening game should a third game be required to determine who the finalists will be. Monday night at Wally Footz Field in Edmonton and Tuesday night back at Centennial Field in Sherwood Park at 7:00 PM have been designated as the locations for a third and deciding game in both Series’ . The LCS will be played the following week-end with a site to be determined once the finalists are known. For the complete post-season schedule go to schedule on the main page and scroll down to post-season 2020.

The NCABL Moves Forward With Cautious Optimism

The NCABL Board of Governors worked as a team should to salvage their 53rd consecutive regular season of play. A much lighter schedule of play with a July 15th opening date was approved after extensive work by a Committee of the Whole had produced a comprehensive Covid-19 protocol to meet Alberta Health Care requirements. Two pools or cohorts have emerged from the new alignment. In one pool, the Red Lions, Twins, and Reds will do battle with two clubs emerging to compete in the post season. In the other pool, the Edmonton Athletics, Sherwood Park Athletics, and Edmonton Primeaus will likewise compete for the right to advance to the post season. Following a two week hiatus, two best of three cross-over semi-final series will determine which teams shall face off against one another for the League Championship Trophy. Due to the short season, the League will not be presenting any individual awards nor be keeping any regular season statistics. The League has not made a final decision yet on whether post-season statistics will be kept. Should these be available, the Most Valuable Player of the Series could be named. The Pennant will be awarded to the club from either pool with the best win-loss record in regular season play. The annual All-Star Game will unfortunately also be counted among the casualties brought on by the pandemic. If all bodes well, there will be baseball played in the NCABL well into the month of September.

NCABL Projected to House Junior AAA Dream Team

The St. Albert Minor Baseball Association (SAMBA) has long been producing players of high calibre through its tiered developmental system. Recent successes at the Midget AAA level have left SAMBA with an enviable problem of where to place these players after graduation such as to provide the organization with the best possible scenario for retaining them both in the game of baseball as well as on clubs which will properly develop them. Without an existing high profile junior league in which to play and with an overly crowded St. Albert Tiger roster, SAMBA is taking a giant leap forward in conjunction with the NCABL by establishing its own collegiate farm system. Graduating Midget players with existing ties to American schools or who simply wish to further their development in a highly immersed summer program with skilled coaching can apply to play on this club which will debut in the NCABL in the spring of 2021. The club, sponsored by SAMBA, will not be the first junior or collegiate club the NCABL has accommodated in its 53 year history. One of Alberta’s strongest collegiate clubs ever assembled and managed by Ray Brown found the NCABL to be the perfect league in which to hone player skills, providing them with a varied schedule, reduced travel and a well organized framework. Most of the players from the Morinville Pioneers went on to play for the St. Albert Tigers where they continued to dominate at the local level and excel at the national level. SAMBA is taking a courageous step which has been long awaited as the only one which can restore a successful future for senior baseball in St. Albert. The NCABL is looking forward to the partnership and will offer its invaluable experience to ensure the success of this recently announced program. According to SAMBA President Kurtus Millar, this junior aged club will also be entered into a few elite tournaments in Western Canada so as to challenge them even further. The NCABL is projecting a return to a normal season in 2021 with a minimum of eight franchises competing.

League Franchises Change Under Covid-19

The North Central Alberta Baseball League has already suspended the official start of the 2020 regular season. The May 10th openers have given way to the possibility of an abbreviated regular season with a projected opening day of June 14th. Uncertainty over this later start still looms large as the corona virus continues to worry authorities due to the growing number of cases in Alberta. Despite these uncertainties, the NCABL has unveiled a three pronged strategic plan in the hope of salvaging the season. With the first of these options now behind them, the League has its hopes hinging on two possible starting dates. Should the League not deem the June 14th date to be a viable opening date, a third and final option would have the League begin the regular season on or about July 15th. Should the League proceed with the third option, regular season play would extend until the end of August with the post-season running into the first half of September. Commissioner Riopel does not see an August start to the regular season as a viable last choice for the League. “Our 53rd consecutive season is definitely under viral attack”, he mused.

In other major news from League Office, it was learned that rivalries were about to change within the League with the departure of the reigning League Champion Edmonton Blackhawks. Adding the sudden departure this Spring of the Stony Plain Mets, who were hoping to retool for the 2020 season, will spell new opportunities for those returning franchises who have not yet tasted postseason success. The Sherwood Park Athletics will be denied a third opportunity to dethrone their rivals, the Blackhawks; while the St. Albert Cardinals might not have to jump over their nemesis, the Red Lions, to reach the post season for the first time. Despite the impending threat from a long lasting pandemic, seven clubs have registered for the 2020 campaign. The returnees include the Edmonton Athletics, Edmonton Primeaus, Parkland Twins, St. Albert Cardinals, Sherwood Park Athletics, and Westlock Red Lions. The Fort Saskatchewan Reds, a new entry, will bring the total number of franchises to seven. With or without a regular season, the above clubs will be officially registered as members of the North Central Alberta Baseball League for the 2020 season.

Blackhawks Prevail in LCFS

The Sherwood Park Athletics ran into pitching difficulties early in the third and deciding game of the League Championship Final Series and could not mount an effective offensive response against the pitching of Jamie Gregg. This combination of factors resulted in an early Blackhawk lead which grew significantly over the course of the game. A late inning rally by the Athletics only served to salvage a little pride as the pennant champions bowed to the Blackhawks for the second straight year. Final score: Edmonton Blackhawks 11

Sherwood Park Athletics 4. Series results: Blackhawks win the LCFS 2 games to 1.

Look to the website over the next week for more extensive coverage of NCABL news.

A Battle Royale to Open LCFS

Game 1:

The Blackhawks opened the scoring in the second inning on a Roth sacrifice fly to score Turner but the Athletics were quick to reply in the same inning on a Paden Brenholen home run. This set the stage for a classic battle. The Blackhawks struck next in the fifth scoring two runs on two hits to lead 3-1 going into the sixth. They added another in the sixth on two hits and an Athletic error. With the score 4-1 for the Blackhawks in the bottom of the sixth, the Athletics exploded for four runs on four hits aided by three costly Blackhawk errors to take the lead 5 - 4. Hoet and Ewanishan singled to lead off the seventh and Kevin Stork stepped up to the plate to deliver a two-RBI double giving the Hawks another slender one run lead going into the bottom of the seventh. With two out in the seventh, Darren Reay managed a single and eventually scored to tie the baseball game and to throw it into extra innings. A walk to Brett McElroy followed by a steal of second set up the dramatic finish. With Cody McElroy also on base and with one out, steady catcher Mike Falkins sacrificed to score the winning run in the bottom of the tenth. Final score: Sherwood Park Athletics 7 Edmonton Blackhawks 6.

Game 2:

In game two, starter Josh Turner was replaced by Regan Hoet following an injury to Turner. Hoet went on to out dual Kyle Mazechka for the win. Hoet and Turner gave up the same number of hits as did Mazechka but the Athletics failed to produce the timely hits required to score runs. The Blackhawks scored in the third to take a 1 -0 lead on a walk by Jamie Gregg who scored on an RBI soignée by Hoet. The Athletics battled back in the top of the sixth scoring Brenholen on an RBI double from Austin Simper. The Blackhawks responded with a barrage of hits in the bottom of the sixth with two away. Four hits produced three more runs for the Blackhawks providing them with a victory and forcing a deciding game in the Series. Final Score: Edmonton Blackhawks 4 Sherwood Park Athletics 1.

Game 3:

Sunday August 25 2:00 PM Legion Park St. Albert Admission: $5

Two Powers Meet Again

The upcoming Championship Final Series will not be played at Centennial Park in Sherwood Park but rather at Legion Field in St. Albert. It cannot be easily determined how this unexpected turn of events will play out. Needless to say, the Blackhawks aren’t complaining. The Athletics, younger and with an enviable batting arsenal will be up against a more veteran Blackhawk club with great pitching depth. The Athletics are not without post-season experience, however. They have matured as a club and have earned their position atop the NCABL standings, having twice received the Servus Cup in as many years. They have also played well enough this season to have swept their series with the Blackjhawks, outscoring them by a wide margin. Everyone knows that once a playoff series begins, both clubs are on equal footing, however there is a growing rivalry here that could account for a more intense series. Notwithanding the fact that the new “kid on the block” will definitely be thirsting for its first Championship since joining the NCABL, it is equally certain that a defending League Champion will not be relinquishing the crown without a dogged fight. This series is a must see.

1:00  PM Edmonton Blackhawks Vs. Sherwood Pk. Athletics
3:45 PM  On-field Award Presentations: Part Two
4:05 PM Sherwood Pk. Athletics Vs. Edmonton Blackhawks
2:00 pm Edmonton Blackhawks Vs. Sherwood Pk. Athletics
The Sunday game will only be played if the series extends to three games.

Series B of the LCSFS Produced More High Drama

Series B, a best of three affair pitted the second place Blackhawks against the third place Primeaus in a mid-week series scheduled to accommodate participation by the Blackhawks in the Senior AA Western Canada Baseball Championship. A game by game synopsis follows.

Game #1 @ Remax Field: The Primeaus scored their lone run of the game in the top of the first inning, but that lead was quickly extinguished when the Blackhawks tallied in their half of the inning to take a 3-1 lead. The Blackhawks never looked back as they played solid defensive baseball behind the sure pitching of Kyle Lawrence. Defensive woes plagued the Primeaus throughout the game resulting in a few missed targets on thrown balls. The Primeaus did record a crisp double play to home and back to first which was a highlight play.. The Blackhawks, however, dominated this contest at home. Final score: Blackhawks 9 Primeaus 1

Game #2 @ John Fry: The Primeaus' fortunes turned around abruptly behind the complete game pitching performance of Kyle Fagnan who allowed only four hits to record the win. His counterpart, Josh Turner, also only allowed four hits while taking the loss. Kyle Fagnan also went 2 for three at the plate for the Primeaus. Final score: Primeaus 2 Blackhawks 1

Game #3 @ Remax Field: The Blackhawks and Primeaus battled hard under a beautiful and warm night sky at Remax on this night. Josh Turner was given a second chance to start for the Blackhawks in this series. Despite a valiant effort from starter Kyle Fagnan and reliever Mike Henry, and despite committing but one error which did not factor in the scoring, the Blackhawks prevailed. The Blackhawk’s jamie Gregg led off the first inning with a hit and scored on a Kevin Stork double to put the Blackhawks ahead. The Primeaus replied in the second witha lead off double by Doug Moms who scored on a hit by Keegan Kwong. The third was scoreless. Greyson Roth led off in the Blackhawk fourth with a triple and later scored on a 6 to 3 put out and RBI from Jamie Wilson. The Primeaus could only manage one more it off starter and and winning pitcher Josh Turner as the Blackhawks punched their ticket into their second consecutive Championship Final Series. Final score: Blackhawks 2 Primeaus 1

Series A, also a best of three series, saw the pennant champion Sherwood Park Athletics square off against the fourth place Westlock Red Lions at Keller Field on August 17th and 18th. A game by game summary follows:

Game #1 @ Keller Field: The Athletics exploded with 24 hits to score 21 runs on their way to a rout of the Red Lions. The Red Lions could only muster 3 fns on five hits. Each club struggled defensively as Sherwood Park was charged with 3 errors and the Red Lions with four. Kevin Dryburgh earned the victory for the Athletics. Final score: Athletics 21 Red Lions 3.

Game #2 @ Keller Field: Keller Field in Westlock Alberta was beautifully groomed and the park glistened with its new outfield fence and recently painted grandstand. The second game in Series A of the LCSFS was viewed by many as a mismatch of epic proportions following the manhandling received by the Red Lions at the hands of a very determined and hungry Athletics team. Grit and pride have always defined the Red Lions throughout their storied existence in the NCABL and today was evidence of that as Carmen Brown held the powerful Athletic bats at bay for five innings as the Red Lions hung on to a 2 - 1 lead. As Brown tired, the Athletic bats began to find holes in the Red Lion infield and outfield. Without two of the three Watamaniuk brothers who had left to purse their college careers, the Red Lions were more vulnerable and their defence, despite a few crisp double plays, was somewhat more challenged. After the Athletics exploded for five runs in the sixth, the Red Lions could do little more than attempt a last gasp comeback scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh before Cody McElroy put out the fire by registering the final out the game. The Athletics sweep. Final score: Athletics 7 Red Lions 4.

Blackhawks Prove a Point

Baseball in the North Central Alberta Baseball League is alive and well. How can one draw this conclusion after the Blackhawks failed to win a single game while registering four consecutive defeats during the 2019 Western Canada Baseball Championship in Stonewall, Manitoba, last week-end. The answer is simple. The Blackhawks competed as a club team with the same basic roster they have depended upon in regular and post-season NCABL play. Their competition, on the other hand, were all clubs bolstered with several star players from across each competing province or at least from a larger regional base. A quick analysis of each game played will reveal a constant pattern. The Blackhawks fiercely competed in each of those four games, losing them all by an aggregate total of only six runs. In other words, the Blackhawks, our defending League Champions did not embarrass themselves. Far from it. They were in every game, losing two by a single run and two by a pair of runs including one game in extra innings. As Sam Ewanishan, one of the Blackhawk catchers noted, three small yet consistent observations or distinctions could be highlighted. The first was that all pitchers faced were top ten candidates in any League, the second was that no inherent weaknesses could be found in any batting order faced, and the third was that the club rosters faced by the Blackhawks were comprised of large and strong athletes. These three observations are all that is needed to prove another fact, that the Blackhawks were capable of facing this adversity while refusing to bend. Baseball is definitely alive and well in the NCABL.

Result of games involving the Blackhawks:
Oak River Dodgers 9 Blackhawks 7
Saskatoon Outlaws 5 Blackhawks 3
Stonewall Blue Jays 6 Blackhawks 5
Saskatoon Outlaws 4 Blackhawks 3 (Quarter-final)

Blackhawks On Quest to Capture Western Canada Crown

The Edmonton Blackhawks are focused on two goals at the present time. The first is to emerge victorious from their semi-final series with the Primeaus; the second is to bring home the honour of having won the Western Canada Senior AA Championship. The Blackhawks have enjoyed much success in the NCABL over the past decade having claimed three consecutive pennants from 2014 - 16 and four League Championships in 2013, 2014, 2016, and again last season. The defending League Champions finished second behind the Sherwood Park Athletics this season and continue to present a threat to any opponent. Led by their Manager Randy Gregg, who was awarded the Bob Kootenay Manager of the Year on four occasions by his peers and wily veteran coach Duncan Knoll, the Blackhawks will take to the field in Stonewall, Manitoba, as a club team unlike many other clubs who will be competing as an aggregate of all-stars. The veteran squad will respond to the challenge as they have been groomed to do over their entire NCABL tenure. Former League MVP’s like Kyle Lawrence (2016), Regan Hoet (2015), and Ryan Gregg (2014) know the game and can lead when called upon by Manager Gregg. The supporting cast know their roles and contribute at critical times in a baseball game. The NCABL has not participated in the Western Canada Championship since 2006 and the League has not shown an active interest in Provincial play over the past decade.

The schedule at last posting will see the Blackhawks square off against the Manitoba Provincial Champions on Friday. On Saturday they will play the British Columbia Provincial Champions as well as the host club from Stonewall. On Sunday morning the Blackhawks will complete the round robin against the Saskatchewan Provincial Champions. The Championship final game is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. The Blackhawks return to Alberta on Monday and may be playing in the third game of their best of three semi-final series against the Primeaus on Tuesday should that series be extended.

The North Central Alberta Baseball League wishes the Edmonton Blackhawks much success as they prepare for their next baseball experience. Above, the All-Stars enjoy play at Remax Field, home of the Edmonton Blackhawks.

Regular Season Sizzles as Rain Continues to Interrupt

If mother nature cooperates, an exciting post season tie breaker will be played at Legion Field in St. Albert on Monday, August 12th (7:15 PM). The winner will be declared fourth place finishers and go on to play the pennant champion Sherwood Park Athletics in the LCSFS (A Series) in Westlock on the week-end of August 17th and 18th. This will mark the third time that the Red Lions and Cardinals meet in either a late season game or a post-season elimination game to determine the final post season berth. The Cardinals are hoping that the old adage of third time lucky will mean that they would advance for the first time in their seven year history with the NCABL. The Cardinals will have to shore up their softening defence while exploding with more hits per game if they are to advance to the post season. On another front, the Blackhawks and Primeaus (second vs. third) open their series at Remax Field also on Monday night.(6:30 PM) That Series continues on Tuesday night with Wednesday held over for a rain out on either night. For a complete season ending summary of results in the standings, go to standings on the main page.

Players Voted to 2019 NCABL All-Star Club

Jiffy Lube All-Star Club for 2019 (click here for roster)

Beverly Optimist All-Star Club for 2019 (click here for roster)

The Morinville Jiffy Lube All-Stars will be the home club for the 2019 All-Star Game to be held at Remax Field on Sunday, July 21st. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 pm. The Jiffy Lube All-Stars will be represented by the Sherwood Park Athletics, Westlock Red Lions, Stony Plain Mets, and Edmonton Athletics. Six of the ten voted all stars will be suited up for the Jiffy Lube All-Stars this year. The Sherwood Park Athletics who are currently leading in the pennant race have placed three players on the honour role including Mike Falkins, a skilled defensive catcher with a .364 batting average, Henry Duke, a heavy hitting third baseman, along with Austin Simper, a sure handed outfielder sporting a .348 batting average and a club leading 12 RBI’s. The Mets placed Lee Worobec and Andrew Slinko on the voted list, the former a pitcher with an ERA of only 1.04 after 27 innings of work for the Mets so far this season. Slinko patrols second base for the Mets and currently leads his club with a .474 batting average. Peter Shepert, a utility player for the Edmonton Athletics is the sixth player representing Jiffy Lube.

The Beverly Optimist All-Stars will be the visiting club in this year’s tilt. They will be represented by the Edmonton Primeaus, St. Albert Cardinals, Edmonton Blackhawks, and Parkland Twins. Two players from the Blackhawks were among those voted to the All-Star Club. They are perennial all-star shortstop Regan Hoet who leads his club with a blistering .455 batting average and Greyson Roth, a reliable outfielder with a steady .333 batting average. The St. Albert Cardinals will be represented by Hayden Chies, a gifted centre fielder with one of the best arms in the League from the outfield and Joe Pasychnyk at first base from the Twins, the 2014 winner of the most promising junior player of the year while playing for the Camrose Axemen.

Brett McElroy of the Sherwood Park Athletics will be the All-Star Manager for Jiffy Lube while Craig Fagnan of the Edmonton Primeaus will be managing for the Beverly Optimist All-Stars. The coaching staff assisting each of these managers will be coming from the respective clubs representing each of these star laden clubs.

NCABL Voted All-Stars 2019
Position Player Club Name
Last Name First Name
Pitcher Worobec Lee Stony Plain Mets
Catcher Falkins Mike Sherwood Park Athletics
1st Base Pasychnyk Joe Parkland Twins
2nd Base Slinko Andrew Stony Plain Mets
3rd Base Duke Henry Sherwood Park Athletics
Shortstop Hoet Regan Edmonton Blackhawks
Outfield Chies Hayden St. Albert Cardinals
Outfield Simper Austin Sherwood Park Athletics
Outfield Roth Greyson Edmonton Blackhawks
Utility Shepert Peter Edmonton Athletics

Red Lions Complete Major Facelift

When Keller Field began to show signs of fatigue and aging, current and former Red Lion players did not lament over the fact that political decisions take time nor over whose responsibility it might be to initiate improvements. Players who have donned the Red Lion uniform over the past five decades have a proud tradition of meeting such challenges head on. The Rotarians had supported park renovations in 2017, the 50th anniversary year, through a grant they had obtained which was largely spent upgrading and beautifying the grandstand. With leftover funds falling well short of what was needed to replace the entire outfield fence, players and their families, both active and retired, came forward to spearhead the project to its conclusion. Local businesses, proud supporters of Red Lion baseball, were approached for additional funds and inkind materials and gave generously to the cause. A local baseball family offered a sizeable donation and asked for anonymity. The current coaching staff comprised of Chris and Jordan Brand, and Kevin Watamaniuk with off-field assistance from Chuck Keller organized the labor parties who toiled many hours to see the improvement project through. The finishing touches were not forgotten as the players whose numbers have been retired had their outfield boards replaced with fresh paint. As a parting tribute to the work effort of long time resident and Red Lion alumni Chuck Keller, a new sign towering above the scoreboard was erected. This last finishing touch had to wait until Mr. Keller had left for Europe so as not to face an objection from one of the League’s most noteworthy alumni. Regardless of where Chuck Keller may be in the years to come, he will always remain at the ballpark which bears his name and is an ongoing witness to the dedication and pride of all who have worn the uniform. Welcome to “Keller Field, Home of the Red Lions”.

Expectations and Prognostications for Season Fifty-Two

What is certain about the upcoming season is that the Blackhawks will be representing the NCABL in the Western Canada Senior Championship to be held in Stonewall, Manitoba in August. The veteran club is expected to be very competitive in that Championship as were other League representatives in season’s past. The Blackhawks will have access to other players from across the League who will not be involved in the LCSFS which happens to be scheduled for the same week-end in August. In addition to planning for this event, the Blackhawks will also have their sights set on returning to defend their Championship title, their fourth over the past decade to go along with three pennant victories during the same time period. Under the tutelage of Manager Randy Gregg and coach Duncan Knoll, look for the defending champions to retain a top four finish and to be strong contenders for a fifth title providing that the road to Western’s has not unduly tired the club.

If any club rises to the challenge of taking the championship title away from the Blackhawks, the Sherwood Park Athletics under youthful Manager Brett McElroy would likely be that club. A well balanced club with an experienced roster, the Athletics snatched their first ever pennant last season and had lofty expectations of going farther. The returning players will have something to prove and are expected to be even hungrier than ever before.

As everyone knows, every club will have the same opportunity come opening day to forge their own destiny. Will there be any surprises by season’s end? Will the final four include a new challenger or will the group remain largely unchanged but for positional designations? The Mets have probably undergone the most significant changes in personnel when compared to last season’s roster. The addition of a few former St. Albert Tigers and an improved pitching core should be enough to power the Mets back into the final four come August.

If the near miss performances of the youthful St. Albert Cardinals over the past two season’s are any indication that they are a club poised and ready to break into the post season, then they should not be ruled out from making their first Series’ appearance since entering the League. The crafty and never say die Red Lions will continue to have something to say about it, however. Despite missing all-star centre fielder Chris Brand for the entire season due to injury, the latter will be taking over management of the club and is counting on the return of former pitching great Carmen Brown to make an impact statement. The Red Lions play a solid defensive game and that will not change significantly this season, although team batting may be challenged.

What about the Primeau’s? Might they emerge from their funk and finally return to the competitive level of old when the club, then called the Indians, called Citadel Park in Legal home? To accomplish a return to the post season, the Primeaus will need a solid commitment from their entire core of starters, one that begins in May and ends in August and not any sooner. The challenge here will be in recruiting good young talent and keeping them around long enough to be developed into solid senior prospects. If the Primeaus can deal effectively with building a cohesive unit in both the infield and outfield, the possibility of making the final four is real. If not, the 2019 season could be another disappointing campaign.

The Edmonton Athletics currently hold the record for being the club with the longest tenure among urban clubs in the NCABL. For the Athletics, recruitment has never been their greatest challenge. They have always managed to fill roster spots and to remain relatively competitive over the years. Will the climb into the post-season be achievable this season? With the emergence of another star pitcher like Mark Trela, that goal would most certainly be more easily reached. Without it, the Athletics should turn to a closer working relationship with the N-E Zone who are currently promoting player development with vigour within their representative program. The current junior team would be a good place to start making inroads which could lead the Athletics back up the competitive ladder and possibly into the post-season at some point.

Predicting the success or lack thereof of a brand new franchise is always more difficult. The Parkland Twins have begun their quest for a future final four challenge in the right way, by forging alliances with Spruce Grove Minor Baseball. The success of their program will largely depend on their recruitment of graduating AAA Midget players from the locality as well as on regional recruitment. They will benefit from a beautiful facility in Henry Singer Park and from the past experience of a few grizzled veterans who once played for the successful Camrose Axemen. But beyond those intangibles, history has taught us that success in the NCABL is not instantaneous nor without the necessary commitment to practice and to skill development. We need only observe the dedication and progression of clubs like the Blackhawks and Sherwood Park Athletics to know that instant success is not a likely outcome. Hard work usually is.

N.C.A.B.L. Growing Their Footprint in Edmonton Area

The North Central Alberta Baseball League, once known as a predominantly rural league, lost another country based club following the 2018 regular season but just as quickly picked up yet another Edmonton area franchise. Eight Sturgeon County communities once boasted having a club playing in the NCABL. Horse Hills, Namao, Gibbons, Morinville, Alexander, and Redwater have not fielded teams in the past twenty years. The Town of Legal lost their club within the past decade. Now, the Sturgeon Paladins playing out of Bon Accord have pulled up stakes leaving the County of Sturgeon without any representation in the NCABL. The loss of the Paladins has further strengthened the view that the NCABL has adapted very well to the demographic shift which began almost twenty years ago and which has seen a dramatic growth of baseball within the larger Edmonton metropolitan area while the rural presence has almost totally disappeared.

This season, The Parkland Twins will launch their inaugural season from their base in Spruce Grove. This will return eight franchises to the NCABL producing a 21 game schedule which was recently released by the League (go to schedule/regular season). Quality of play has not suffered as a result of this geographic shift as improved coaching and superior playing fields have positively impacted play within the NCABL. The League does believe that several communities within the County of Sturgeon have the resources needed to bring back baseball to its former position of summer dominance, but time will tell if the potential to do so will in effect translate into reality. Sturgeon County is where it all began and the Town of Morinville in particular holds the distinction of being the official seat of the North Central Alberta Baseball League in addition to housing the only sport specific Hall of Fame in Alberta. These historical facts alone should encourage community leaders to revisit the possibility of returning the game to the place of its birth in north central Alberta.

Official Scorers to Refine Their Skill

Have you wanted to better understand the game of baseball, or better still position yourself just a little bit closer to the action? The League can and will afford you that opportunity again this season. Whether you are a novice or an experienced scorer, or whether you have been recruited or simply want to better acquaint yourself with the game of baseball, learning about scoring can be an educational and rewarding experience.

This season, returning scorers will be offered a half day refresher course which will be conducted completely apart from the novice sessions. A live game course component will also be offered to NCABL scorers only as an optional supplement to their training. If you are a first time attendee, whether working for the NCABL or taking the course to assist your minor baseball organization, the program will involve a full day of presentations. Lunch will be provided on site and included with your registration. Registration is free to all NCABL sponsored scorers; all others attending will be paying a $35 fee on site. Registration is easy. Simply include your full name, a telephone number where you can be reached, and your E-mail address and send this information to by April 25th inclusively.

The Official Scoring Clinic will be taking place on Saturday, April 27th, at the Bessie Nichols School in Edmonton. Both sessions begin with registration at 9:00 AM. Returning scorers may attend the full day of presentations at their discretion. As a special incentive this season, all NCABL scorers in attendance for the half day program will be eligible to receive a small stipend of $10 per regular season game for which they are the registered official scorer. Annual attendance is mandatory in order to qualify for the stipend. Spread the news. Register a friend. Come and learn all about the fundamentals of scoring a game of baseball. For all returnees, the focus will be on completing a game summary form and tracking and recording pitching statistics (ERA).

For all novices, you will learn all about the essential tools for properly scoring a game without delving into any knotty problems

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Club stats released August 12, 2019
LCS Club stats released August 29, 2019
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