BY KALISHA MENDONSA
The Lacombe Dodgers Midget AA ball team has been itching to get their feet on the diamonds, and Coach Kevin Bresse said they’ve already got their eyes on the prize.
The official season has yet to get underway, but that doesn’t mean the team is staying away from the game.
With two successful exhibition games under their belts, the Dodgers are looking to start the season sharp and carry that momentum straight through to Provincials, and eventually Western Finals.
“Our first priority will be to develop the players as much as we can in the first couple of rounds and hopefully head into our seating round with a good high run. From there, we’re going to set our sights on Provincials and doing the best we can there. That’s our ultimate goal,” Bresse said.
He said this year, the team has a good mixture of returning players and new faces.
So far, all of the members seem enthusiastic and ready to put in the work to get them through the season.
“Of course, the goal is always to get to Westerns. The Midget team did get to Westerns last year. Just like last year, and with any baseball, we need a little bit of luck and we will do the best we can. That’s the way it is with anything. Sometimes thing work out perfectly and sometimes you can be the best team in your league and still not get as far as you anticipated.”
The exhibition games have so far gone in favour of the Dodgers.
Bresse said most recently, the boys had a chance to play against a team from Fort Saskatchewan and the Dodgers took them down “quite handily.”
Practices have been strong and the boys are simply geared up and ready to go.
Baseball Alberta has a large number of teams this year, according to Bresse, and this means there is going to be a lot of new competition. He said this is great for exposing the guys to all kinds of scenarios but that ultimately, they are keeping their eyes on the ultimate goal of league champions.
As teams move through the season, the rounds get more and more competitive to narrow down the selection of teams for Provincials.
Bresse said it’s important to start strong, but more important to keep that momentum going.
He added this won’t be a problem for the Dodgers.
“Our kids are pretty motivated. I would say all of them love baseball – it’s almost harder to get them to stay away from the diamond on cold nights. Motivating them is never really a problem at all. They know what they want, they know where they want to be going and for the most part, it’s never an issue to get them to push themselves towards that.”
Bresse said he and the other coaches want to do their very best to get a perfect season. He said there isn’t really a trick to this, but it’s more about stamina, skill and a little bit of luck.
With there being so many teams in the league, it’s going to be tough to scope out their hardest competition at first. However, as the season grows, Bresse is hoping his players grow, too.
“By the time we get to the final, I hope all of our kids have progressed enough that we’re not going to have to shorten the bench at all. I want to see 13 guys that are ready to bring it home when we get to provincials,” he said.
“We’re developing great ball players, but also developing some good young men, too.
“We have a team full of those, already, and that helps a lot. If you have any destructive people on your team, it can be a long season. We’ve been really fortunate to have really good guys who just want to support each other on the team.”
He said the key to having a successful team is hard work, but also sportsmanship.
“It’s about learning how to win as a team and how to stick together.”
Lacombe’s Michener Park is no stranger to hosting ball tournaments and Bresse said they will be looking to host as many games as possible here.
If the guys are playing on their home fields, Bresse said he really hopes to see some support from the community at the games as well. “We’re going to encourage hosting a few times and we want to see lots of parents, grandparents and friends coming to cheer the boys on. They think they’re superstars when there’s a crowd there, so we hope to see that support from the community.”
According to Bresse, there are some high-quality players who could have moved on to more intense leagues, but that they have opted to spend time with their friends and teammates. That connection will help them feel comfortable in reaching their goals.
“I would say for sure we have some AAA players who have chosen to stay here and play in Lacombe. They’ve got a few years now to play with each other before they’re over-age. I know Westerns is their goal, and they think sticking together is going to get them there.”
The Dodgers will play their first game of the regular season May 13th in Okotoks. With over 20 teams in the Midget bracket, Bresse said there is sure to be a lot of great competition to follow.