TOP FIVE SIGNS THE WCBL WILL LOOK MORE FAMILIAR IN 2022
It’s been a rollercoaster couple years for the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL).
Of course, the entire world can relate to that. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a curveball everyone’s way, leaving people and organizations across the globe to adapt.
The 2020 season was cancelled due to the virus and its impact, and the 2021 WCBL campaign looked very different for baseball fans in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
But we’re hoping this season will look similar to what the WCBL had to offer spectators pre-pandemic. Here are five things we expect will give baseball watchers “back to normal” vibes at our ballparks:
1. TWO BECOME ONE
The Okotoks Dawgs took on an expanded role last summer, offering two teams – Dawgs Red and Dawgs Black – to the five-squad circuit. The move helped provide more depth to the league and made Seaman Stadium a central hub of the WCBL. But Okotoks will not need to answer the double-Dawg dare in 2022. Just one club is needed this time around, allowing them to concentrate their time, resources and efforts on one team. The Dawgs won their fifth WCBL championship in 2019, before COVID-19 entered the fray. Will they be able to claim another title in 2022?
2. WELCOME BACK
Many of our baseball clubs have been out of action for the last two years, including the Saskatchewan teams. That province will be represented when the Moose Jaw Miller Express, Regina Red Sox, Swift Current 57’s and Weyburn Beavers return to the fold this summer. You can also add in a number of Alberta aggregations that were unable to take the field since 2019. The Brooks Bombers, Fort McMurray Giants and Medicine Hat Mavericks will all be found at WCBL diamonds in 2022. This will restore league rivalries, improve competition, and provide a vital baseball presence in several communities across Western Canada.
3. STARS AND STRIPES
One of the exciting features of the 2021 season was that for the first time in WCBL history all of the players who took the field were homegrown talents. This all-Canadian approach allowed the league to showcase the outstanding talent and training that exists in our country. Canadian players, coaches and umpires have always been the backbone of the WCBL. That said, the presence of some of the best American college players in the league adds an important element. The U.S. players enhance the competitiveness around the WCBL, and allow Alberta and Saskatchewan to show off our communities to people south of the border who might never otherwise discover what Western Canada has to offer, both at the ballpark and away from the diamond.
4. MORE BASEBALL!
Pandemic restrictions pushed back Opening Day last summer and reduced the number of games played for each team, limiting the regular season to 40 or 41 contests per club. Instead of a late-May start to the campaign, action didn’t get underway until June 18th, 2021. This summer we expect to be up to full speed. The WCBL kicks off its 2022 season on Thursday, May 26th at Spitz Stadium in Lethbridge when the defending-champion Bulls host the Sylvan Lake Gulls. That game will be followed by a full slate of weekend action across Saskatchewan and Alberta. In addition, each WCBL team will return to a 56-game regular season schedule, followed by best-of-three playoff series.
5. BALLPARK ATMOSPHERE
We were so very thankful to offer WCBL action to the best baseball fans in the world last summer. With that return to action, there were a number of health measures in place that were aimed at reducing the impact of COVID-19. These included masking requirements, access to hand sanitizer, physical distancing protocols, and capacity limits at various points of the season. The WCBL is committed once again to working with Alberta Health Services and the Saskatchewan Health Authority to provide a safe environment for our players, coaches, umpires, staff and fans in 2022. At this point, we are optimistic that spectators will be able to enjoy WCBL baseball with limited or no restrictions in place. However, we will adapt to the COVID-19 landscape – as we have over the last two years – and work hard to give you a great experience at our ballparks this summer!
What are you looking forward to during the 2022 WCBL season? What baseball memories have you missed the most lately? What renewed rivalries do you want to check out? What is your favourite thing about making a trip to the ballpark?
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