By Marcia Love
The season is well under way for the Sask-Alta Baseball League, and what a year it’s going to be. Organizers report the league is the strongest it’s ever been.
With two new teams stepping up to the plate, the league – now in it’s 64th year – hasn’t had this many teams involved in about 30 years.
The Shaunavon Badgers have joined for the first time, and a second Medicine Hat team, the Cypress County Black Sox, has also signed on. This brings the league to a total of eight teams, including the Maple Creek Mohawks, Gull Lake Greyhounds, Cabri River Rats, Burstall Braves, Richmound Rockets and Medicine Hat Blue Jays.
“We had eight teams years and years ago,” recalled Trevor Hoffart, president of the Sask-Alta Baseball League. “Then we were all the way down to three teams in the early 2000s, and now we’ve climbed our way back up to eight.”
This year is also the first time two divisions were formed – east and west – to ease scheduling and travel.
“Everybody has pretty much played a couple games so far and things are going to be very interesting this year,” Hoffart said.
Interest in the senior baseball league dwindled for a few years when slo-pitch took off as players liked the less competitive sport, Hoffart said. Now what drove players away seems to be drawing them back again.
“There’s ball players that like the competitiveness,” he explained, adding the oil and gas industry in the area has also meant an increase in those keen to play. “A lot of young guys come home to work in the oil and gas field, and they’ve had great interest in starting up ball teams.”
Hoffart noted the age range of players is very vast. Playing for the Burstall Braves, he said the ages on the team run from 15 all the way up to 55. But the majority of those in the league are 25-35. Some who joined when they were 16 continue to come back every year.
“Now they’re in their 20s and they’re working at home or home from college,” Hoffart said. “And some of our teams have some guys that are pretty long in the tooth, but also very helpful with the young guys.”
The league is always open to welcoming more teams as well. Hoffart said there’s been talk of Oyen dusting off their cleats for next season after taking a two-year leave of absence.
“We never hold anybody back,” the president said. “The travel becomes long, but we get that all figured into the schedule and we do more weekend stuff.”
The coaches and managers of each team have been excellent to work with, Hoffart said.
“It’s been fantastic, and that’s what makes the league flourish is organized people running the show in each of their towns. That’s probably our biggest asset.”