To beat the best, you have to play the best.
Five Vernon baseball products will put their abilities up against their age counterparts as they compete for the Kelowna-based Okanagan Athletics in B.C.’s top bantam baseball league, the B.C. U15 AAA League.
Chase Batchelor, a second-year member of the A’s, is joined by rookies Eric Foufoulas, Jack Janzen, Carter Morris and Brayden Beacom.
The Athletics open their regular season this weekend with a four-game series in Whalley.
“The competition is very good,” said Batchelor, 14, a Grade 9 student at Kalamalka Secondary. “It’s the best of our age group so we will be testing ourselves.”
Batchelor, whose favourite player – Jose Bautista – tends right field for his favourite team, the Toronto Blue Jays, will pitch, play catcher and shortstop for the Athletics.
Beacom and Morris can also pitch while Foufoulas and Janzen are positional players in the infield and outfield.
A Grade 9 Vernon Secondary student, Beacom brings a fastball, change-up and curve to the mound, and loves L.A. Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw.
“This should be a fun league to play in,” said Beacom, who can also play shortstop and describes himself as a contact hitter at the plate. “We all should develop more as players this season.”
Morris, who started playing ball when his parents signed him up for T-ball at age six, says being on the baseball diamond is a chance to escape everyday life.
“You can forget about school, report cards, and stuff and just go out and play,” said Morris, a Grade 9 student at Seaton Secondary, and big fan of Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman.
Foufoulas and Janzen are the youngest of the quintet, both 13.
Foufoulas, a Grade 8 VSS student, is a Blue Jays fan who catches, plays infield and bats righthanded and can’t wait to show his skills against top competitors.
“I think playing in this league is good because it’s the highest level you can play,” he said. “The competition will be tough.”
Janzen, a Grade 8 student at Kal, plays second base, shortstop and left field for the A’s, and is a big fan of reigning American League MVP, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson.
“I like everything about baseball,” said Jansen. “Hitting, catching, throwing, running. I think we’ll do OK as a team, once we all get to know each other.”
The Athletics are made up of players from Vernon, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Rutland and Salmon Arm.
The five players will have two chances to play in front of home crowds in Vernon as the Athletics have scheduled a pair of series for Marshall Field.
Okanagan will host Bellingham’s Cascade Crush on Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15, along with North Vancouver’s North Shore Twins July 9 and 10.