Camrose Minor Ball kicks off first bantam AAA program
Camrose Cougars pitcher Hogan Jacobsen throws in peewee AAA baseball action in Camrose last season. This year Camrose Minor Baseball has started up a bantam AAA team for the first time following the success of the peewee program last year. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
Camrose Minor Baseball is hoping to build off the success of their inaugural season of peewee AAA in 2017.
For there will be a Camrose Cougars team playing at the bantam AAA level. This is in an effort to keep young local players local for as long as possible, instead of seeing the top players head to Edmonton Area teams.
"It's a pretty significant step," said CMB president Wes Harrison. "It puts us on the same path as some of those bigger centres."
The foray into peewee AAA ball last year was a bigger success than anyone could have imagined. The Cougars not only won silver at the provincial level, they added another silver at Western Canadians while catcher/pitcher/infielder Gavin Galenza was named the top player in the province for his age level by Baseball Alberta for the third year in a row.
That success was an key building block for CMB.
"It was hugely important," said Harrison. "It sowed our association and membership that we can play with the bigger associations."
Camrose usually has between 270 and 280 players registered and Harrison said this year is no different. They are the smallest triple-A market in the province by a long shot. There are a couple of markets that have about 600 registrants, while most of their competition will field more than 800 kids this season.
It is not just the highest competitive levels that Camrose performed well. The midget AA team was one of the best in the province with a young roster last season while there is a group of committed coaches at the mosquito AA level that is busy churning out the next wave of players.
"They are only going to make our association that much better going forward," said Harrison. "Your programs tarts at the grassroots level, so if there are not qualified coaches at that level then it becomes tough to compete at the triple-A level."
Even with annual the attrition of players to Sherwood Park or other Edmonton area teams, Camrose had still managed to field one of the more competitive bantam AA teams in Alberta every year, just as they had at the peewee AA and mosquito AA tier I levels. The key will be whether or not that success transfers over to the bantam AAA level as it did at the peewee AAA level last year. They will be buoyed by the graduation of most of the powerhouse peewee AAA team to the bantam age level this season.
"I try not to put too many expectation on them because this is a new venture for us," said Harrison. "That was a pretty special year for those kids last year, we'll see what they can do at the bantam level. Every year is different."
For those making the jump to the triple-A level, the biggest difference is in the quality of the competition. The length of schedule rests in a manager's hands while they generally have the same amount of practice time as the other rep teams in Camrose.
"Last year I was coaching with the peewee AA team and we actually played more games in the season than the peewee AAA team," said Harrison, who will be helping coach the peewee AAA team this summer.
Due to demand for diamond time, Camrose Minor Ball is not hosting any tournaments this season, which includes provincials as they usually occur on August long weekend when Big Valley Jamboree has the hotels sold out.
Harrison says the extended winter did not halt the organizational end of things this spring as tryouts are always held indoors and they were able to get out on the diamonds for opening weekend this past weekend.