BARRHEAD – The Barrhead Orioles will take flight, once again, in the North Central Alberta Baseball League (NCABL).
The NCABL is a senior ‘AA’ amateur baseball league established in 1968 that traditionally has between 10 and 12 teams, a notch or two below single ‘A’.
In the more than 50-year history of the NCABL, Barrhead has had an entry for the majority of those years, but in 2007, the team dropped out of the league for seven years, rejoining again in 2014.
In 2017, the Barrhead governors cited a lack of player interest as the reason for the team’s departure, noting a group of their younger players had opted to form a junior team.
Chase Visser, one of the Orioles' two governors (the other is Branden Meier), said talk of the potential revival of Barrhead's NCABL entry started near the end of last year’s baseball season.
"A few of us were in the last year of midgets (U18), and we knew we wanted to continue to play baseball," he said, adding they decided to wait until the end of the season to see how they felt.
In the 2021 season, the Barrhead U18 Orioles played 'AA' Tier 3.
"The season started late, and we did not get off to the greatest start, but we continued to improve the whole season," he said, adding although they were not in contention for a provincial championship, "it was still a lot of fun."
It was so much fun that when they asked themselves in the offseason if they wanted to find a way to continue to play baseball, the answer was a resounding yes.
Consequently, they reached out to the NCABL to find out what would be involved in getting a franchise.
Besides coming up with the franchise fee, Visser said, they had to confirm they could secure the large baseball diamond at the Barrhead Sportsgrounds with enough home dates to complete the season.
But more importantly, he said, they had to present the league with a list of at least 15 players committed to completing the season, which they were able to do, and now the Orioles are preparing for their first NCABL game in six years, at home on May 11 against the St. Albert Cardinals.
The team held its first practice on April 28.
"There was a little bit of snow in left field on the warning track, but the shale and everything else was good to go," he said.
He added that the first practice was a loosening up session, but starting this week, the biweekly practices will become increasingly more intense as the season grows nearer.
Visser noted that the 2022 version of the Orioles will bear little resemblance to the team that last took the field.
"We will be a very young team," he said.
The Orioles' 2016 roster was comprised mostly of players in their 30s or older, with a sprinkling of younger players.
"There will be a couple of older players who were on the roster when they last played, but the rest are from 18 to 26 years old," he said. "We are just excited to be able to get back onto the field again and bring back senior ball to Barrhead.”