Nova Scotia Senior League Baseball targets early July start with addition of Under-17 team
SYDNEY, NS – Like all good sports stories, who doesn’t love a comeback?
After more than a year of absence from the baseball field and many uncertainties, the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League is aiming for a return to the game this summer.
The league hopes to begin the 2021 regular season early next month with the Halifax Canadiens Pelham hosting the Dartmouth Moosehead Dry on July 6 in Halifax.
President Steve Ranni told the Cape Breton Post that the league is currently working on a 26-game regular-season schedule, but that will all depend on the province’s COVID-19 restrictions which currently do not allow games to be played.
“We are in full planning mode right now and if everything stays as is, we hope things will start soon,” said Ranni. “We’re just confirming our schedule, getting confirmation of start dates, fields and referees. “
The last senior baseball game in the province was on October 6, 2019, when Jeff Reeves of Dartmouth netted a three-hit shutout to lead the Moosehead Dry to their 21st senior baseball title with a 5-0 victory over the Sydney Sooners at Beazley Ground in Dartmouth.
The league has been forced to cancel its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was only the second time in more than 40 years of league history that there was no senior ball in the province – the last time in 1984.
“We went late before officially canceling the season, probably in August, we continued to set dates to see each other again, everyone worked hard but, in the end, it just wasn’t there”, Ranni said.
“We are looking forward to this year and everyone seems pretty excited about a season. To see a schedule in front of me, even if it’s a draft, teams are ready to go when we’re allowed to. “
Over the years, many senior baseball leagues across the country have gone out of business due to lack of player engagement. However, the Nova Scotia league remained strong.
In 2019, the league had four teams – Sydney, Halifax, Dartmouth and Kentville – after the Truro Bearcats opted out of the league due to lack of player commitment. They will not be coming back this year.
“We’ve been around for a long time as a league and there’s a great backbone of player representatives and there are people who have been around for a long time and do a lot of work to make sure we continue,” said Ranni. .
“We are satisfied with the four teams we have. We have good quality baseball and we are very happy to have it.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
In addition to the four regular teams, the senior league baseball will also host the provincial under-17 team from Baseball Nova Scotia part-time for 2021.
“As the Canada Cup has been canceled in the past two years due to COVID-19, the Under-17 program remains the reigning national champion,” Baseball Nova Scotia said in a statement Wednesday.
“The 2021 edition of the team has been training since the fall and features athletes from across the province. The coaching staff are delighted not only to expose young athletes to the best competition available, but also to introduce the future stars of the senior league.
In August 2019, the Nova Scotia Selections team defied the odds by beating Quebec and Ontario on the final day of the tournament to win the province’s first Canada Cup title.
At the time, the Selects featured Cape Breton baseball players Parker Hanrahan, Brett MacMullin, Breton Sibley and Corson O’Rourke.
The Selects will play two games against each team in the league.
Meanwhile, the NSSBL also announced that all matches will be played over seven innings instead of the traditional nine innings.
Various senior leagues across the province and national tournaments are already playing seven rounds. The Nova Scotia League has played seven innings in the past, but not in recent years.
In 2020, Major League Baseball implemented seven-innings matches as part of doubles programs. The rule remains in effect for this season as well.
No other major rule changes are planned for this year in the senior provincial loop.
There won’t be any expansion teams or an intra-provincial game with New Brunswick this summer, but these are things the league hasn’t ruled out moving forward.
“We would definitely entertain another team,” said Ranni. “It would be nice to have at least a fifth team, it makes a little difference for the playoffs, but overall we’re happy with what we have.
“We do our due diligence and check if people are interested in having teams and that’s good, but if they don’t, that’s good too, we have a strong league as it is.”
Ranni said the league is in contact with the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League after each season, but does not plan an intra-provincial game in 2021.
“We decided there was not much we could do in a COVID-19 year with uncertain travel,” Ranni said. “We both talked to each other and decided to sit down in October or November and see if there is any interest from both leagues.
“We wouldn’t be a full league, but some crossovers we’re still interested in doing things that are interesting for the league.”
The New Brunswick league has already started its 2021 season and will feature three teams – Charlottetown, Moncton and Saint John.
Charlottetown has yet to play a game this season, while Chatham and Fredericton have opted out of the league this summer.
Asked about the possibility of having an Atlantic Championship this summer, given that the Senior National Championship in August has been canceled, Ranni doesn’t expect that to happen. The Sydney Sooners are expected to host the 2022 National Championships in Sydney and New Waterford stadiums.
“It would be fun, but I don’t think there are legs for it,” Ranni said. “Maybe in the future, but I don’t think there’s much going on right now.”
For now, Ranni has said the league is focused on returning to the ball field this season with his current teams.
“All the teams want to do right now is play,” he said. “It’s not a lot of fun being president of a non-playing league, so we’re all a lot more comfortable on the pitch than we are in zoom meetings.”
Jeremy Fraser is a sports and breaking news reporter for the Cape Breton Post. He has worked for the publication for four years. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @CBPost_Jeremy.