The best thing about the pre-season – in any sport – is the abundance of hope.
Every coach thinks his team is full of untapped potential, and no matter how the previous season ended, there is hope that the coming one will be a success.
Every team is still undefeated, too.
And for the White Rock Tritons, that unblemished record will stay intact for at least an extra week, after the BC Premier Baseball League’s opening two games were postponed due to rain Sunday afternoon.
The Tritons were scheduled to play a doubleheader at South Surrey Athletic Park against the Vancouver Cannons. Now – weather permitting – they’ll open the year with two road games this Saturday against the North Shore Twins and North Vancouver’s Parkgate Park.
The North Delta Blue Jays and Whalley Chiefs also saw their opening-weekend games rained out.
The delayed start was frustrating for a Tritons team that, last week, was itching to get onto the field for some real games.
“It’s been four months of working indoors, practicing… it’s been a long off-season,” Tritons’ head coach Russ Smithson said Friday.
“We just got back from Arizona, where we played six games, too. It’s been good, but the boys want to play – there’s only so many simulations you can do before you want things to start (for real).”
For the Tritons – who’ve missed the playoffs for three years in a row – qualifying for the post-season is the main goal, Smithson said.
“Finish in the top four – that’s the goal every year,” he said.
And make it into the post-season – the top eight qualify – Smithson knows his club will need a much better start than last spring, when they started the 2012 campaign with a 5-12 record, and left them playing catch-up the rest of the year.
“Definitely, we need a better start, no question,” Smithson said.
“It’s like they say about golf – you can’t win a tournament on a Thursday, but you sure can lose it on a Thursday.
“You can’t fall behind too early in this league.”
The Tritons are among the younger teams on the PBL circuit this season, with just four senior players – pitcher Max Koltai, pitcher/first baseman Matt Stephens, outfielder Joey Gladman and newcomer John Masten, an outfielder whose family recently moved to the Peninsula from California.
The rest of the team is made up of players who played last season with the U16 Junior Tritons, including Zach Campagne, Daniel Cassino, Dylan Yeager and James Pavelick.
“We should be a pretty solid team this year,” Smithson said. “Young, but they can all play.”
The coach, now in his third year at the helm of the senior squad – he previously coached the Junior Tritons – said the strength of his team should be its infielder. There is good depth at the catcher position, too, he added.
“Our infielders are really outstanding,” he said.
As for the team’s pitching staff, Smithson figures his team is in the same boat as many around the league – good skill at the top end, but simply not a lot of depth.
“Our top-end guys are really good… but after that, it thins out a bit,” he explained. “We only have six pitchers, so when you get into those four-game weekends, it could be tough. It’ll take some creative managing because you don’t want to wear anybody out.”
As for the rest of the league, Smithson figures the Langley Blaze will again by the cream of the crop – led by White Rock Baseball Association alum Nick Rutckyj and catcher/third baseman Tyler O’Neill, the latter of whom is among the league’s best Major League Baseball draft prospects and has drawn comparisons to Toronto Blue Jays star Brett Lawrie, a Langley native who also came up through the Blaze program.
“Langley is strong, like they always are, but when you take them out of the equation, there’s four or five teams that could all make a run at it,” Smithson said, including his team in that group.
“It’s going to be a good season. We’re excited to get going.”
Now, if they could just do something about that rain.