A windfall of impressive homegrown baseball talent should have the Richmond Chuckers in position to take a serious run at the provincial Bantam AAA championship this summer.
The U15 squad begins regular season play Wednesday night when Vancouver Community visits Blundell Park at 5:30 p.m.
A solid core of six players is compliment by eight first-year players — evenly split between the Chuckers Bantam AA program and the 2015 Pee Wee AAA provincial champions. It all adds up to one of the deepest teams longtime general manager and head coach Alex Klenman has seen in years.
The highly-respected Klenman launched this program back in 2004 and, along with his son Ryan, have been involved in 11 of the past 12 seasons. In some years, the Klenmans have had to lean on outside players to put a competitive roster together. Not now.
“Because I have been doing this a long time, you run in cycles,” said Klenman. “We are in a really good talent cycle right now. (Richmond City Baseball) has also been working on player development the last few years. It’s nice when you do have a talent cycle like this they have been able to get some work in before they get here.
“We are ahead of the curve and we are excited. It’s a great group.”
Backing up Klenman’s enthusiasm is the Chuckers rolling to straight six wins in pre-season play. The team is already showcasing its outstanding pitching depth with 11 players capable of providing quality innings on the mound. It’s the main reason Klenman opted to expand his roster to 14 players.
He admits finding enough playing time will be a challenge, especially during league play, but his line-up is set up to thrive in tournament and provincial play where teams will play a condensed schedule. He is also hoping the depth will pay off come the biggest games of the year in July.
“Good pitchers this level should be throwing 50-70 innings in a season,” he explained. “Between 60 and 70 it’s the end of the marathon when their arms are hanging. You almost want to keep your horse in the paddock so to speak to get to that final tournament and they are roaring to go.
“It is all about player development at this level but you walk a fine line too. Part of that development, at least for elite athletes, is competition. Part of that competition is winning and losing. We are going out to win as part of the development process.”
One of Klenman’s luxuries this season is having three left-handed pitchers at his disposal. He credits all the throwing options to the work Ryan has done at RCBA’s off-season pitching clinics.
“Ryan has worked with a lot of these kids for the last four to five years,” Klenman added. “We are seeing the fruits of that effort now and it’s making it easy for me. They are all quality pitchers who throw strikes and with wood bats and, at this age group, that is all you need.”
The Chuckers main competition is expected to come from Abbotsford, Delta and White Rock. However, the coaching staff’s challenge will be keeping this team hungry, motivated and on a continued learning curve over the next three months. The results will then take care of themselves.
The Chuckers’ annual Queen Victoria Day Invitational will feature one of its most competitive line-ups in tournament history including Alberta powerhouses Okotoks and Parkland.
2016 Chuckers roster breakdown
Peter Broderick (P-SS-OF)
Reid Dawson (P-OF-SS)
Dustin McElwain (P-OF)
Josh Moscovitz (P-SS)
Hirkoa Sato (P-3B-OF)
Gabriel Sussenbacher-Fu (P-OF)
Bantam AA Grads
Carter Castle (P-1B-OF)
Ethan Hong (P-OF-2B)
Duke Howells (P-C-2B)
Montaro Uyeyama (C-3B)
Pee Wee AAA Grads
Jake Finkelstein (P-1B-OF)
Joey Houston (P-3B-C)
Jonathan McGill (C-INF-P)
Justin Thorsteinson (P-1B)