Ball league eyes June start, while trying to stay optimistic

·2 min read

STRATHROY - Uncertainty surrounding the 2021 baseball season is making it difficult for sernior teams like the Strathroy Royals and Ilderton Red Army to recruit new players, especially those playing college baseball in the United States.

“It makes it hard - these guys have to decide whether to commit to us, or attach themselves to a team down there,” explains Doug Fairbairn, founder and acting commissioner of the Southwestern Senior Baseball League.

Vaccination rollout south of the border is moving along quickly, and US teams are expecting to play ball. The same cannot be said here - at least, not at this time.

“We can only tell them the truth, that we don’t know whether there will be a season,” adds Fairbairn.

In Strathroy, the Royals would normally be starting training now. With each day that goes by, the possibility of having a season looks bleaker, says Manager Derek Bloomfield.

“We’re trying to be optimistic, but even if there is a season, one bad flare-up halts the whole league,” he explains. He says if there’s a 50-person bubble, like last year, then the team won’t play.

The Southwestern league is torn - they want to play ball, but also want to keep players and coaches safe. Fairbairn predicts that the upcoming season isn’t reliant solely on a vaccine, but on government rules and public health guidelines.

“If we can have 100 people at a ballpark, and we can play the game of baseball as it’s laid out in the rule books, then we’re pretty likely to play, vaccine or not,” says the leagues’ founder.

Last season, a series of new rules were put in place by Baseball Ontario. Catchers had to leave six-feet of space behind the batter. First base could not hold a runner, and runners could not steal. These extra precautions were manageable, but not preferred by the players in the Senior league.

The London Majors Baseball Team of the Intercounty Baseball League are predicting an early June start, if there is a season at all. They are seeing an upgrade to their ball diamond and hope to be the top sports-watching event each week - hope.

Fairbairn says the Southwestern Senior Baseball League would consider starting up around then as well.

McKinley Leonard-Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner