Get ready to grab your peanuts and cracker jacks – first pitch of the Kelowna Falcons season is about to be thrown.
It’s been over 1,000 days since the Falcons have played at Elks Stadium due to the pandemic, and the coaching staff and players are excited to be in Kelowna for the summer.
“I think everyone is ready to go,” said Assistant Coach John Noce.
The team had a workout on Wednesday with just the 13 players they had in town, seven of them just pitchers. There were 23 players at Thursday’s practice, with more expected to filter in as the season goes on.
— Jordy Cunningham (@CunninghamJordy) June 2, 2022
In the West Coast League (WCL), every team has players from many different college programs around North America from many different levels. With that, and just one practice under their belt, everyone will have to gel quickly.
“When you don’t know anybody, how they are, how they play, you have to see it for yourself,” said Noce. “Everyone has to get an opportunity to play. They’ve played baseball since they were little and this is another little stepping-stone for them to get better.”
Players arrive from the NCAA D1 level to the junior college level.
“The competition is going to be good, these kids are college kids all throughout,” said Noce. “You run the gamut of what level they’re coming from.”
John will be the head coach on Friday’s season and home opener. His brother Doug, the team’s head coach is scheduled to be at Saturday night’s game.
One of the Falcons players this season is Kelowna’s own Jaden Parsons.
“[I’m] excited to be back here at beautiful Elks Stadium, excited to get going and to see the fans watching live baseball again.” said Parsons.
On top of playing at Elks, the infielder is excited to be playing in front of his family again.
“It’s pretty special,” said Parsons. “One of the main reasons I came back to play in my hometown is my family hasn’t seen me play in three years and I’m just really excited to have them actually see me play in an actual baseball game instead of a little computer screen.”
Growing up in Kelowna and seeing what’s happened over the last couple years because of the pandemic, Parsons says that having the team back is great for the city.
“I think its awesome, its just another thing that Kelowna can add to the list of amenities…it’s really good for the city.”
“Hopefully the people in Kelowna are excited about it and have missed the summer ball here,” said Noce. “We’re just excited to be the first group back in a couple years.”
Parsons isn’t the only hometown kid on the team as Okanagan College Coyotes outfielder Clark Swift has also joined.
“I think it’s pretty cool, it’s always nice to play for the home city,” said Swift.
Coming off the Canadian College World Series title, Swift wasn’t planning on playing this summer.
“I was at work and the OC coach texted me and said they’re looking for an outfielder and I was like ‘yeah!,” said Swift. “It was awesome.”
Since the Falcons last season, there’s been a lot of changes to the WCL. One of them is that the number of teams in B.C. has doubled from two to four. On top of Kelowna and Victoria, Kamloops and Nanaimo now have teams in the league playing in their inaugural season.
“The more Canadian teams, the better for everyone involved,” said Noce. “I think it’s important to have as many teams, especially Canadians being represented, that can only build the game.”
With Kamloops in the league now, will their be a new rivalry in the WCL?
“We’ll have to see,” said Parsons. It’ll be fun to play those guys.”