Red Deer Riggers set for new season

Spring snow is an annual rite of passage in Central Alberta.

Without fail at some point during late April and the Victoria Day long weekend, outdoor activities are hampered by the white stuff.

So much is true for the Red Deer Riggers, who haven’t had much chance to practice ahead of the 2019 Sunburst Baseball League season.

They hit the diamond once for their first outdoor practice this week and will have one more run through Sunday before the first official league game on May 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Great Chief Park against the Edmonton Confederation Cubs.

“As soon as guys start to throw and get outside, interest definitely starts to peak, said Riggers third baseman Jaret Chatwood.

“Everyone is itching to get going now. We have some college kids, but they don’t get back until later, so it will be an interesting start. We’ll manage, I think everyone is excited to get out there again.”

The Riggers will have a different mix this season, with several players moving on and a few new younger additions. Back in the mix are familiar faces, Jason Chatwood, Joel Peterman, Jason Louis and Shayne Court. Some of the young talent is still at college, so to open the season the Riggers will be relying on some cagey veterans to get them by.

“Some of the guys are taking a step back. Some guys are down, which kind of sucks. We have some young guys coming in, so it’s always nice to have young guys coming up and they’re all Red Deer guys, so that’s a win,” Chatwood said.

A major difference for the Sunburst league this year will be a drop from nine innings to seven. Most tournaments, including nationals, are seven innings and most of the teams felt like late innings slogged on in a lot of cases the last few seasons.

For the Riggers, another big date on the calendar is July 26-28. That is the annual Riggers tournament, which has been moved a week later in the summer, in order to draw a few extra teams from Calgary and increase competition.

“Just expand it a little bit. The more teams you have the bigger the payout you have and the more variety. So you’re not seeing the same guys all the time. It’s nice to play against other teams,” added Chatwood.

Red Deer finished the regular season with a 12-9 record last season and lost the league final for the first time in three years.

With a loss in the provincial senior AAA final last year, only the Sherwood Park Athletics will head to the Baseball Canada Men’s Championships in Ontario. The Riggers hope they can earn a spot in the 2020 Championships in Sydney, Nova Scotia with a win in the final this season.

After the season opener on May 21, the Riggers will play a pair of road games, before being back at Great Chief Park on May 28.