By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It’s been a long winter, and after months of conditioning and indoor training, the Oshawa U18 Legionaires are finally outdoors, but they will still have to wait a few more days to start their season in the new elite league.
The club opens their regular season with a home game at Kinsmen Stadium against Mississauga. With the first pitch set for 7:30 p.m. manger Daryl Macklem says it’s safe to say his players are chomping at the bit.
“I think they’re anxious for sure, opening day is always special,” he says. “They want to get going and they want to start playing for real.”
Following tryouts in the fall, the club has been practically prepping ever since. A pair of months were spent training at the Elite Sports Performance Centre in Whitby, followed by a weekly training session with the team at Durham College.
In February, the training schedule was amped up to twice a week before the team travelled to Cuba earlier this month for spring training.
And when the season gets underway the young club will have their work cut out for them.
Starting their first season in the Ontario Baseball Association (OBA) elite league, the Oshawa team will be one of the youngest clubs competing.
“There’s certainly going to be an adjustment period for a number of our guys,” Macklem says.
While many of the teams in the U18 division include kids in their third year of midget baseball, the Oshawa club one has a few with that experience, with the majority of the team in their first or second year of midget.
However, being in the elite division, the Legionaires are made up of the best players from around the area, some coming from as far away as Trenton, Sterling and Belleville to play for Oshawa. The team also includes several players from Oshawa, and a couple from Whitby and Peterborough.
Elite division rules allow players from different jurisdictions to play anywhere they like, as long as they get a release from their home division. Macklem says the fact that players come to Oshawa is not only a testament to the league, but the parents as well.
“They’re putting in the time, the money, and the effort to give their kids an opportunity to play at a higher level, they want what’s best for their kids,” he says.
And wanting what’s best for the players is also top of mind for Macklem.
“Every single one of these players does have a goal, and that is to play college baseball, whether it be in Canada or the United States and my goal is to help them reach their goal,” he says. “At the end of the day, if we can get one or two players to help reach their goal, or hopefully more than that, we’ve done our job.”
The U18 Legionaires kick off their season on May 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Kinsmen Stadium.