By Randy Lewis
With all the snow falling on Calgary in the past few weeks, the last thing on sports enthusiasts’ minds is baseball. However, this snow has not fazed the Dinos baseball club, as they have been working out all winter in the cozy confines of the Red Gym preparing for several exhibition tournaments.
The Dinos have a baseball team? Yes, it’s a team not too many people know about, and it doesn’t receive nearly the attention of the football, volleyball, basketball or even the swim teams, but it wears the Dinos colours and represents the University just like any other team.
Since the Dinos baseball squad is in its relative infancy, the University granted it only club status rather than full varsity status as it has for other teams. This means it receives limited funding from the University and must finance itself for out-of-town tournaments and equipment but can still use the Dinos name and logo.
Although the team wears the Dinos colours, the majority of the players do not attend the University of Calgary. The squad consists of players currently enrolled at the U of C, Mount Royal College, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and even a couple of players who make the two-hour commute every weekend from the University of Lethbridge.
However, all players on the roster have played ball in Calgary prior to joining the team, which Head Coach Jim Lawson says is critical for a young program such as this.
"It keeps players from Calgary active in the sport they grew up playing and gives them a chance to continue playing ball," he said.
Coach Lawson was a former draft pick of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics and toiled in the minor leagues for a few years before becoming a coach. Since he was a pitcher, it is not surprising his team has some strong arms in the rotation.
"Our strengths are pitching
and defence, definitely," said Lawson. "[However], we play in some wooden bat tournaments and many of these kids have used aluminum bats up until now, [so] the adjustment between the two takes a while."
A couple of weeks ago, the Dinos traveled to rain-soaked Vancouver to play in an exhibition tournament against some colleges from British Columbia including the College of the Caribou and Douglas College. The Dinos conclude their exhibition schedule on the April 21-22 weekend, following which the players will be split into three teams to compete in many different tournaments
including the Provincial Junior Championships.
Starting pitcher Scott Hamel, currently enrolled at Mount Royal College, thinks very highly of the newly-formed program and his Head Coach.
"It gives me a chance to play good quality baseball while going to school," he said. "As for Jim, he’s
an awesome coach… probably the best I’ve ever had."
Coach Lawson hopes to model the U of C program after the program started at the University of British Columbia four years ago. UBC competes against several schools in the American Pacific Northwest in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, a league one notch down from the NCAA.
"Right now UBC draws players from right across the country," stated Lawson. "I feel as though we are ahead of where they were at this time in their developement."
The future looks bright for this program and it stands to reason the Dinos will fill the niche that will soon be left by the departing Cannons as the only competitive baseball team in Calgary.