The Unity Junior Cardinals are now 3-3 on the season after a loss last night to the Border City Blue Jays.
The U21 team represents the west central towns only North Saskatchewan River Baseball League team this season. Last year it was the junior squad getting their first taste of NSRBL action as the senior team’s little brother, but now this year they are the lone Cardinals team in Unity.
“They (Sr. Cardinals) just had some unfortunate circumstances. Couple of guys moved away, guys getting married, that type of thing,” said Unity Junior Cardinals Coach Dan Feser, who also mentioned his and other teams potential role in Unity not having a senior team in 2021.
“When you’re running 11-12 guys, and all the sudden you lose 3-4? The midget team here they were going to affiliate with went up to the premier league, so those kids are unavailable most nights. Obviously I’ve got all the local 19-21 year old's so that hurts them a bit, it wasn’t the intention obviously but that’s just how the cards unfolded this year.”
Coach Feser believes the older team is just on a one-year hiatus, and should be able to come back very strong next year with graduating players joining the eager returnees.
Now the U21 coach was skeptical about his own boys joining the NSRBL last year, but after seeing the team’s growth playing in the impressive senior league he knew his original opinion was misguided.
“When you see teams like Kindersley, and Standard Hill, Wilkie is pretty strong this year; you see how good you have to be, and its good for the kids to reach that,” detailed Feser, “I wasn’t a big fan of us going in the NSRBL, I didn’t know if it would be good for us, but boy it sure did work out in the end. The kids knew how good you had to be to be ‘good’, and at the end of the summer we beat a powerhouse Saskatoon team and a lot of credit has to go to the guys that pushed us to play in the NSRBL.”
Feser noted that a majority of these kids have played together since they were in Mosquito. A major tournament win just a few years ago was the beginning of the end for the their time playing together, or so they thought, as the coach noted how big a part his players played in wanting to “keep this thing going”; eventually leading to the creation of the junior level team.
“These guys jumped out of midget and they wanted to keep playing ball together. We talked about and we threw a team together, so the core I guess has one more year together for sure.”
The pipeline of future players for the program doesn’t appear to be dry either as Feser mentioned a strong outlook for upcoming players in the system. The U21 program has also been an opportunity for other west central talent to stay a little closer to home, one example being former Badlands Baseball Academy player Carter Johnson, who has played most of his summer baseball with the Unity crew these past couple of years.
(Photo via @Baseballsask on Twitter)
The team feels right at home in the competition of the NSRBL. Feser has maintained for years that the league is one of the best in the province for senior baseball and that can be proven true by the leagues success in provincials throughout the years. They are super happy to be apart of the league once again, although it was really their only option outside of sitting out the year.
“The only other junior teams in the province are out of Regina right now, so it was this or nothing,” explained Feser, “Now that they are a little older, and a little stronger, they are competing a little more than the first couple of years.”
He also had this to say about his teams chances when they take the field against the above average senior competition.
“We want to compete every game, results are results. It’s obviously nice and you try to win, but the boys want to be a .500 team and they could make some noise in playoffs,” said Feser. “Any day in baseball any pitcher can beat any team right? We got some pretty good arms, so right day, right time, right place we could beat anybody.”
Though Unity is expected to make their run at the NSRBL’s top teams and see what noise they can make, their main focus is still on provincials. The team’s depth means nothing if they don’t get ample playing time before the end-of-season goal, and Feser wants his team ready so they can prove the coaches old adage of “anytime, anyplace”. To further accentuate his point, Feser pointed out the Montreal Canadiens and their current underdog run to the Stanley Cup.
When finishing up his point on the league and its great talent, Feser wrapped it up with his thoughts on west centrals newest competitive team in the Kindersley Stallions, who have been a great source of inspiration for his players thanks to a strong contingent of Unity talent.
“Back in Kindersley, the nice thing about that is you have guys like Dylan Flasch who coached a lot of these kids through Oyen. Blake Robertson is a local guy that a lot of these guys grew up watching. There’s a lot of guys there, that have a lot of connection to the guys here.”
Another stud player and mentor that the U21 Cardinals know well would be the coaches son in Rhett Feser, an accomplished Canadian collegiate pitcher who won back-to-back titles with the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge, where he is now signed on as a coach with the varsity team. The above mentioned Dylan Flasch won with Feser at the academy, and his Stallions teammate Corson Harris also signed on to play ball in Lethbridge. These players were all members of the Northwest Prairie Pirates organization at one point as well, showing the camaraderie that Unity's coaches can only hope is being built now, and fostered for future senior baseball seasons.
The Unity Junior Cardinals next game is set for Thursday at home against the North Battleford Beavers. Their record will be sitting one game above or below the .500 mark when they enter the July portion of their schedule; four games that will lead them into the NSRBL playoffs where they hope to make some noise.