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Coronavirus: Summer baseball league delays start; Kelowna, Victoria announce cancelled seasons

The West Coast League, a summer league made of college players, says it is pushing back the start of its season from June to hopefully July. But on Friday, the Kelowna Falcons and Victoria HarbourCats both announced they had cancelled their 2020 seasons. Susan Miller

The college boys of summer won’t be coming to the Okanagan or Vancouver Island this year.

On Friday, the West Coast League announced that it was pushing back the start of its season, from early June to potentially early July because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That delay, however, had some teams in the short-season baseball league deciding to put away their cleats, mitts and bats for 2020.

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The Kelowna Falcons were one of those teams, along with the Victoria HarbourCats. Those two clubs are the only B.C. franchises in the WCL, a league which also operates in Washington state and Oregon.

“Nothing is more important to our club then the health and safety of our fans, players, coaches, umpires and staff,” said Kelowna Falcons general manager Mark Nonis.

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“Despite the improvements we’ve heard in B.C. from health officials, we don’t anticipate a return to play until late summer or sometime in the fall.”

Noting that nearly all of Kelowna’s road games take place in the U.S., Nonis said,“without any ability to really predict when it will be safe and responsible to return or watch, a number of teams have made the difficult decision to cancel season.”

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In Victoria, the HarbourCats said the team looks “forward to a strong return in 2021, when we anticipate being joined on Vancouver Island by the expansion Nanaimo franchise, due to be officially named this summer.”

Other WCL teams that cancelled their seasons were the Bend Elks, Bellingham Bells and Corvallis Knights.

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The league said its remaining teams will continue to pursue their options.

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“While the existing constraints make it clear that 2020 will not look like a traditional West Coast  League season, all of our teams — whether playing this season or not — remain committed to bringing baseball to our loyal fans, both this summer and in 2021,” said the league.

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With Kelowna not playing in 2020, WCL commissioner Rob Neyer said, “it’s obviously a big blow to the league. But we know Kelowna will be back in 2021, so we’re considering this just a brief pause in the Falcons’ wonderful history, with better things to come.”

According to the league, 90 former and current players of WCL teams were selected in the 2019 MLB draft, including No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman, a Portland product and catcher who was selected by the Baltimore Orioles.

Rutschman, who was playing for Oregon State when Baltimore drafted him, played for the Corvallis Knights in 2016. His father coached the Knights from 1999-2004.

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