Lethbridge Bulls optimistic WCBL will return for 2021 season

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WATCH ABOVE: There are a few more hurdles for the Western Canadian Baseball League to overcome before the 2021 season, but the general manager of the Lethbridge Bulls is optimistic that this year will go ahead. Danica Ferris reports. – Feb 1, 2021

If the Lethbridge Bulls are able to kick off the 2021 Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) season on schedule, it will be 654 days after the team last played a competitive game.

Read more: Lethbridge Bulls reflect after Tuesday’s season-ending loss to Dawgs

The Bulls are on the calendar to open the season on May 28, 2021 against the league’s rookie franchise, the Sylvan Lake Gulls.

COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the entire 2020 WCBL season, but Bulls general manager and league president Kevin Kvame said he’s optimistic this year will go ahead.

“The team is signed, we’re ready to go,” Kvame said. “That’s all happened as it always does. We have recruited the players we want — they all want to play.

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“Now it’s just dealing with health and government to see if we can make it happen.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Western Canadian Baseball League cancels 2020 season

En route to making it happen, the WCBL will need to clear some unique hurdles, including receiving clearance for a major portion of its talent pool: American players.

“There is teams — including the Bulls — that could operate with an all-Canadian roster, we do have that contingency,” Kvame said.

“One of the things that may be happening — that might be an interesting conversation that we’ll be having in April or May — is that the American players may have all been vaccinated by then.”

Kvame said the league and its teams continue to meet weekly, engaging in conversations about what the season could look like. One of the biggest unanswered pieces of the puzzle remains the inclusion of fans at games.

“There is no capacity for the league to be able to play without fans,” he said. “It needs to happen, and I think that the communities need it to happen.

“The communities cannot go at length in this environment where there’s not things to do out there, but we have to provide the environment that is safe.”

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Read more: Okotoks Dawgs left disappointed as Western Canadian Baseball League cancels 2020 season

Kvame said the league’s Alberta-based teams have already benefited from some provincial and federal funding through support programs, and at this time he doesn’t believe the WCBL will be looking for further government assistance, unless fan capacity isn’t enough to support operations.

“If you crunch the numbers and you still can’t do it, then maybe there would be an ask at that point,” he said. “But I think, you know, if the stadiums can open up to a certain degree and we can get the teams back on the field and communities back engaged in it, then we can return without needing a tremendous amount of assistance.

“But if that can’t happen, then maybe we have to operate on the field with limited fans and some government assistance to get it going again this year, expecting the following year to be back at full capacity.”

Read more: Saskatchewan WHL teams, SJHL receiving funding from province

The 2021 WCBL season is scheduled to begin on May 27, with opening night games in both Fort McMurray and Regina.

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