Hometown hurler Tyrelle Chadwick has been named opening day starter for the Kamloops NorthPaws, the expansion franchise that will open its West Coast League baseball account on Tuesday at Norbrock Stadium.
"It's a huge honour," said Chadwick, the 6-foot-4 righty from the River City. "It's going to be incredible. It's going to be an amazing atmosphere."
Chadwick, who also toils for the Okotoks Dawgs and is committed to NCAA Division One Illinois State, will be on the mound when the NorthPaws square off against the Edmonton Riverhawks. Game time is 6:35 p.m.
“He has earned every bit of this opportunity,” NorthPaws’ head coach Cole Armstong said in a press release. “He has been stellar with the Dawgs this spring. Plus, it’ll be really cool to have a hometown kid start the season on the mound for us.”
KTW featured Chadwick in July of 2018, when the multi-sport athlete, a 15-year-old manchild at the time, was considering his post-secondary options.
The home-and-franchise opener marks the end of a long and arduous wait for the ownership group that includes Neal Perry, Jon Pankuch and Norm Daley, whose club was slated to make its debut in 2021, an arrival delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a long time,” Pankuch said. “We’re ready. We’re super excited. We’ve got well over 800 tickets sold.”
A Bob Seger tribute band will highlight the Pre-Game Patio Party, a 5 p.m. start at Norbrock.
“Every home game, we are going to have live entertainment, tribute bands, that is free to the general public,” Pankuch said. “If they want to go to the game after, tickets are available.”
Kamloops and Edmonton will also square off on Wednesday and Thursday in the season-opening three-game set, with first pitch slated for 6:35 p.m. both nights.
Chadwick said he technically graduated from high school last year, but reclassified for the class of 2022.
"Essentially, there are a fair amount of high school seniors in the U.S. that are my age, graduating this year," he said. "Rather than graduate last year, with a fair amount of guys that are a year older than me, I give myself another year to get stronger, get better, so I have the best opportunity possible and I’m as ready as possible going into my first year of university."
Chadwick plans to spend a few weeks with the NorthPaws before returning to the Dawgs.
"Then, hopefully, I'll come back later in the summer," he said. "Baseball is growing all the way across Canada and in Kamloops, especially, I think it's getting a lot bigger. Having some high-level baseball in town will be really cool."
The franchise opener on Tuesday is part of a momentous night in Tournament Capital sports.
It coincides with Game 7 of the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference final, with the Kamloops Blazers slated to host the Seattle Thunderbirds at Sandman Centre.
“It is what it is,” Pankuch said. “There are enough people in this town. They’re going to support us, the Blazers and the new soccer team in town [Rivers FC].
“We’re excited for the Blazers. We’re congratulating them all the way. If they’re going to continue to win, that’s a fantastic thing for the sports community.”
Kamloops has 36 players on its roster, some of whom will miss the opening series as they continue their national championship pursuit with their respective college teams.
The WCL, a wood-bat summer league for collegiate players, was founded in 2005 and includes 16 teams from Oregon, Washington state, B.C. and Alberta.
"Cole reached out a few months ago about coming down for a bit, having the ball opening day and being able to play with them for a little bit," Chadwick said.
"I'm very excited to be able to do something like this in my hometown."