First-year head coach Mark Orr and the Kamloops RiverDogs will not be easing into the B.C. Baseball College Prep League season.
The defending league champions, the Cloverdale Nationals, will be in town this weekend for a pair of doubleheaders on Canada Games Field, with game times set for 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and noon and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
“I’m expecting a good learning process right now,” Orr said with a chuckle. “We have lots to work on.”
Orr accepted the job to replace 18-year-veteran coach Sean Wandler knowing the Dogs are always up against it in the College Prep League, squaring off against Lower Mainland teams not limited by catchment areas and featuring some players capable of taking to the diamond in B.C.’s top development system, the Premier Baseball League.
Kamloops was 10-30 in regular-season play in 2018 before making its third-consecutive first-round exit from the post-season.
The task of preparing the 2019 RiverDogs — about half of whom are in their first year of midget AAA ball, with three returnees — became more challenging when winter showed up late in Kamloops, wreaking havoc on fields across the city, including on McArthur Island.
Practising at the indoor facility on McArthur Island allowed for work on pitching and ground balls.
“TRU was using our field because theirs was under repair, so we didn’t get on the fields until April 1,” Orr said. “There’s no replacement for being outside.”
The host RiverDogs posted a 2-2 record at the Best of the West exhibition tournament, which wrapped up on April 7. They have since had time to train outdoors.
“I’m not expecting our record [this coming weekend] to reflect our learning, but if we can take one of those games, I’d be happy,” Orr said.
Orr has been around the Kamloops Minor Baseball Association coaching scene for more than a decade, most recently as bench boss of the 2018 bantam AAA RiverDogs.
“Actually, last year took me by surprise,” Orr said. ”All of a sudden, they didn’t have a AAA coach. Sean [Wandler], knowing my background, asked me to do that.
“We had a fairly successful season. Sean stepped down and some parents asked if I would make the transition to the midget team.”
Power-hitting first baseman Colby Jepson, one of the club’s few Grade 12 veterans, will not play this season due to injury, news that reached Orr on Monday.
“We’re on the younger end, but we have some talent to work with,” Orr said. “I found it the same last year with the bantam team.
“We got off to a 2-6 start, but by the end of the season, we were over .500. I’m kind of hoping we follow the same route.”