Checking in with Edmonton Prospects AGM/Head Coach Jordan Blundell

In 2007 Jordan Blundell coached the then named St. Albert Prospects for one season.  Twelve years later Blundell, who already had the role of Assistant General Manager, stepped back behind the bench adding Head Coach to his roles. No matter his role or title, if you spend anytime with Mr. Blundell you will surely hear the following statement, “It’s all about winning that last game of the summer”.

Coming off a cancelled season due to a pandemic and uncertainty still surrounding…well everything really, I reached out to Jordan to ask him a few questions.

Q) Looking ahead to 2021 begins with looking back at 2020 and asking if those contracts are still valid? Did the pandemic leave you with any sort rights to these players?
 Our signed contracts from 2020 are valid as far as rights to those players in our league are concerned.  Clubs have the opportunity to protect players into January of the upcoming year, however if those players are not signed they become available for all other teams in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL). We have a mix of re-signed players from the suspended 2020 season and a group of new players that make up our 2021 roster.
Q) Without the prototypical amount of baseball played in 2020, how do you as Coach and Assistant GM go about your business melding together a roster?
Recruiting for the 2021 season really hasn’t been any different than previous years, outside of the obvious challenges that the pandemic poses.  We’ve been able to prepare and plan for potential issues and we provide that information to recruits.  We are hopeful that by the time our summer season arrives the travel situation for our players will be resolved and allow for our league to compete this summer.  
As a group we are prepared to adapt, adjust and adhere to whatever challenges we are faced with as we get closer to the summer and then within our summer season.
We’ve created some new player recruitment relationships as well as maintained some partnerships from past seasons.  
Q) 56 road games this season. Sure many Prospects fans will do the short drive out to Centennial Park in Sherwood Park and Henry Singer Park in Spruce Grove but mentally it has  to wear on players and coaches having multiple “home dressing rooms”. What is the mindset behind not having a home park?
 Edmonton is our home and ultimately our player residence is where our players call home.  Not having a Home Stadium is an opportunity for our organization to create new relationships in the Metro Edmonton region.  
For our players, there is no doubt that having a specific home field would be ideal but our players see this as a challenge and they are excited to be a part of the Prospects as we work to build our new stadium in Spruce Grove.  The players see this as an opportunity to be part of the history of the Prospects, to be the group that bridged the gap to the Metro Ballpark. College baseball players in general are a resilient bunch and our group will personify resiliency. 
Thank you for your time Jordan. Let’s finish off this article with a look at a few of the players he has brought in for the (hopeful) 2021 campaign.

Vay Diep Steps Down as St Albert Sr B Miners Head Coach

On Sunday January 17th, the St. Albert Sr B Miners announced that their long time Head Coach Vay Diep has stepped down from his position. Diep’s regular season coaching record with the Sr B Miners was an astounding 139-25-4. His playoff record an equally impressive 50-17. Here’s the official release from the Club:

“The Miners are saddened to announce that Vay Diep will be stepping down as the Head Coach from the Senior Miners. Vay started with the Miners in 2010 leading them to their first President’s Cup appearance in his first season as Head Coach. In his 10 year tenure with the Miners he led the team to 7 National Championship appearances, 1 National Bronze medal and 3 National Gold medals.
Vay will remain in the Miners organization on the executive board focusing his efforts on a new and exciting venture (that can not be made public at the time of this statement).
The Miners would like to extend their greatest appreciation to Vay for his unwavering dedication and leadership through all of the highs and lows over the past decade. We will be forever grateful for your time spent with the Miners.”

I reached out to Miners General Manager Jordan Cornfield and asked if he had any further comment on Diep’s departure: “He has done a ton for this club over the years and is quite deserving of having this moment in the spotlight.” 

 

John Lintz, current National Lacrosse League player for the Colorado Mammoth and also Sr. B Miner, took to social media and addressed Vay Diep with a from-the-heart post:

 

 

The Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL) did not play in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. The league is hopeful to play in 2021 but no official announcement has been made. When play does begin again, the Sr B Miners will have a different voice at the helm for the first time in over a decade. Cheers go out to Mr. Diep for a job well done.

Edmonton, welcome to the West Coast League

Things are looking up for baseball fans in this city.

For the first time since 2011, the Capital region will play host to multiple high-level baseball clubs. Dr. Randy Gregg’s Edmonton Riverhawks will join the Edmonton Prospects as the city’s two summer collegiate teams.

2021 will be the 15th season in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) for the Prospects, while the Riverhawks will begin their inaugural season in the West Coast League (WCL) on June 1st. As the team prepares for Opening Day, let’s take a look at the WCL and what we can expect from the upcoming season.

Who plays in the WCL?

The West Coast League, just like the WCBL, is a wood-bat summer collegiate league. The college baseball season ends in spring, so players need somewhere to play during the summer months. You will see college-age players from Canada and the United States compete. Of the 16 players the Riverhawks have signed to play in 2021 they come from six different provinces and states.

Who are Edmonton’s competition?

The Riverhawks are one of three expansion teams joining the WCL in 2021, bringing the total number of teams to 15. Where the WCBL features teams in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the WCL has one team (Edmonton) based in Alberta, four in British Columbia, seven in Washington and three in Oregon.

The divisional alignment has not yet been announced for the upcoming season, but a likely scenario would be to see three divisions of five teams each, including an all-Canadian division. If this were to be the case, Edmonton’s division rivals would be:

  • Kamloops NorthPaws (2021 expansion team)
  • Kelowna Falcons
  • Nanaimo NightOwls (2021 expansion team)
  • Victoria HabourCats (2019 Finalists)

The other team of note is the Corvallis Knights. Based out of Corvallis, Oregon (home of the Oregon State Beavers), the Knights are in the middle of a dynasty, winning the league championship each of the past four years.

How does the season work?

In 2019, the WCL played a 54-game split season schedule. This means that the season was broken into 27-game halves, and in each division the best team in each half advanced to the playoffs. If one team has the best record in both halves (like the Corvallis Knights in 2019), then the team with the next best record over all 54-games advanced. With three new teams and the possibility of a brand-new division, it’s likely that the playoffs get expanded from four teams.

All we know about 2021 so far is that the Riverhawks will play 54 games from June to the beginning of August. You can find their schedule here.

Will I recognize any of these guys?

Most likely not. Not yet, anyway. But you will recognize some of the people who have played in this league.

Mitch Haniger, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners and an American League All-Star in 2018, played for the Corvallis Knights in 2010. Adley Rustschmann, the first overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, also suited up for the Knights. How about James Paxton – the Big Maple himself. You know, the guy that pitched a no-hitter against our very own Blue Jays? He took the mound for the Kelowna Falcons in 2007. And let’s not forget 2020 Pitching Triple Crown winner Shane Bieber, who pitched for the Cowlitz Black Bears in 2014.

Get acquainted with some of the players in this league, because you will be hearing their names for years to come.

How is this any different than the WCBL?

It may seem that the Prospects and Riverhawks serve the same function: elite-level summer collegiate baseball. But I believe that each club has something unique to offer for the local baseball fan.

Obviously, there’s the fact that the Prospects will be playing out of Spruce Grove for the foreseeable future. Fans on the west end of the city will naturally flock westward because the ballpark is closer. I live closer to RE/MAX Field, but I can definitely see myself making the trip over to Spruce Grove Metro Ballpark because like I said, these teams each have their own niche.

I am of the opinion that the quality of play in the WCL will be higher than its Canadian counterpart. The West Coast league has demonstrated a knack for attracting elite talent that the WCBL just hasn’t yet. If you want to see players who might reach the Major Leagues one day, the Riverhawks are your best bet.

So what do the Prospects have to offer? They are the best option if you want to watch elite Canadian talent. They’ll have a few Americans and even Australians, but the majority of players will be Canucks, largely because all twelve teams are located north of the 49th parallel.

But if you’re anything like me and just enjoy the live baseball experience, you have to be ecstatic that there is 27 more games per season happening in the River Valley.