The Yorkton Richardson Bantam ‘AA’ Cardinals are less than a week away from beginning their 2014 season; a season which will see them constantly fight above their weight class in the Regina Bantam ‘AAA’ League.
However the fact that they will be playing in a league where the talent is the cream of the crop does not bother head coach Kevin Shirtliffe and company, despite the fact that his team will be losing their top three pitchers from last season. “We’re aware that the teams will be good,” mentioned Shirtliffe. “But we expect to compete all season.”
But while competing is the goal, the Cardinals do have some problems. They’ll be battling the top bantam aged players from Regina’s three teams, the Buffaloes, Pacers and White Sox, as well as the top bantam talent from Weyburn, Moose Jaw and Swift Current with a roster containing roughly half first year and half second year players.
That means that certain second year players, like pitcher Kaito Farquharson, will have to step up and play bigger roles than they have in the past. “We’ll lean on him (Kaito) quite a bit. He’s hands down our most experienced pitcher,” offered the bantam ‘AA’ head coach. “Having said that, our pitching staff isn’t going to have the velocity that we had last year because of the players we had graduate to midget this year. We don’t have guys throwing as hard as our three top guys from last year but where Kaito will shine is that he uses his off speed stuff and his curveball really well and he’s got really good command with the ball. That’s where he’ll be impressive.”
As good as Farquharson might be this season, however, it will be for naught if the bantam ‘AA’ Cardinals offence can’t get off the ground. And offence, according to Shirtliffe, has been the problem with this group of kids throughout the years. “The last few years with this group offence has been our struggle,” suggested Shirtliffe.
However this year Shirtliffe devised a plan that just might jump start a rather lacklustre bantam ‘AA’ Cardinals offence. He has had his team practicing deep in the bowels of the Gloria Hayden Centre over the last month to prepare the kids for the regular season. “We’ve been throwing and practicing in the gym, doing some BP (batting practice) which should help,” said Shirtliffe.
But Shirtliffe is aware that, while their indoor practices have been helpful in getting his team game ready, playing outdoors on dirt and grass is a completely different beast when compared to practicing in a gym, saying, “Baseball’s not played inside so we’ll see how we do during the season.”
The season he speaks of is the 2014 one, which will see the Cardinals travel to Moose Jaw on Saturday, May 10, for a double header before visiting the Regina Buffaloes the very next day for a twin bill at Lions Park.
The first home action for the Yorkton Bantam ‘AA’ Cardinals will be the weekend of May 17-18 when they welcome the Swift Current Indians to town for a four game series.