Vancouver Canadians swinging for the fences in Summer 2012

Swiiiing Batter Batter…

Based off the Vancouver Canadians first five games of the season where they outscored the Spokane Indians 38-14, one may have considered just conceding the NW League Championship to the boys in red and white.

Unfortunately for Manager Clayton McCullough, that’s not how it works.

They will have to do it the hard way but that means with the help of 11 returning players, including new ace and UBC Alum Eric Brown.

Brown, who became the first UBC’er to play for the Canadians last season, said after the home opener Wednesday night that he did in fact have a few friends in attendance.

When asked how he felt about his first two starts of the season which saw him give up only one earned run, Brown said, “Hopefully I’m just getting going.

I haven’t felt sharp the last two nights and it’s been a bit of a struggle.

I’m just trying to grind it out one pitch at a time.”

Now if you are a person who’s never been a baseball fan or attended a Canadians game, that’s what the Northwest League is all about. It’s a 76 game regular season where players and management get literally FOUR days off the entire summer. You read that right; these guys play nearly every single day for three months while travelling back and forth across the border from Vancouver, BC to locales such as Tacoma, Washington and Eugene, Oregon.

If you’ve been living under a rock, that’s totally cool because rocks make good friends but I’m happy to be the first to let you know that the Canadians won the Northwest League title last season which is also known as the Freitas Cup.

nat bailey stadium canadians milb

Nat Bailey Stadium – A Gem in Vancouver. (Photo – Josh Hall)

I also asked Eric Brown post game if he felt like the C’s were championship material.

“Well it’s really early for that but we’ve got a good squad here that comes and battles every night. Just like tonight, it came down to the last out, so if we can do that every night, we have a really good chance.”

Obviously Mr. Brown is correct as anything can and probably will happen over the course of the season. So why take some time out of your busy summer to attend a game at the Nat?

The atmosphere

Perhaps RHP Arik Sikula said it best post-game when he told me, “To see me play. (laughter) Nah, I have to give you something else.

Definitely for the fun atmosphere, it’s family friendly or if you’re just trying to have a good time with your friends. It’s a good time for kids and adults of all ages.

But I like the first answer better.”

Not only is the 23 year old native of South Charleston, West Virginia well spoken, but he’s pretty hilarious. Don’t be fooled, the entire team is a happy go lucky bunch.

Back to the atmosphere though and if you’re able to come out, one of the things you’ll notice over the span of 9 innings is the crowd.

That’s right, you actually notice the crowd. Listening to the broadcast on Team Radio, I can hear people in the crowd cheering and jeering.

Not that I like to slag my Canucks but let’s just say the Canadians faithful put Rogers Arena to shame and it only has about 1/8th the capacity.

Of course I can’t go any further without mentioning my absolute favourite part of any game and it has nothing to do with pitches or swings. It’s the in-field clean up team that comes out midway through the game and mid-sweep break out in a pre-orchestrated song and dance. Wednesday’s home opener featured a fantastically done Thriller.

This always makes for a good laugh and anyone who’s been will know what I am referring to.

Did I mention the fireworks? There are 8 fireworks nights (7 remaining) and it’s a post-game show you CANNOT miss. Here’s a schedule for all the promotions being presented this season. Don’t forget the NOONERS.

The ball park

Nat Bailey is a gem and while I can’t say I’ve been to any of the other stadiums used by teams in the NWL, the Nat is rich with history which makes it a wonder to behold.

While it’s officially known as Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, you can call it ‘The Nat.’ With a high wall in the outfield, it’s the minor league equivalent to Fenway Park in Boston which boasts the Green Monster. If a ball is hit long, there is zero chance an outfielder is going to make a superman leap to the top of the fence and snag the ball.

Additionally, the scoreboard is pristine. It’s no jumbo-tron but placed in center field, the picture is as crisp as a Henrik Sedin pass.

Finally, there is nary a bad seat. Most of the grandstand is undercover which is good if it’s raining but also to keep fans safe from the blistering sun of the summer. The sight lines are fantastic and you can see home plate from any spot if you’re one for analyzing every ball and strike.

**Author’s Note: If you don’t know who Nat Bailey is, then please become accustomed with a little bit of BC HISTORY.**

It’s affordable

This has got to be one of the best bargains for anything in the city of Vancouver. The aforementioned stadium experience is well worth the $10 price of admission that is charged for most seats. Once again, no offense to the Vancouver Canucks organization but attending a game at Rogers Arena is grossly overpriced.

You have to buy a ticket to get into the Nat but what can you purchase once inside? Ah yes, the food.

All items are marked up higher than what you’d see at a local fast food restaurant but it’s still nowhere near what you might pay at BC Place or The Rog. They’ve got mini-donuts, burgers, sushi and oh, did I mention the foot-long hot dogs? Eat at your own discretion.

A beer will run you $6.25. Not too shabby compared to 8 or 9 bucks at the other two venues.

A mature team to cheer for

vancouver canadians MiLB

The Northwest Champs 2011 Banner raising pre-game Wednesday, June 20th. Rich Miller was on hand for the first pitch. (Photo – Josh Hall)

It’s not just about the 11 returning players from last season’s championship squad. It’s about the humility and modesty of these young guys who are just trying to further their careers in professional baseball.

We want our hometown athletes to be model citizens and be well spoken and that’s exactly what we have with the Canadians.

“The fans are awesome. They’ve been so supportive throughout last year and this year. It just brings energy to the field for us as a team. We can’t thank them enough,” said Fairfield, California’s native son Nick Baligod.

Baligod, who was an integral part the C’s winning ways last year has returned better than ever and the 24 year old has a grip on how to play the game right. He was up to bat in the 9th Wednesday night and a home run would have won the game for Vancouver who were originally down by 5 to begin the inning.

Unfortunately he couldn’t crack off a homer or any hit for that matter but if the situation is to come up again in the future, he knows what to do:

“I want to be in that situation every time. Sometimes you’re unfortunate not to get that winning hit but you just have to take your best swing at the pitch and try to grind it out.”

Forget heart of a Canuck. How about heart of a Canadian?

Amidst the rumours that Vancouver could see the return of AAA ball, all fans can do is sit back, relax and enjoy some great baseball.

People will never care about the C’s as much as they do the Canucks, Lions or even the Whitecaps but it’s still a great summer event to take in.

Take all the reasons I provided into consideration and give me one good reason why you shouldn’t go to a Canadians game, that is unless you live under a rock, which like I said before is actually pretty cool…not.

CLICK HERE to check out my Canadians coverage from last season.


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