After two decades without one, local Little League baseball clubs have reinstated a senior level team for players aged 14 to 16 years old, the Victoria Capitals South.
The Capitals South start the season with a double-header at Royal Athletic Park on Saturday, May 11, against Mount Seymour at noon, followed by a game against the Capitals North team (of Saanich and Central Saanich players) at 6 p.m.
It’s been a long time coming, said coach Reece Caven, who’s volunteered with Beacon Hill Little League for 11 years and remembers the senior teams of 20 years ago. Thanks to the City of Victoria, which has offered up Royal Athletic Park, the Capitals South have the home they needed to restart the program.
“I give the city a lot of credit, they surprised me,” he said. “I explained to the city that we needed a centralized field big enough for this level and they said ‘We’re going to try to figure this out,’ and they did.
It’s also special for Caven who’s grandfather played competitive baseball at RAP back in the 1940s, he said.
In the traditional Little League system, players would move up from the 12-and-under majors level to intermediate (12-13), junior (13-14) and then senior (14-16). However, the baseball diamonds of the Little League clubs that make up the team, National (Jerry Hale at Cook/Hillside), Beacon Hill (Hollywood Park) and Hampton Park, are suited to the majors level baseball and are too small.
The Little League senior teams of the 1980s and 1990s used to play at Bullen and McDonald parks, among other fields. However, they would need to book both ends of the field because the batters were hitting the balls into the other field, making it dangerous, Caven said. But booking the second field was challenging on other users. Eventually, the senior team folded.
Last year there was only a junior level team and now there are actually two Victoria Capitals teams at all three different levels, the Capitals South and Capitals North (Peninsula). The Capitals South draw players from Beacon Hill, National and Hampton Little Leagues. The Capitals North draw players from Central Saanich, Layrtiz and Lakehill.
“It’s such a privilege to play on a field of this caliber and to have this opportunity,” said Capitals South outfielder Tyler Commandeur, who comes from Beacon Hill Little League and was on the District 7 Intermediate team that went to the Canadian Championships in 2016. “After going to HarbourCats games and watching great baseball from the stands, playing [at RAP] is almost surreal.”
Around town there are a number of B.C. Baseball programs that Little League players traditionally graduated to but most are high performance. Because of the new teams the Capitals have retained a surprising number of players, many who Caven believes wouldn’t be playing otherwise.
“Many of the parents have told me, if this wasn’t available their kids wouldn’t be playing,” Caven said. “A lot of these kids [who aren’t at the elite skill level for their age] are excelling as players from their commitment. They’re energized and excited to be playing.”
The Capitals South will play against the Capitals North in Central Saanich and against Lower Mainland teams as well as B.C. Baseball teams from the Island.