Chilliwack getting college baseball team

Ex-UBC pitching coach Shawn Corness will guide a new crew in the Canadian College Baseball Conference.

Jared DeVuyst of the Chilliwack midget AAA Cougars makes a hit during a doubleheader game against the Vernon Canadians at Fairfield Island Park last Saturday. DeVuyst and other Chilliwackians are getting a new local option for post-secondary baseball with the introduction of a Canadian College Baseball Conference franchise.

Jared DeVuyst of the Chilliwack midget AAA Cougars makes a hit during a doubleheader game against the Vernon Canadians at Fairfield Island Park last Saturday. DeVuyst and other Chilliwackians are getting a new local option for post-secondary baseball with the introduction of a Canadian College Baseball Conference franchise.

The Fraser Valley Collegiate Baseball Group is bringing a new team to Chilliwack this fall.

Led by deep-pocketed local businessman Brian Finnie, the FVCBG has been green-lighted by the Canadian College Baseball Conference, granted a franchise that will start play in September.

“My son is 13 years old and we’ve realized more and more that the top players migrate away from Chilliwack because there’s no where to go in the higher levels of baseball,” Finnie said. “This team is going to change things for a lot of young people.”

The group is looking to affiliate with the University of the Fraser Valley, and UFV is reviewing their application.

If UFV accepts — and reading between lines at the introductory press conference, it seems as close to a done deal as it can be — Finnie would look to run the fledgling program as a ‘club team’ for a year or two with the long-term aim of applying for varsity status.

UFV has acknowledged the existence of the application and will make an announcement soon.

“Some of these kids who don’t see school as an attainable goal, we can work with them in special prograns, tutor them and upgrade their grades,” Finne said. “We want to do whatever we can so we don’t lose them through the cracks — thinking they’re going to be major league baseball players and forgetting about their education.”

Finnie has already secured a head coach, luring Shawn Corness away from the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, where he’d been for nearly a decade.

Before that Corness coached at Kwantlen and he’s also scouted for the San Francisco Giants.

“In business you build around key people, and here’s some things you’d probably never hear from Shawn,” Finnie said. “Five provincial, three Western Canadian, two national and one World Series title. Sixteen major league draft picks and 32 years of coaching. He’s a premier guy, as good as they get.”

Corness has already started recruiting. Fifteen players have signed letters of intent for 2016, including six Chilliwack Minor Baseball products.

Longtime CMBA coach/manager Lee Rogers will serve as the new team’s general manager.

The team will play its home games at Fairfield Island.

The CCBC regular season normally runs from mid-March to the second weekend of May.

The new team will be the sixth in the league, joining two foes — the Calgary Dinos and Thompson Rivers Wolfpack — who are familiar to UFV sports fans.

The Prairie Baseball Academy has won the last five CCBC titles, and is based out of Lethbridge, AB.

The Okanagan College Coyotes play out of Kelowna’s Elks Stadium and the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute (VIBI) Mariners are based in Nanaimo.

“The league is excited to be adding a team in the Lower Mainland,” said CCBC president Ted Hotzak. “There’s tremendous elite-level baseball talent in the Fraser Valley that will now have an opportunity to showcase itself at the college level right at home.”

The CCBC is under the umbrella of the Premier Baseball Association and is affiliated with the BC Premier Baseball League and BC Junior Premier Baseball League.

Economically, Finnie expects to carry a heavy load for the first two years.

Player fees help off-set costs, but Finnie is also looking for partners who share his passion for baseball.

For more information contact Rogers by email at leerogers999@gmail.com or call 604-316-0188

 

— Find more in-depth coverage in Friday’s Progress sports section.