The University of the Fraser Valley Cascades have spent this week in Tucson, Arizona, facing American competition as they prepare for the 2019 Canadian Colleges Baseball Conference season.
The Cascades have made this an annual event since 2017, but this year’s trip is different. The Cascades are joined this time by the B.C. Premier Baseball League’s Fraser Valley Cardinals.
Both teams now exist under the larger Fraser Valley Baseball Academy umbrella, and Cards coach Corey Eckstein was happy to get his boys on the plane to Arizona.
“We need to get on the field and get practice and game reps in,” he said. “It’s good for team bonding and good for the players to see where they are at heading into league play.”
While B.C. endures arctic outflow winds and snowstorms that keep ballplayers off the diamond, Arizona offers ideal spring training conditions. There’s a reason Major League Baseball clubs prepare for their season by playing Cactus League games.
Rarely does weather get in the way.
“I’ve always liked going to Arizona to experience some of the best baseball weather in the world,” said Liam Campbell, a Chilliwack native in his third year as a pitcher/catcher with the Cascades. “It’s a much-needed break from school and provides us time to get closer as a team and prepare for our hectic schedule ahead.”
The Cascades and Cardinals flew down last weekend and got into games right away.
Both teams squared off against the Miles Community College Pioneers on Sunday. The Cardinals scheduled games against Dakota Wesleyan University, Mount Marty College and California Miramar University. UFV took on Cal-Miramar, Carroll College, Presentation College and Northwestern College.
“It’s a good opportunity for players to see how they stack up against American college players,” said Cascades coach and former major leaguer Kyle Lotzkar.
One of his pupils, second year UFV hurler Markus Gregson agreed.
“I love playing in Arizona as you’re in a pro-ball atmosphere at all times, the second-year Cascade said. “My goal is to get drafted and the only way to get scouted effectively is to travel and play against other players with the same goal.”