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D-backs prepared to play ball

This season, the Dawson Creek Diamondbacks will be without their star shortstop and most powerful hitter, but many of the other players from last year's roster are expected to return to the diamond and some new ones are also expected to show up.

This season, the Dawson Creek Diamondbacks will be without their star shortstop and most powerful hitter, but many of the other players from last year's roster are expected to return to the diamond and some new ones are also expected to show up.

Gone is Jason Harnuk, who left the city for the Lower Mainland last year and played a key role between second and third, on the mound and in the batter's box.

"It is tough to replace a guy like that. He has played ball all his life and it showed, but it is one of those things that we can't do anything about it and it will give some other guys an opportunity," said D-back player-coach Andrew Nash.

The roster is expected to include many of the same players as last year, possibly including all-round athletes Chris Stevens, Kip Noble and Tyson McCallum.

"For the most part, everybody is back and we have added a few with the guys who came out last year at the end of the year It looks like we are drawing a bit more interest."

The Wheatbelt Baseball League team may also pick up some local midget-aged player. Some of them are expected to play on a regional midget rep team, but they would be welcome to join the D-backs if the rules allow and when they are available particularly during the weekday games when there is the odd spot on the D-backs' roster that needs to be filled.

"We will be encouraging them to come out during the week for practice and play during the weekday games to develop them a little bit too. I find that some of the (older) guys are working during weekday games a little more than the weekends and it gives the opportunity to get in there and see some action."

The WBL is a seven-team organization with the addition of a new Cecil Lake team. Dawson Creek will play a 20-game schedule that will include four games against both Fort St. John and Cecil Lake and three against the other four Alberta teams. Play starts next week.

Last year, the team finished with a 9-11 record after struggling to a 3-15 record in its first season in the senior men's league in 2008.

The D-backs finished fourth in the then six-team league in 2009 and made it into the playoffs. The team had wins over every other squad in the league including three over the powerful Rycroft Rage.

Nash is hoping to build on the Diamondback's improved record.

"This being our third year back in the league has allowed some guys to improve the skill level and attitude of the guys. It is not just a rec game, but the guys are taking it seriously.

"We are not going to walk over any teams, but definitely with some strong play we can compete with any team and hopefully build off the team we had last year."