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Wheatbelt ball season set to start next week

The 2010 Wheatbelt Baseball League is slated to start May 12th with seven teams including the addition of a new club out of Cecil Lake.Cecil Lake will join Dawson Creek, Fort St.

The 2010 Wheatbelt Baseball League is slated to start May 12th with seven teams including the addition of a new club out of Cecil Lake.Cecil Lake will join Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Grande Prairie, Rycroft, Peace River, and Grimshaw in the senior men's hardball league.

"Cecil Lake, being a new team, was quite excited to get into the league this year," explained league president Dave Allan.

"Grimshaw, we weren't sure about the numbers when I spoke to their manager, but it looks like they will have a team and are holding practices."There will be no divisions and instead the organization will remain as one league, but the schedule will be unbalanced because there are seven teams.

Teams will play a 20-game schedule but meet their local rivals more often than those opponents farther away, said Allan.

For example, the three B.C. teams will play each other four times and the other four teams, all in Alberta, three times in the two-month season.

The Cecil Lake team will play out of Fort St. John and that makes for a more manageable travel schedule for the local team.

"That is pretty exciting. They are playing out of Fort St. John, so it cuts back on the travel," said Dawson Creek Diamondback player-coach Andrew Nash.

The league will begin play in the second week of May and by May 16, a Sunday when doubleheaders are traditionally held, all the teams will have been in action in single games or doubleheaders.

The season is starting a week earlier than it did in 2009. Last year the WBL teams were on the diamonds from the third week of May until early August. This year, the league wants to make sure its season is over before any provincial championships.

"It's a week earlier start than last year," explained Allan.

"We do tend to run late in the year and push playoffs too close to provincial play and we want to avoid that, so we are going to see if we can start a week earlier and maybe it will allow us to finish a bit earlier."

The only other challenge for the league will be umpire availability.

Some communities have carded umpires who work the local games. Others have to bring in umpires from elsewhere and pay for the officials' travel costs.

"It has always been an issue. We tend to do okay, but some of the umps do have to travel for games and that increases the teams' costs because they do have to pay for that mileage to the umpires.

"It would be nice if all the teams had local umpires that were trained and carded in their areas and then they wouldn't have to pay out the mileage, but we find that that is not happening yet."