After several seasons in the Can-Am Baseball League in the Windsor-Detroit area, the Sarnia Braves have made a switch this season and will join the Southwestern Ontario Senior Baseball League.
The nine-team loop includes teams from London, Ilderton, Lakeside, Oakridge, Exeter, St. Thomas and Strathroy.
“It (the league) is kind of an unknown,” said Braves player spokesperson James Grant. “We know some of their players from tournament play and (Ontario) eliminations and such, so it’s going to be wide open.”
He expects his team to finish ‘mid-pack’ in the standings and would consider it a bonus if they were able to finish higher than that.
While the league might be slightly lower in calibre than the Can-Am League, according to Grant, it’s a quality league with several teams having tasted success at the OBA Eliminations in the past.
“It’ll be nice to be able to make a mistake in this league and still have a chance to win,” he said, noting that mistakes in the Windsor-area league were almost always fatal.
Grant says the entire 22-man roster from last season will return with the exception of third baseman Mckenzie Maxwell who has been shut down for the season following arm surgery.
Nick Baljeu, Andrew Shepherd and Wade Babula will make up the Braves starting rotation with Babula joining the team later this month after his contract expires at a baseball school in Barrie where he is currently employed.
The club’s 10-league home games are evenly split between Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon, all scheduled for Errol Russell Park.
In addition to the Southwestern Ontario League games, the Braves will play tournaments in Tillsonburg, Vaughan and Lakeside as well as a handful of exhibition games against teams from the Western Counties League this season.
The Ontario Eliminations will be played from July 31-August 3 in Windsor, followed by the Southwestern Ontario League playoffs.
“We’ll be playing into September,” said Grant.