If you want to talk to someone who is excited for the Western Canadian Baseball League season to start in May, you can look no further than Moose Jaw Miller Express head coach Eric Marriott.
Marriott has nearly a full roster ready to go and a couple of recent years of playing experience with the Millers, and he couldn’t be more excited for next year.
“With all the crazy times in the world right now, with COVID and obviously last season getting cancelled, it’s just unfortunate times, especially in the baseball world,” Marriott said. “The spring season was cancelled last year at most schools and they’re still teetering on it this year, some schools are going forward, some are taking it day by day and my players are itching to get out there. I’m excited to get back to Moose Jaw and hopefully get the 2021 season rolling.”
The WCBL is a wood bat summer league for collegiate players, with many calling the United States home for at least the school year.
The Niagara Falls, Ont.-born Marriott was the Miller Express' most popular player in the 2018 season. Over 96 career regular season and playoff games with the team, he hit .263 with two home runs and 33 RBI, but was even more potent on the basepaths, swiping 41 bags and scoring 72 runs.
He went a sizzling 6-for-14 in the Millers’ three-game series loss to Regina in the 2019 playoffs.
The Millers have made a slate of player announcements on their Twitter feed in the last couple of weeks., with Stephen Randazzo (3B/1B, Drury University), Jonathan Ellison (P, McNeese State University), Moose Jaw’s Reece Helland (P, Monterrey Peninsula College) and Jeff Nicolosi (P, Mitchell College) all committing to return or make their WCBL debuts.
Marriott talked about what the preparation is like at this time of year.
“We’re pretty much full and our players are excited,” Marriott said. “I’ve been working with Cory Olafson and James Gallo and our assistant coach. And we’re just setting up a progression plan and a timeline of who is going to throw out of our bullpen, who is going to be a starter, who’s going to be an everyday guy for us, who is going to come off the bench, And where they’re going to be at school, we’ve been chatting with their coaches.”
Marriott said some of the pitchers haven't thrown in a year due to the pandemic so they’re building their arm strength back up now.
As for the recruiting part of his job, Marriott said they will have seniors and juniors pushing their collegiate careers to the limit, and some of them will want to play at the pro level.
“They want to use the summer as a platform to showcase themselves that they can play a full range of a season like a pro team, like an indy ball or overseas team,” Marriott said. “If they can stay healthy and they can maintain consistency over a 56-game schedule and put up good stats.”
The younger players are there to see that there’s a higher level of baseball than can be played than conference ball back at school, he said.
“You can prepare to be even better of a player than you are with us, with the training programs that you’ll have with them,” Marriott said. “In a family-friendly city like Moose Jaw, it’s a pretty easy to sell to players.”
The Millers first game is scheduled for May 28th at home against Medicine Hat.