Sports Home run: Sylvan Lake's new baseball team scores with sold-out home opener
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CBC Edmonton and CBC Calgary have teamed up to launch a pop-up Red Deer bureau to help us tell your stories from central Alberta. Reporter Heather Marcoux will bring you the news from Red Deer and the surrounding area. Story ideas and tips can be sent to.
Baseball season begins in Sylvan Lake this week and central Albertans are excited about the first pitch.
The Sylvan Lake Gulls, the Western Canadian Baseball League's newest franchise, play their first game on Friday in a home-turf tilt against the Edmonton Prospects.
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The team's launch came at a challenging time. The name and logo were announced in March 2020, just before pandemic restrictions threw a curve ball into the stadium's construction budget and schedule.
Coach Jason Chatwood said the new team of Gulls are grateful for efforts that have gone into getting them on the field.
"They see all the work that has been put in by our ownership and management and leadership team," said Chatwood. "They're really, really, really appreciative and very excited to play."
Rush on tickets
The WCBL is a wood bat summer league with teams made up of Canadian and American collegiate athletes.
Judging by ticket sales, baseball fans in central Alberta are as keen as the players for the Gulls' inaugural season to begin.
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There will be 300 fans in the stands for the home opener on Friday, but fewer than half of those seats were up for grabs when online ticket sales launched online this week, said general manager Aqil Samuel.
"After we did our presale tickets, we had 144 to sell — and we had 1,500 people logged into the system, pretty much at the same time," said Samuel.
According to Samuel, the online ticketing system saw 55,000 clicks during the 37 minutes after ticket sales opened. He said it's like that many of those clicks were people refreshing the system, which did crash under the demand.
Ryan Hunter of Red Deer was among those hitting refresh in hopes of taking in a baseball game for the first time in a long time.
"I had my phone and my wife's phone, both just constantly refreshing the site to try to get tickets. And it was pretty bleak there. I wasn't sure if we were gonna get any, but we ended up with two. So we're pretty excited for this Friday," said Hunter.
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Planning in a pandemic
Samuel said the ups and downs of getting tickets sums up the experience of trying to build a stadium and launch a team during a pandemic, with plans constantly in flux in the face of changing COVID-19 restrictions.
"There's five teams in the league this year — there's usually 11. We decided we wanted to put this together just to give these kids a chance to play," he said.
"We were really set to open up with zero fans, then once it was becoming apparent that we'd be able to open up a little bit more we put it into overdrive."
Chatwood, who also works with the St. Joseph High School Ball Academy in Red Deer, is glad there will be fans in the seats but considers the fan experience is secondary to this opportunity to grow the sport of baseball in Alberta and keep kids interested as they grow.
Two of the players on the Gulls' inaugural roster — Cleary Simpson and Jared Arnold — were members of teams that Chatwood coached during their high school careers.
"The opportunity to coach them again in the summer and for them to come home and be able to play in front of their family and friends is pretty special," Chatwood said.
Castro's 2-run single in 9th rallies Nats past Phils 13-12 .
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A slugfest came down to a 34-year-old pitcher trying to shut down the middle of the order for his first career save. No problem for Paolo Espino. Starlin Castro hit a go-ahead, two-run single off closer Hector Neris in the ninth inning, Espino got the final three outs and the Washington Nationals rallied three times to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 13-12 Wednesday. It was the first game in major league history that featured a grand slam and three-run homer for each team. “Boom,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “There’s no way to sum it up.