Sylvan Lake Gulls coach Jason Chatwood (left) along with GM and President of Baseball Operations Aqil Samuel (right) have had to pivot to playing with only Canadian players in the 2021 WCBL season. (File photo by Sylvan Lake News)

Sylvan Lake Gulls coach Jason Chatwood (left) along with GM and President of Baseball Operations Aqil Samuel (right) have had to pivot to playing with only Canadian players in the 2021 WCBL season. (File photo by Sylvan Lake News)

Sylvan Lake Gulls go all Canadian in 2021

COVID-19 forces changes to WCBL schedule and rosters

It’s been almost a year since the Sylvan Lake Gulls announced their team name and set a course towards playing baseball in 2021.

Last March, which seems like a lifetime ago, the Gulls were just getting off the ground.

There have been many plans for the franchise ahead of their debut in the Western Canadian Baseball League, but another curveball came Thursday.

The league announced that because of border issues, only Canadian players will be on the field this season. With the many financial unknowns ahead of the 2021 campaign, only the Gulls, Lethbridge Bulls Edmonton Prospects and two Okotoks Dawgs teams are locked into next year.

“While we’re extremely disappointed that we won’t be seeing U.S. and other foreign players as we would in a normal season, we are confident that the quality of Canadian athletes who play this great game at an extremely-high, competitive level will perform for their respective teams,” said league president Kevin Kvame in a release.

“In addition, we felt it vital to let our significant number of foreign players know that the window and opportunity to get them to our 2021 clubs is becoming too tight and we want them to have the opportunity to adjust their plans given the current health restrictions in Canada.”

Read more:

Gulls release schedule for 2021 WCBL season

Red Deer products thrilled to join Sylvan Lake Gulls

Of the players the Gulls have signed for the 2021 season, 13 are from Canada. Gulls president and GM of baseball operations Aqil Samuel said it’s extremely tough news to lose out on a number of American players that had committed to Sylvan Lake.

He noted the team has already been in contact with Canadian players to fill out the roster and thinks they’ll be able to have a full team by the time first pitch flies this summer.

“We were keeping a spreadsheet of other Canadians that had reached out to us that we were interested in, just in case this scenario happened,” he said.

“Since the announcement (Thursday) we’ve had Canadian players scramble and reach out to us. We’ll be able to put together a roster.”

The league is still working with provincial health authorities to solve quarantine issues for Canadian players returning from college baseball, as well as COVID-19 testing. Kvame noted that even so, some Canadian players down south have already received a COVID-19 vaccination in their college state.

Due to the border issues, the Swift Current 57’s, Regina Red Sox, Weyburn Beavers, Moose Jaw Miller Express and Brooks Bombers won’t field teams in the WCBL this season. The Medicine Hat Mavericks and Fort McMurray Giants are still question marks to compete next year.

The league expects to release an updated schedule, details on the 2021 season, ticketing plans based on health authorities and additional information near the end of April. The season was originally set to being on May 27.

“The franchises and teams that have committed to this unique 2021 season realize the challenges ahead,” Kvame said.

Fan capacities are uncertain and will likely be limited to start for example.

“However, we’re also optimistic that our message about baseball being a naturally socially-distanced game in an outdoor setting will take root and make for positive communities for those choosing to participate this summer,” Kvame said.

Samuel said it will be a tough pill to swallow if fans won’t be allowed in the new Pogdal Park stadium in Sylvan Lake.

Financially, it will hurt the first-year franchise. Regardless, the team owners wanted to show their commitment to baseball by having the Gulls compete this season.

“We needed to keep these guys playing and keep it going, so that was the first thought…we wanted to show the community we’re committed to this. We want to eventually get people into that stadium, hopefully, this summer and show people around,” he said, adding a reduced capacity gives the franchise a chance to work out some of the game-day kinks in the new stadium.

“It’s not the most favourable plan, especially financially but it’s something we felt like we needed to do.”



Send your news tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sylvan Lake Municipal Library. (File Photo)
Sylvan Lake Municipal Library provides solution for youth seeking volunteer hours

Youth can fulfill their volunteer hour requirements by reviewing books

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

(File photo)
Boil water advisory continues in Sylvan Lake

AHS has made the boil water advisory mandetory, crews are still working ot fix the water main break

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year

Major-General Dany Fortin, left, looks on as Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside up to $5 billion to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada negotiating contracts to secure COVID-19 booster shots for next year: Anand

Most of Canada’s current vaccine suppliers are already testing new versions against variants

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among other encouraged ventilation measures

Most Read