Cochrane Minor Ball (CMB) has closed its registration and is now gearing up for the returning of the sport this spring.
About 580 youth have signed up to play in everything from Blast Ball to senior Little League, plus U13AAA and U15 AA Baseball Alberta teams. That's about 75 per cent of what they would see in a normal year.
"It kind of surprised us," says CMB president Corey O'How. "I don't think we expected to have the number of kids that we do, which is great. It's fantastic to see people wanting to get their kids back out on the diamonds."
Exactly what it will look like isn't fully known at this time, but O'How believes Alberta minor ball teams proved last season they can play safely in the pandemic.
"Last year, we had over 9,000 kids playing baseball in Alberta, and there weren't any cases of COVID associated with any of the baseball programs. I think that gives a really good opportunity to continue to build on all the safety factors that we had last year."
Little League and Baseball Alberta have been in constant communication with Alberta Health Services.
O'How believes they'll have a better idea of how play will unfold after the government's Monday COVID-19 update and Wednesday's Little League meeting.
"Little League is a huge believer in getting the kids back on the diamond as soon as we can. They were probably the lead group last year that pushed to get baseball going in Alberta."
"They're talking to the necessary people to get us back on the diamond as soon as we can."
CMB is currently wrapping up tryouts for its U13 and U15 Baseball Alberta teams. Little League evaluations will be completed by the end of March and teams will be formed in April.
CMB is hoping to return to the diamonds in mid-April to start practice, depending upon weather conditions and Alberta Health Services regulations. Play would then begin in early May.
O'How has been named head coach for the U13 AAA team. The core of the team is formed by players he coached over the years.
"They have a really strong core of kids, and it has been fun coaching them. Hopefully, we can continue to build on the momentum we have created over the last few years. The kids are a little sad that they didn't get a shot at playing in the Little League Nationals or even possibly the World Series last year. I think that's a little fire in their bellies for this year."
He says CMB is delighted to get the U15 team off the ground.
"The 15U program has been something that we've really been working to get off the ground for the last few years. We've had a few roadblocks over the last couple of years, but it's nice to finally see that come to fruition."
He says you could feel the buzz in the air from players during tryouts.
"They're all excited to be back around their friends, and back throwing a baseball, and being active. It's nice to see the kids smiling and having fun again."