Mosquito-level players from the Penticton Minor Baseball Association jumped all over the chance to continue their season in September.
“We’ve played quite a bit of baseball,” said Nash Bilenki, who noticed improvement in his skills as a catcher and third basemen.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, 31 kids showed up to the ball park on Edmonton Avenue to work on their skills under the guidance of their coaches, one of them being Junior Deleon, the former South Okanagan Minor Baseball Association midget Tigers coach, who was asked to help.
Benjamin Avila used the extra practices to learn more about the pitching and shortstop positions.
Avila, a knuckle-ball pitcher like his favorite, R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays, loved being back on the field. He said it’s better than winter ball that keeps them indoors, claiming it’s “not as good as outside.”
“It’s been kind of nice to have an extended season,” said Bilenki, who tries to work hard and make plays like his favourite player, Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays.
On weekends the Thunder played exhibition games and then traveled for the Kamloops Minor Baseball Association 13 and under Fall Classic on Sept. 26. Penticton lost to Vancouver Minor 15-5, Calgary Absolute 11-2 and Kamloops Red 10-7. They also earned a win against Kamloops No. 2. Deleon was impressed by the players’ talent and watched them go a perfect 6-0 in exhibition action before heading to Kamloops.
“It’s been a pretty good experience,” said Deleon. “I got an eye opener because I haven’t coached at this level in a long time. I hope some of the kids saw the talent that was out there. Hopefully they took something away from that.”
Deleon said they played well with some players stepping up. Bilenki said it was fun to see teams from Vancouver and Calgary. Dominic Delisle-Lavoie also thought they performed well and had fun learning from Deleon, who he said is a good coach. One of the things he picked up from Deleon was how to take a proper lead off.
Deleon found that working with the young group brought fun back to the game for him.
“They want to learn. The group itself is basically pushing each other to become better,” he said.