Penticton’s midget AAA baseball team have let go of the only coach they ever had.
The executive committee for the South Okanagan Minor Baseball Association Tigers decided to relieve Junior Deleon of his duties following a season in which they finished last among 10 teams with a record of eight wins and 27 losses. Last year the Tigers finished second in provincials. Deleon’s contract was set to expire at the end of October. They decided to pay him out.
“We felt the team fell short of expectations,” said Tigers president Kevin Zakall, who forecasted the Tigers would finish fourth in the standings of B.C. Minor Baseball’s under-18 league. “He has been there a long time and we just felt it was time for a change. That was the biggest thing.”
Deleon declined comment, but said he would speak a later date. Deleon had been with the Tigers since its inception in 2005, and Zakall said the executive committee wants to go in a different direction with their coaching staff. Zakall said the two sides didn’t share the same vision. Asked if there was any specific thing that led to Deleon’s dismissal, Zakall only said “that’s within the executive.”
“I think mostly it comes down to not making the playoffs,” said Zakall adding the Tigers did deal with some injuries.
The Tigers also lost players to graduation, while Chase Decosse and Matt Brodt joined the Okanagan Athletics.
Zakall felt the pitching didn’t deliver and that comes down to coaching. There was also allowing games that should have been won to slip by.
“When you finish dead last in the league, that’s where the coach has to take the blame on that.
“Junior has done his time. He has done well,” continued Zakall, who wishes to see Deleon move on to bigger and better things. “Kids have learned and gone on to college from that. There was 20-30 kids that went and played college ball out of here. Can’t take anything away from him.”
Deleon also helped develop Dustin Houle, who was drafted 251st overall in the eighth round by Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers after a stint with the Langley Blaze.
As for Deleon’s successor, the Tigers want someone that has a love for the game and a strong background.
“They can bring that experience with energy and excellent communication skills,” said Zakall. “The kids need to feel the love of the game a little bit more.”
Zakall added it is possible they might promote from within, but they are opening it up for everyone qualified to apply. Zakall said with their annual general meeting scheduled for October, the new coach will be hired by the new executive.
Baseball notes: The Tigers are running a fall ball program under coach Dan Harvey. He is working with 14 to 16 bantam level players, who are also mentored by the midget program players.