Locals hitting baseball hotspot

A trio of Vernon baseball teens from different teams are heading into the baseball hotbed of the world for the Latin American Baseball Classic.

Landon Currie, Jacob Holland and Chase Batchelor are off to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, which has cranked out baseball studs such as Pedro Martínez, Felipe Alou and Rafael Soriano.

Currie and Holland both attended the tourney last year.

“Last year it went really good,” said Currie. “We went in thinking we were going to get killed and we finished fourth.”

The 10-team tournament has existed for 32 years with teams from the Dominican, the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Last year was the first year they accepted a Canadian team.

The Canadian team is comprised of players from B.C. and Alberta.

Currie is really looking forward to the tournament following a less than stellar season with the Canadians in his first midget AAA season.

“I found the wood bats to be a big adjustment. This is a good way to finish up the season,” said the centre fielder, pitcher and catcher.

Currie recalls the best part of last year’s trip was getting to play on the Major League affiliated fields after playing two games on the run-down city ones.

His favourite player is also from Santo Domingo in David Ortiz.

“It’s cool playing in the same area all the MLB guys come from,” said Currie, who played on the U14 team last year and will play for the U16 squad this time.

Currie’s friend, Holland, went to the Dominican as a 15-year-old last summer and played with the U18 team because they needed another catcher. This time around, he will suit up with Currie on the U16 team.

Holland experienced a pretty big culture shock last summer.

“It was so different than what we have here. We take a lot of things for granted,” said Holland, whose favourite player is also a catcher, Yadier Molina. “It was humbling seeing young kids playing baseball with a stick and rocks.”

Playing for the West Kelowna D-Backs, Holland’s highlight of the season was crushing a few triples and hosing attempted base stealers.

He knows a bit about the business of the game too. He knows that Dominican players can be signed to a professional contract once they turn 16, so he is looking forward to playing against potential professional ball players.

“It’s just great to play against guys in another part of the world,” said Holland.

The trio takes off on Tuesday, and after a few connecting flights and 10 hours in the air, teams will only have one practice together before the fun starts.

They will play four round robin games with the top two teams in each division advancing to the semifinals.

Following last year’s tournament, the coaches and organizers of the teams asked around for players to bring on this year’s trip.

Batchelor just finished a strong season with the bantam AAA Canadians and was recommended for the U14 team.

The sting is still lingering for Batchelor who turned 14 six days before they head south.

Batchelor and his Canadians held a 2-0 in the zone final, when they allowed six runs in the last inning, missing a chance to head to provincials.

“It was disappointing for sure, but this trip should make up for it,” said Batchelor.

Batchelor stands 5-foot-8 and his favourite position is catcher, but he enjoys being a utility man.

The LABC will be a good tune up for Batchelor as he is heading to Steinbach, Man. for the Western Canadian Championships with the Okanagan Athletics a week after they return.

Like other players on the team, he is looking forward to seeing where all these MLB players come from, including his favourite player, Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I am a little nervous going down there. I’ve only travelled to Tacoma (Wash.) for baseball this year,” said Batchelor. “Once we start playing games again, I should be fine.”

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