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Sylvan Lake Gulls offer sneak peek into upcoming season

A majority of new players are coming to Sylvan
A panel of guests including Sylvan Lake Gulls head coach Jason Chatwood and President Aqil Samuel discussed the excitement of the upcoming baseball season in Sylvan Lake on Tuesday evening. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

This season the Sylvan Lake Gulls will field a new-look roster.

With just five returning players from last year’s squad, fans can expect a lot of new faces but the Gulls are confident they’ll remain competitive.

Gulls head coach Jason Chatwood explained it will be an ongoing process there will be a lot of competition between players to earn roles, particularly on the pitching staff.

“We knew after the last game last summer that we were going to have a big turnover. I think we’ve been really fortunate two summers before having a lot of guys returning,” he said.

He added the reason for fewer guys returning is they’re either graduating from college, are getting job opportunities, or don’t know exactly what’s in their baseball futures.

The Gulls will be without some of their biggest names this season including Tyler Boudreau and Josh Tucker, who led the pitching staff the last few years.

They’ll also be without Tyler McWillie who graduated and MVP Jonah Weisner who’s now playing professional baseball.

However, they’re welcoming back Hunter Jones, Jaxon Zanolli, James Brock, Jack Schark, and Gavin Galenza. They’ve also added a few more local players including Matthew Murray and Nathan Flewelling, who both suited up for the Red Deer Braves last year.

That was just one of many discussion points at the Gulls hot stove lounge event on Tuesday evening at Lodge 43 in Sylvan Lake.

While at the event fans and members of the local media got to learn more about what the team will look like ahead of the 2024 Western Canadian Baseball League season this summer.

Chatwood explained their main priorities in reconstructing their roster started in the middle of the diamond. They first began with middle infielders who can play multiple different positions. They also tried to load up on great pitchers early on in the offseason before other teams could do the same.

“The guys we are bringing back are a year older and a year more mature so we’re expecting a lot from them,” he said.

“We’re very excited about the new guys and what they’re going to bring. I know that they’re very excited to get to Sylvan to see the stadium and everything the league has to offer.”

The past two seasons the Gulls were eliminated by the Okotoks Dawgs in the West Final. Despite not getting over that hump, they’ve still managed to sustain a high level of playoff success in just three seasons in the league.

Chatwood said he feels they’ve constructed a roster that will allow them to continue to build on their past success.

“I think the biggest thing you look at is it’s a long season and it’s a lot of games in a short period of time. Trying to get depth where you can give guys days off and you’re not trying to rely too much on certain guys,” he said adding last year they ran into injury trouble at key times of the season.

“This year we tried to get very versatile to where we’ve got guys that feel comfortable in multiple positions that we can rely on. It’s a grueling season… Giving them the rest they need so in playoffs you’re as healthy and ready to go as possible.”

President of the Gulls Aqil Samuel also gave an update on the business side of the team.

Samuel explained they didn’t expand seating at Gulls Stadium but said it’s in the works.

“We’re at 81 straight sellouts now over three years which is great,” he said.

“We had a season ticket lottery this year and had some good demand on that. We understand the demand is there and we get it. We have a plan that we’re taking on and this year it’ll be the same footprint but that’s going to change soon.”

He also announced a new annual event coming to Gulls Stadium called the Summer Send Off, which is a country music festival set to take place on August 23.

“We’re super excited about that… We’ve got High Valley leading off and it’s going to be a pretty fun night,” Samuel said. “It’s going to be an annual event for us. There’s my vision we win a championship the weekend before and we party the week after.”

The Gulls are also looking at potentially entering a bid to host the All-Star Game in the future but for now, it’ll continue to be held in Okotoks. They’re also working on improving fan experiences at games including better wireless internet and more improvements to wait times at concession.

Furthermore, they also announced they donated $50,000 to various charities to support mental health causes in central Alberta.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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