It’s been nearly three years in the making for the Red Deer Riggers and the wait just got longer.
Baseball Canada announced Tuesday that there will be no national championships this year, with the continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Riggers were set to host the 2021 Men’s Baseball National Championships from Aug. 26-29, after it was postponed last season because of the pandemic.
“It’s tough. I feel like we had kind of an idea that unless things really turned around, it wasn’t going to happen,” said Riggers infielder Jaret Chatwood, who was also part of the organizing committee.
“You’re always holding out hope that it can happen. To get the actual news from Baseball Canada, it was a punch in the gut.”
Chatwood isn’t sure if the city will be awarded the tournament again in 2022 or beyond, but said the official news from Baseball Canada was difficult to accept.
“Every year we’re just trying to put together the most competitive team we can. It’s a little bit easier of a draw to get some of the high-end players to come from central Alberta when you have nationals,” he said.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge and now just the uncertainty and age comes into play. Now we don’t know if we will get it for 2022 or 2o23 so you have to take those things into play. It’s a little bit up in the air right now.”
He added the team hadn’t got too far along into the planning stage for the tournament this year, waiting to contact volunteers and sponsors when they had more information about dates and schedules.
Baseball Canada said that the choice to cancel national championships comes both from concern about the pandemic and the realities of hosting national-level competitions for communities.
“The health and safety of all of our members is our first priority and with that said we felt that there was no other choice but to cancel all of our national tournaments for 2021,” said Baseball Canada president Jason Dickson in a news release.
“When you consider all of the elements that go into a national championship including provincial qualification events, inter-provincial travel, shared accommodations and the strain that running championships in a safe manner would entail for host committees, this was the best decision for all parties involved.”
As for baseball this summer in the Riggers world, it is moving full steam ahead.
The team has had a few gatherings following the COVID-19 protocols and has a tentative Sunburst Baseball League schedule. They’ll wait and see until adult sports get the thumbs up from Alberta Health Services before they’re able to play.
“It’s going to be a go-for us unless things change. We’re 100 per cent planning on playing. Unless COVID restrictions stop that,” Chatwood said.
“As soon as they open sports and stuff, our intentions are to play.”
The Sunburst Baseball League season was cancelled last year because of the ongoing pandemic.