After an unnerving season in which the Premier Baseball League Victoria Mariners lost teammate Zack Downey to non-Hodgkins lymphoma at 17 years of age, and Lisa Patterson, described as the “team Mom,” it’s little wonder the team is returning as a tight knit group this season.
“Team chemistry is through the roof, it’s the closest team I’ve ever been a part of and it feels like you’re playing for the guy beside you, not for yourself,” said pitcher Chris Lata.
The Mariners watched as the B.C. PBL season started last weekend, and the Mariners now host their own home opener with a double header on Saturday versus the North Shore Twins, 1 and 3 p.m. at Henderson Park. The Mariners are in Parksville on Sunday for a double header versus the Royals.
“Last year was a season of loss, it was a hard year,” said Mariners’ head coach Mike Chewpoy. “Lisa was always there, she did so much and she was really the team Mom, so to lose her right before Mother’s Day, and then lose Downey a few weeks later was brutal all around.”
Lisa’s son, Jeremy Patterson, returns at second base. He’s the only Grade 12 on the team who doesn’t have a playing spot lined up at a post secondary school for next year, but that’s out of his own desires, as Chewpoy said he’s certainly capable.
“I’ll stick around, maybe work a bit and just take a year off before I move on,” Patterson said.
Baseball was big for him last year, he added, as it gave him an outlet and a place to be during his time of grief.
The Mariners finished second in the PBL standings but lost in the playoffs. They’re gunning for another top-four finish, even with a long list of PBL rookies, Patterson said.
“We had a good team last year but even with a lot of rookies this year we expect to be strong, the new guys are really talented.”
Some of the rookies are actually in Grade 12, which is the second year eligible for PBL, including pitchers Nolan Bruce and Cole Russell.
“It might be their first year in premier but they have been in the academy and in the junior program for two years, they’re ready to go,” Chewpoy said. “We have a shortstop, Jason Willow, he’s been groomed since Grade 8 and he’s only in Grade 10. The key is all our guys are ready.”
Patterson is of the newest generation of premier league players who don’t know what it was like to have one team in town. He chose to join the Mariners junior team in 2013 over the Eagles. Patterson is one of many Mariners enjoying the unique coexistence with Eagles players in the Lambrick Park baseball academy.
Among the Mariners in the baseball academy are a pair of imports, Jackson Belanger and Nate Seltsam. Belanger’s parents recently transferred here from Prince George for work, and Seltsam comes from Utah for a chance to play baseball while upgrading at school, Chewpoy said.
“Belanger just fell into our lap and he just happens to be extremely talented, and Seltsam played summer ball for a coach at Salt Lake College that knows (former Mariner) Chris Fougner.”
Imports show up from time to time but aren’t a regular occurrence,
Chewpoy added. “Our season is already a success, every senior has a place to go in post secondary.”
That list includes Bruce, Russell, Belanger, Seltsam, Jake Bosence, Sam Glowicki, Nick Dawson, Brett Irvine and Mike Varley.
In good hands
Mariners premier outfield rookie Sam Glowicki led the B.C. Junior PBL in runs batted in last season with 45, which was 14 more than the next player. Fellow rookie Tyler Schindel had 30 RBIs (third overall) and led the league with 35 stolen bases.