Posted November 4, 2017

Saturday marked another edition of the North Central Alberta Baseball League’s annual fall meeting as the league wraps up it’s 50th season of competition and looks onward to 2018. The lengthy seven and a half hour gathering of the league’s governors took place at the St Albert Minor Baseball Association clubhouse at Legion Memorial Ballpark in St Albert with eight of the nine teams in the NCABL last season represented. 
Heading into the meeting the tone was expected to be one of rather significant changes to the current regular season and playoff formats, but the governors elected to hold off on changes for the most part. It was proposed that both NCABL Semi-Final series be moved from Westlock, where they are both traditionally played on a Saturday and Sunday in mid-August, and into the home parks of teams on week nights starting in the first week of August. This would mean that the regular season would need to be compressed by a couple of weeks as it typically runs from the first week in May to the end of the first week in August before taking a week or so off before the playoffs. 
Current Playoff Format (2017 Playoffs):
Semi-Final Series A
(1) Stony Plain Mets vs (4) Westlock Red Lions 
Game 1 Saturday August 18 - Westlock Red Lions at Stony Plain Mets in Westlock 
Game 2 Saturday August 18 - Stony Plain Mets at Westlock Red Lions in Westlock 
Game 3 Sunday August 19 - Westlock Red Lions at Stony Plain Mets in Westlock
Westlock wins 2-1
Semi-Final Series B
(2) Edmonton Blackhawks vs (3) Sherwood Park Athletics
Game 1 Saturday August 18 - Sherwood Park Athletics at Edmonton Blackhawks in Westlock
Game 2 Sunday August 19 - Edmonton Blackhawks at Sherwood Park Athletics in Westlock
Game 3 Sunday August 19 - Sherwood Park Athletics at Edmonton Blackhawks in Westlock 
Sherwood Park wins 2-1
League Championship Series
(3) Sherwood Park Athletics vs (4) Westlock Red Lions
Game 1 Saturday August 25 - Westlock Red Lions at Sherwood Park Athletics in Sherwood Park (Re/Max Field)
Game 2 Saturday August 25 - Sherwood Park Athletics at Westlock Red Lions in Sherwood Park (Re/Max Field)
Game 3 Sunday August 26 - Westlock Red Lions at Sherwood Park Athletics in Sherwood Park (Re/Max Field)
Westlock wins 2-0 
*2017 NCABL Championship played in Re/Max Field as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration*
Proposed Playoff Format (Using 2017 Playoff Teams)
Semi Final Series A
(1) Stony Plain Mets vs (4) Westlock Red Lions 
Game 1 Wednesday August 8 - Westlock Red Lions at Stony Plain Mets in Stony Plain - 7:00pm
Game 2 Thursday August 9 - Stony Plain Mets at Westlock Red Lions in Westlock - 7:00pm
Game 3 Saturday August 11 - Westlock Red Lions at Stony Plain Mets in Stony Plain - 2:00pm
(2) Edmonton Blackhawks vs (3) Sherwood Park Athletics 
Game 1 Thursday August 9 - Sherwood Park Athletics at Edmonton Blackhawks in Edmonton - 7:00pm
Game 2 Friday August 10 - Edmonton Blackhawks at Sherwood Park Athletics in Sherwood Park - 7:00pm
Game 3 Sunday August 12 - Sherwood Park Athletics at Edmonton Blackhawks in Edmonton - 2:00pm
League Championship Series
(3) Sherwood Park Athletics vs (4) Westlock Red Lions
Game 1 Wednesday August 15 - Westlock Red Lions at Sherwood Park Athletics in Sherwood Park - 7:00pm
Game 2 Thursday August 16 - Sherwood Park Athletics at Westlock Red Lions in Westlock - 7:00pm
Game 3 Saturday August 18 - Westlock Red Lions at Sherwood Park Athletics in Sherwood Park - 2:00pm
The purpose of the proposal to change the playoff format was to allow teams to have playoff games at home, with the hope of drawing more local fans to support the team and the league. In Camrose for example we can attest to the great support that local fans can provide a team, however the vast majority of those fans won’t be making the long trip from Camrose to Westlock to watch either a full day or two days of baseball. It would also allow the higher seeded teams, like the pennant winner, to hold a real home field advantage after the regular season. The league however reminded the governors of an agreement currently in place to hold the NCABL Semi-Final Series in Westlock through 2020. This quickly resulted in the proposal being withdrawn as the governors unanimously agreed to honour the agreement.
As a result of the playoff format not changing from its current state, the league will not see its regular season end earlier in the summer. With a nine team league projected for 2018, the NCABL will see a sixteen game schedule played between May 9 and August 10, similar to the schedule for the 2017 season. That means teams will have twelve weeks of regular season time to fit in fourteen dates of baseball (each team plays two double headers throughout the season). It also means that playoff teams will once again have at least eight days between their last regular season game (should they need right up to the deadline of August 10 for make up games) but could see it climb to nearly two weeks depending on when their regular season schedule is completed without any rainouts. 
Governors did vote on contingency plans for various scenarios based on the number of teams in the league; 
7 Teams = 18 Games
8 Teams = 21 Games
9 Teams = 16 Games
10 Teams = 18 Games
The main reason the league stuck with 16 games for 9 teams was that 24 games (three games vs every opponent) is something that the league has never done and would require additional weekend dates. The feeling was that the league is most successful during the week nights with player availability so avoiding more weekends then necessary was a good thing.
An exciting and positive change that will be happening to the league for the 2018 season will be an updated website. The sightly archaic ncabl.ab.ca has had a good run but year after year teams and players have been looking for more readily available information surrounding stats, schedules and league news. Modern sites allow for game by game updates to player stats, something that would better allow the fans to follow along through the season as opposed to the current 4-6 big updates the NCABL does throughout the summer. After some back and forth with the league, governors were able to form a committee to begin the process of modernizing the NCABL website with an expected launch date of March 1.
Staying in the realm of communications, the governors were officially notified that long time Audio/Video Director Earl Thompson has retired from the role. Earl came to the position after being the voice of Axemen baseball in Camrose and a member of the Edmonton Prospects administration team before moving into his role with the NCABL. Since taking on the league wide role Earl has created a social media presence for the league with game updates on Twitter, a Facebook page and a weekly show, Circling The Bases, which can be found on YouTube. Earl was also at countless games as a scorekeeper and one of the Axemen’s and local baseball's biggest supporters. We still fully expect to see Earl at NCABL games across the league and maybe even tossing out some of his famous (or infamous?) predictions. 
It was unanimously decided that the role of Audio/Video Director need to be filled and Earl’s great work to be continued. Although Earl has left extremely large shoes to fill, the league is hoping to find a person or two to be able to provide baseball fans with great content moving forward. 
The other big news was the first steps in trying to grow Senior Men’s Baseball across the province inconjuction with Baseball Alberta. The NCABL was presented with some plans by Baseball Alberta during the meeting. Brad Wolanksy from Baseball Alberta, who also doubles as the President of the Sunburst League and member of the St Albert Tigers of the Sunburst League, presented the NCABL and governors with the initial steps to try and grow Provincial Senior Men’s baseball. It was a well received presentation as both the NCABL and governors appear interested in the end goal of the proposal. Here are the details of the proposal;
Baseball Alberta would host 3-4 weekends thoughout the summer of AAA/AA baseball. Each weekend would be held in a different location (Edmonton area, Red Deer area and Calgary area) to try and fairly accommodate a province wide lineup of teams. The hope is that the four Sunburst League teams would be joined by higher caliber NCABL teams and Foothills Major Baseball Association (Calgary)  to play 2-3 games each in a cross over style format to provide different opponents for teams, especially the Sunburst teams. These games would also prove to be important and help seed teams for AAA Provincials come August with the winner heading to Nationals the following season. The attempt to broaden the AAA Provincials would help address the criticism that both Baseball Alberta and the Sunburst League has received since moving to the current AAA. Currently the AAA Provincials are determined by the Sunburst League playoffs and not an open tournament.  Now it appears that teams can participate in a season long, province wide crossover approach to try and determine a AAA Provincial Champion.
But what about teams not interested in pursuing AAA Provincials and even AAA caliber baseball? It would appear that Baseball Alberta would be willing to move this format to a AA level which could include teams from the NCABL, FMBA, Powerline Baseball League, Parkland Baseball League, Battle River Baseball League and Wheatbelt Baseball League as examples. A similar weekend style of play would see games spread out over province during the summer all culminating in a seeded provincial tournament in August. Like the AAA version outlined, teams would more than likely have to submit a league roster to Baseball Alberta with the ability to add four players outside of the league roster, pay the now significantly reduced provincial fees ($50/team and $10/player) and then commit to the 3-4 weekends of baseball. It was also discussed that teams would most like play for the right to attend the Senior AA Western Championships the year following their provincial win, much like AAA currently does with nationals. This would be to accommodate teams needing more than two weeks between Provincials and Westerns to get ready. 
While nothing is set in stone yet, this appears to be a big step forward in an attempt to find some common ground between Baseball Alberta and leagues across the province to grow the game of baseball at the Senior Men’s level. Wolansky mentioned the NCABL was his first stop with hopes of meeting with other leagues either individually or pulling leagues and teams together at the Baseball Alberta AGM at the end of the month to help build the program. 
Other notes from the meeting:
Commissioned Paul Riopel briefly touched on the success of the 50th Anniversary celebration which ran the course of the 2017 season and six key events culminating with a weekend extravaganza in Westlock in August. Sponsorship targets were met and exceeded due to the hard work of the 50th Anniversary Committee which logged countless hours prepping the six events. The commissioner also announced that the nearly six hundred NCABL alumni that signed up for the celebration prompted the NCABL to add an ongoing alumni committee moving forward. Any player, coach or manager who has been involved with the NCABL over the last fifty seasons is encouraged to sign up for future alumni events. 
Over the last two seasons the NCABL had been hosting their annual All Star Game on a Sunday. In 2018 the All Star Game will return to a weekday evening in July with the league moving to host the game at Re/Max Field in Edmonton during the week of July 16. Field availability will be subject to the Edmonton Prospects schedule and will be confirmed at some point in the future by the league. 
Sanctioned tournaments will remain at two for the 2018 season. The Starchuk-Semeniuk Memorial in Waskatenau is scheduled for June 8-10 and the John Glowinski Memorial in Westlock on July 7-8.
The following will be the NCABL executive team for the 2018 season;
Paul Riopel - Commisioner 
Ed Ewasiuk - Associate Commissioner
Jani Painter - Website Developer
<Vacant> - Audio/Visual Director 
Ryan Petryshyn - Offical Statistician 
Chuck Keller - Scheduler 
League governors will reconvene on March 22 to approve a final league schedule, pay their league fees and get ready for the 2018 season. 
Recent Results
Wed Jul 25/18 7:00pm: (2018)
Battle River Athletics 6
Camrose Axemen 15
Wed Jul 18/18 7:00pm: (2018)
Camrose Axemen 10
Battle River Athletics 1