By IAN WILSON
Jingle bell time is a swell time to be circling some ballpark dates.
So, giddy-up baseball fans and think about that summertime heat.
Check your calendars because the 2023 Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) schedule has been released.
Start planning your summer outings at the league’s 10 Saskatchewan and Alberta ball diamonds.
Here are some of the highlights for the upcoming 2023 WCBL campaign:
OPENING DAY: MAY 25th
The WCBL season gets underway with an all-Saskatchewan matchup between the Regina Red Sox and the Weyburn Beavers on Thursday, May 25th. The Red Sox visit their East Division rivals for a 7 p.m. matchup at Tom Laing Park in Weyburn.
OPENING WEEKEND: MAY 26-28
Opening Week action continues with a full slate of baseball action between Friday and Sunday. The defending WCBL champion Okotoks Dawgs start with a home-and-home series against the Brooks Bombers. The Dawgs play host to the Bombers at Seaman Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 26th before hitting the road for Elks Field the next day. The Dawgs eliminated the Bombers from playoff contention – the first WCBL postseason appearance in franchise history for Brooks – in 2022.
The Lethbridge Bulls and Medicine Hat Mavericks also kick things off with a home-and-home matchup. The Crowsnest Highway foes will meet at Spitz Stadium in Lethbridge for a 7 p.m. season opener on Friday, May 26th and then give Athletic Park fans in the Gas City a home opener on Saturday, May 27th. The Bulls will then travel to Okotoks for an afternoon game against the Dawgs on Sunday, May 28th.
Sylvan Lake opens the gates of Gulls Field for a three-game set against the Fort McMurray Giants that starts Friday night and runs through the weekend. The series will mark the first action between the two clubs since the Gulls knocked the Giants out of the postseason. It was Fort McMurray’s first taste of playoff competition since they joined the WCBL.
In Saskatchewan, the Swift Current 57’s face the Red Sox for a pair of games. Swift Current’s home opener takes place Friday night and Regina plays in front of their first home crowd of 2023 on Saturday. The 57’s then head to Medicine Hat for a Sunday matinee against the Mavs. Regina will close out the weekend with a Sunday afternoon visit from the Moose Jaw Miller Express.
The Miller Express kick off their season in front of the Moose Jaw faithful at Ross Wells Park on Friday, May 26th when the Beavers take the field. The two teams will renew hostilities the next day in Weyburn.
The Giants start the season with a lengthy 10-game road trip that takes them through Sylvan Lake, Brooks, Okotoks and Lethbridge. Fort McMurray fans will get their long-awaited home opener on Tuesday, June 6th when the Mavs head north to Legacy Dodge Field for the first half of a two-game set. The homestand will continue with a four-game series against the Dawgs between Thursday, June 8th and Sunday, June 11th.
FATHER’S DAY FUN: JUNE 18th
Families will celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, June 18th and there will be a full slate of WCBL baseball activity for dads to enjoy. The Bulls will be at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks, the Giants host the Miller Express, the Gulls travel to Brooks, the Mavericks welcome the 57’s, and the Red Sox clash with the Beavers in Weyburn.
NATIONAL INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY: JUNE 21st
The Western Canadian Baseball League will recognize National Indigenous Peoples Day at its games on Wednesday, June 21st. Matchups that day include: Lethbridge at Swift Current, Medicine Hat at Okotoks, Moose Jaw at Brooks and Sylvan Lake at Fort McMurray.
CANADA DAY: JULY 1st
Fireworks will light up ball diamonds on Canada Day. All WCBL teams are in action that Saturday. The Lethbridge Bulls will play a doubleheader against the 57’s at Spitz Stadium, while the Dawgs roll out the red carpet for the Bombers. In other games, the Gulls travel north for a matchup versus the Giants, the Red Sox step between the lines at Athletic Park in Medicine Hat, and the Beavers do battle with the Miller Express in Moose Jaw.
The Okotoks Dawgs and Moose Jaw Miller Express will meet for the first time since the 2022 WCBL Championship Final when the Dawgs go to Ross Wells Park for a pair of games on Tuesday, July 4th and Wednesday, July 5th. The Miller Express return to Okotoks the following week for another two contests on Tuesday, July 11th and Wednesday, July 12th.
WCBL ALL-STAR GAME & HOME RUN DERBY: JULY 15th
The best and the brightest will gather in Okotoks for the 2023 WCBL All-Star Game & Home Run Derby, which will pit the top hitters and pitchers in the East Division against the greatest performers from the West Division. This showcase event was a massive success at Seaman Stadium in 2022.
The WCBL postseason is set to take place between Monday, Aug. 7th and Thursday, Aug. 17th. All series are a best-of-three format, with the semi-finals in the East and West Divisions happening from Monday, Aug. 7th through Wednesday, Aug. 9th. The conference finals are scheduled for Friday, Aug. 11th to Sunday, Aug. 13th.
WCBL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL: AUG. 15-17
The battle for the Harry Hallis Memorial Trophy between the top team in the East Division and the best squad from the West Division will get started on Tuesday, Aug. 15th. The second game follows on Wednesday, Aug. 16th and a third and deciding game, if necessary, will take place on Thursday, Aug. 17th.
There are 280 games scheduled for the 2023 regular season, with each WCBL team set to host 28 home dates and play 56 games this summer.
The Edmonton Prospects, who are currently building the Myshak Metro Ballpark in Spruce Grove, are taking the 2023 season off to focus on project construction. The Prospects plan to return following their leave of absence with a new stadium for the 2024 campaign.
Stay tuned for the release of the full WCBL schedule, as well as promotional schedules that are being created by each club.