The 2021 schedule for the Vancouver Canadians and the rest of the High-A West League (formerly Northwest League) has been released at long last but whether there will be games at Nat Bailey Stadium remains up in the air thanks to the Coronavirus.
For the first time since 1999, the Canadians will resume life as a full-season club again on Tuesday, May 4 when they visit the Tri-City Dust Devils for the first of a six-game series. The C’s “home” opener is scheduled against the Spokane Indians on May 11. That’s the beginning of the 2021 schedule which will consist of 20 straight weeks of six-game series with every Monday being an off-day.
The C’s will play the Everett AquaSox a whopping 36 times and will face Spokane and the Hillsboro Hops 30 times apiece. Monty’s Mounties will only engage Tri-City and the Eugene Emeralds for 12 match-ups apiece to round out the 120-game schedule.
One disappointment on the schedule is that the C’s will be on the road for Canada Day as they will be playing in Everett that day. Ironically, the AquaSox’s parent club Seattle are slated to visit the Canadians’ parent club in Toronto July 1. Disappointment could be theme of 2021 for fans anxiously awaiting for baseball to return to the Nat.
Steve Ewen of The Province spoke to Canadians president Andy Dunn about the team’s plans for the upcoming year.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reached out to Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro about the C’s situation.
Where to call home?
There has been some chatter that the C’s may wind up in Bellingham, Washington for their home games if the border remains closed due to COVID-19. Joe Martin Field is the home of the Bellingham Bells of the summer collegiate West Coast League but it is not considered to be facility that would be up to Minor League Baseball standards. Perhaps Yakima, the former home of the Northwest League Bears, would be another option but the C’s would have to work something out with the WCL’s Yakima Valley Pippins.
As far as Northwest League options go, playing home games in Everett will pose problems as the AquaSox are not the only team that plays at Everett Memorial Stadium. The Everett College Merchants and local high school squads also play at the Everett School District-owned facility.
The Eugene Emeralds share time with the University of Oregon at P.K. Park so that would probably rule them out. That leaves Spokane, Hillsboro and Tri-City as the only other teams to consider.
Gonzaga University in Spokane could be another potential site but the Bulldogs apparently refused to allow the Indians to play any home games during the 2018 Northwest League final at the Patterson Sports Complex. With the Indians regular home Avista Stadium hosting the annual Spokane County Fair, the Indians had to play the entire league final in Eugene in which the Emeralds won in three straight.
That may leave Tri-City and Hillsboro as the last two options but how often their stadiums are used for other events would have to be considered.
The C’s recently signed their Professional Development Licence from the Toronto Blue Jays which means Canada’s Teams will be together for the next 10 years. The Buffalo Bisons, New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Dunedin Blue Jays will join the Canadians in the Blue Jays nest. All 120 minor league teams who were extended MLB invitations to remain in affiliated Minor League Baseball had until February 10 to sign on the dotted line of their PDLs.
A big voice in Vancouver sports was silenced last week as one of Canada’s evil media giants decided to shut down TSN 1040 radio. The longtime home of Vancouver Canadians baseball on the airwaves before Sportsnet took over in 2019, the 1040 signal is now a comedy channel which is off to a rousing start in the ratings.
The closure of TSN 1040 and its counterparts in Winnipeg and Hamilton comes despite the company receiving $122 million in COVID relief aid from the federal government. It also happened on the heels of the company’s Let’s Talk campaign in late January to raise money for mental health initiatives across Canada. Nothing promotes mental health quite like laying off over 200 employees.
The shutdown of TSN 1040 pulled the plug on my favourite radio host Rob Fai and his show Rob Fai Nation (not to mention the Hall of Fame Maestro Fresh-Wes intro) but like the Godfather of Canadian hip hop said, ‘Hello No, Rob Fai Nation can’t slow down!’. That’s because the former voice of the C’s has resurrected The Nation through Hubcast Media, the company that broadcasted six Vancouver Canadians games on Sportsnet in 2019. You can catch The Nation after every Vancouver Canucks game home or away on YouTube.
It is my hope that everyone affected at TSN 1040 and the other stations will be able to get back on their feet sooner rather than later.