2021 was a year like no other. Feeling the full effects of COVID restrictions, it was up in the air whether a season would even be able to go onward. However, through a well-thought plan, safety precautions taken seriously, and the ability to adapt on the fly, the PBLO season went off without a hitch. Champions were crowned, players improved their level of play, and, most importantly, we all got to enjoy the game that gives us joy.
The whole season started off kind of a mess, to be frank. Expected to begin on May 1st, the entire province of Ontario went into lockdown — again — including no team sports, whether that be outdoor or in. This would be the beginning of the most difficult part of the season: the constant start and stop for the players. However, this didn't deter players and they certainly didn't take the time sitting on the couch playing Fortnite. They got to work, ready to be on the field whenever baseball got the go-ahead.
For one sole reason, the PBLO season was a success: not a single COVID positive from practices or games. Everyone involved took precautions seriously, and as a result, we were able to play the season with no internal stoppages. From Week 1 to the Championship Series, teams were able to properly plan their pitching rotation without the fear of losing out of a weekend because of safety considerations. This was no easy task but every team in the league executed the plan flawlessly.
After making it through the regular season, all of the teams were ready to go after the Championship. Different teams came on top in all three age divisions, showing the diversity across the league. In mid-August, we had the 18U Championships where the Tecumseh Thunder won over the rest of the field after a perfect 5-0 weekend. The three-seed club defied the odds as the top-ranked fell early, taking home the first of the PBLO titles.
The 16U Championship was held two weeks later. The Ottawa-Nepean Canadians had a wire-to-wire season, taking home the trophy all while dominating the regular season as they finished with a 21-3 record. However, their title hopes were at stake after losing the opening game of the tournament to the Tecumseh Thunder. Despite the setback, the Canadians pushed the throttle, winning their next three games including the Championship over the same Thunder team in the finals.
The 15U Championship went a little off-course, but in the end, the Oshawa Legionaires finished on top. What made this unique was that the final game versus the London Badgers was suspended due to rain and resumed two weeks later. “Although we had to find our way around all the stoppages our team pushed through and made a season out of what we could,” said Legionaires’ Preston Vieira, who took home Player of the Tournament honours. One of the Players-to-Watch coming into the season, the C/OF finished the season batting .325/.519/.481, paving the way for his team to win the rain-delayed game by a score of 11-2. “From the first time on the field this season, our team goal was to win the PBLO championship, and through all the challenges we faced, we conquered and came out on top.”
Looking into the future, there may be expansion on the horizon for the PBLO. The Midwestern-Ontario Bearcats have already joined forces for their debut season for the 14U, 15U, and 16U divisions. More teams have developed interest, ultimately raising the competition level and creating a league that truly represents Ontario as a whole. Hopefully next year — *crosses fingers* — things have calmed down and we can have a full schedule of elite baseball, getting the kids the opportunity to shine and move on to postsecondary ball and beyond.