After the summer season ends in the PBLO, the path for player development keeps going with Fall Ball. Back when most of us played, when the summer ended, we went back to school and waited for the snow to melt for us to get back on the field. Fast forward to today where these elite teams continue to run practices and training sessions including exhibition games and tournaments across North America. The fall season no longer is the time to kick back and relax, but another opportunity to get a player’s name out to recruiters as they hope to play baseball post-secondary at a high level.
“For the Ottawa Nepean Canadians Baseball Club, Fall Ball marks the beginning of our program year.” Shail Paliwal is the President of the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians. As a baseball enthusiast, he emphasizes the importance at giving his players the best opportunity to succeed.
New and returning players are given an introduction to the club, and ONC wants everyone to feel at home. “We hold tryouts in late August and the fall presents an early opportunity to work with our newly formed teams, and players new to ONC, for the first time,” Paliwal said. On September 1st, the Canadians had their ONC Welcome Day at their home ballpark, Hamilton Yards. This event is just the beginning at creating an inclusive culture for the teams where everyone feels welcome and heard. And — despite the summer season being completed — the team gets right down to work.
Fall Ball is a vital part of the development process as it gives teams such as the Canadians a starting point for what individual players need to improve over the course of the offseason. “Our coaches and instructors do work on player development during the fall however our primary objective is to observe our players in various situations and formulate our training plans for our Winter Training Program,” Paliwal explained. “The winter program is where our players develop and improve considerably, and the Fall activities set us up well for a successful winter training program.” The planning portion is even more important for the newcomers, as they may not be seen in sharp detail yet and could have their potential unlocked with some eagle-eyed coaches.
Consisting of practices, training sessions, and exhibition games, the Fall Ball portion of the schedule is well underway. ONC has played several games against teams that they would not normally face during the summer months, including King’s-Edge School out of Nova Scotia which is filled with “several provincial calibre players on their roster.” The ONC Baseball Club has lots of other plans to get their players reps on the field, scheduling games against teams from the GTA, Montreal and New York. “Our 18U team had plans to travel to Corning, NY to play weekend double-headers at a junior college, SUNY-Corning; however, COVID-19 travel restrictions forced us to postpone that series of games until 2022. Other than that disappointment our Fall has been fantastic,” Paliwal stated.
One aspect of Fall Ball that teams need to be careful of are player injuries. Coming right out of the summer season, arms and bodies can be worn out — increasing the chance for injuries that could debilitate the progress players make during the offseason. “Especially as the weather turns cool, we safeguard our players' health by taking a conservative approach on innings played and pitches thrown,” the ONC President said. “Every time an ONC player sets foot on the field they compete to the best of their ability, with the intent to win that game, yet we realize that league championships and tournaments are not won in the fall.”
The main objective for elite baseball programs at the youth level is to give opportunities for players to play at a high level university or college. The Fall Ball schedule has tournaments with recruiters present, enhancing the chance that a player could get their skills seen by those important enough to call the shots. “In the fall and in our Summer Tournament Season we will take ONC teams to showcase events in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Paliwal explained. These trips allow players to be seen by not only Canadian recruiters but American ones where they can hope to go to a junior college or an elite baseball program.
While Fall Ball is technically the offseason, this is just the start of the year-long journey for teams such as the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians. With an importance in keeping players healthy during the cold season, the kids get to continue developing as they head into the winter portion of the baseball program. However, the weather is still nice enough outside to be on the diamond and swing it with the best of them. “This gives our newly formed teams, and players new to ONC, early exposure to elite US competition and helps expose our players to US college recruiters.”