IT is a league that continues to produce and showcase some of the best young baseball talent in this province.
And this weekend the curtain lifts on what should be another stellar Manitoba Junior Baseball League season with doubleheaders in Carillon, Morden and St. James.
"We want to create a league with a lot of parity, where every team starts the season truly believing they have a chance to win the championship," said MJBL president Scott Neiles. "I think over the last few years that's really the way this league has turned, to the point where we really do have seven strong teams."
And just to hammer home how good the baseball is in this province right now, two years ago a team of MJBL all-stars won the national junior (ages 18-21) championship.
The new bonus: the establishment of the program at the University of Winnipeg further strengthens the foundation and gives opportunity to Manitoba's best to play at home.
"The U of W is great for our league because it does give some of our players the opportunity to play all winter long," Neiles said. "Many of our players go to college and that's why this year we've started our season a week later to give them time to finish up college and get home.
"And once they're finished playing junior or college ball, there's opportunity for them to go play in independent leagues. A classic case is Anthony Friesen (the Somerset product who attends Minot State), who is pitching with the Winnipeg Goldeyes right now."
The MJBL action begins Sunday with Altona at Carillon, St. Boniface in Morden to face Pembina Valley and St. James playing host to Winnipeg South. Elmwood has the opening week bye. The opening pitches are slated for 1 p.m. with the second games scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
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AT A GLANCE
ALTONA BISONS: Losing only two players from last year, although both of them were all-stars: league MVP and ace hurler/3B Angus Klassen and 1B Scot Peters. Lots of returnees to a squad that lost in the league final last summer.
ST. BONIFACE LEGIONAIRES: St. B's lineup will include at least 11 players with college baseball or Junior National Championship level experience and features MJBL rookie of the year Chad Leskiw, the top lefty in the circuit last year.
CARILLON SULTANS: The defending MJBL champs will have most of their squad returning this season, including all-star catcher Nathan Christiuk and University of Winnipeg product Jamieson Krentz.
PEMBINA VALLEY ORIOLES : The Orioles' roster includes 12 players with college/university experience and nine in their final year of eligibility. Lineup features three 2011 MJBL all-stars in 3B Dustin Donald, OF Bret Heselwood and 2B Brady Nichol.
ST. JAMES A's: Finished strong last year and return all-star shortstop/pitcher Elliot Desilets from Transylvania University, catcher and team MVP Tyler Wiwchar, Wesmen products Joshn Robinson and Ethan Plante and 1B Brett Thiessen.
ELMWOOD GIANTS: Finished third last year and captured the bronze medal at the 2011 Western Canadian Championship. Three returning starters anchor the pitching rotation in Brett Muron, Curtis Neskar and Scott Beever.
WINNIPEG SOUTH CHIEFS: Aiming for a playoff spot with a lineup that features eight returning players in Ryan Kuhtey, Cole Southall, Guieseppe Grande, Brett Doerksen, Chris Hourhan, Drew Martin, Cody Benson and Matt Benn.