The 2016/17 season served as a successful inaugural season for the Cascades baseball program, which passed expectations and finished second in the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) regular season and third in the CCBC championships. Though the ending to the season was not ideal, the Cascades emerged from out of nowhere and took the league by storm.
The Cascades baseball team is not a program built from within the university. The team was assembled by local businessman Brian Finnie, and head coach Shawn Corness, who has trained Finnie’s son since the age of six. After the two got together, a proposal was brought to the university, where it was approved, and a year later UFV had its first-ever baseball program. Coming into the season, the expectations were to be a middle-of-the-pack team, which was fair considering for most of the players, this was their first season of college baseball. But why UFV?
If you ask each of the players, the response they’ll give you as to what attracted them to UFV in the recruitment process is Shawn Corness. After a successful coaching tenure at UBC for a decade, Corness decided it was time to make a change. Now head coach of the Cascades, he has no regrets for his decision to leave a big program to start one fresh.
“It’s exciting, but I was very nervous — leaving a big program and starting a program fresh is always nerve wracking,” said Corness. “It was very challenging, but in a good way.”
Corness shared a relationship with many of the players prior to the Cascades baseball program, which made recruiting easier.
“I had done all the recruiting while I was at UBC, so building this team and putting it together was exciting and I knew there were a lot of good young guys around who wanted to play,” stated Corness.
Some had played under him while in high school, others played under him on the national team, and there are a few who simply knew of him from other sources. The idea of playing under a coach with so much experience was enticing.
“I’m very fair and disciplined. A big thing with coaching is that if you can develop your players and get them to understand philosophies and what you want, you can have success,” said Corness.
With the second place finish in their first season as a team, it’s clear the players and the coach were on the same page.
Brian Finnie speaks highly of the players in the baseball program. At the beginning of the season, a “driver” was instilled into each one of them, and according to Finnie, a driver is the idea that success is contingent upon a factor driving a person to accomplish whatever task is at hand. For the players, the driver was that in order to play baseball, you have to be a good student and pass your courses. The collective love of baseball led them to study together on late nights, even with the stress of a baseball season on their minds at all times.
The players are enrolled in programs across the spectrum, from criminology and business, to kinesiology and general studies, and more. What I learned from talking with them was that they are not overly dependant on baseball; the players know that their dream of playing baseball professionally is not a guarantee. Apart from baseball, they have hopes of getting into the RCMP, working border patrol, sports rehab, and more. With an involved founder like Finnie, the players are bound to soak up some of the knowledge he has gained throughout his life.
While their inaugural season was no walk in the park, the Cascades caught many teams by surprise. Going forward, teams will know what to expect when playing the university, but as Corness said, “I think we have a great group of guys that are only going to get better as they get more college experience. This group has really come along and developed in a short period of time.”
With more time to gel as a team and develop as players, expect more from the Cascades next season.