Highway 3 Baseball League finishes 3rd season strong

The Birch Hills Brewers celebrate their victory over the Nipawin Giants in Game 2 of the Highway 3 Baseball League finals. -- Photo from the Birch Hills Brewers Facebook page.

The Highway 3 Baseball League season might not have ended the way baseball fans in Prince Albert wanted, but there are still plenty of positives as the league heads into the offseason.

The league added two new teams for 2023—the Nipawin Giants and Hudson Bay Nationals—and held their first two Highway 3 Showcases in Tisdale and Nipawin. League board member Adam Morrison said crowds were strong in all eight communities, and that bodes well for the league’s longevity.

“I would say it’s definitely surpassed expectations from when this whole thing started here for sure,” Morrison said.

“We’re extremely happy.”

The 2023 season featured eight clubs, including the Prince Albert Athletics. Birch Hills finished on top of the East Division, which included Prince Albert, Humboldt, and Tisdale, then swept Nipawin in the best-of-three finals.

Even more important that the size of the crowds was the enthusiasm of the players. Morrison said most of the eight teams fielded younger clubs, which gives them a strong foundation to build on.

“I’m in Birch Hills and we’re probably one of the older teams in terms of age for guys,” he explained. “All those other teams, they’re all kind of younger 20-ish for the majority. I imagine they’ll be sticking around for quite a while, and I don’t see Birch Hills going anywhere any time soon, so I think it’ll definitely be sustainable.

“I think a lot of guys, after they’re done playing U18 ball, they still enjoy playing baseball,” he added. “It’s in the summer so it’s nice and warm and fun to get out with the guys. It’s just one of those things everyone enjoys doing.”

The Highway 3 League has added new teams every year since 2021, when it was just Birch Hills and Prince Albert playing a series of exhibition games. However, the expanded league created a new challenge: travel distances.

The league tried to alleviate that by holding two Highway 3 Showcases this year, allowing teams to play non-division opponents without travelling more than an hour.

Morrison said they’ll consider holding the showcases again next year, but it will depend on what the league landscape looks like.

Adding additional teams to the league will also be on the off-season agenda, provided it doesn’t add to the travel distance. Morrison said there are still a few local communities, like Melfort, that would be good locations for another club. They’d also be open to adding a second team in Prince Albert, if there’s enough local interest.

“We’ve never really talked about capping (the number of teams),” Morrison said. “The only thing we do keep (in mind) is travel. It’s still a working man’s league. Everybody’s got a job they’ve got to work, but there is a bit of travel in our league. P.A. to Hudson Bay is no short drive, that’s for sure. We don’t even have those teams play each other during the regular season, usually just to keep the travel down.”

Prince Albert was the largest community with a team in the Highway 3 League. The Athletics finished 1-6 on the season.