Quincy grad thrives playing summer ball in Canada
He played baseball in a town surrounded by farms, for a team whose name included the word “Jacks” in it.
No wonder Cody Kehl felt right at home, even if he was in Brandon, Manitoba.
Kehl, a graduate of Quincy High School and an infielder for the Columbia Basin College baseball team, spent the summer playing for the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks of the Expedition League, a summer collegiate league akin to the West Coast League where the Wenatchee AppleSox play.
The Whiskey Jacks, named after a local bird, are the first non-U.S. team in the two-year history of the league, and, Kehl says, a hit among the locals despite a rough 12-52 inaugural season record.
All the teams in the league, except the Whiskey Jacks, are located in either the Dakotas, Wyoming or Nebraska, and Kehl played in 59 of the team’s 64 games, earning a nod to the league’s All-Star game at midseason and the team’s MVP award at the end of the campaign.
Despite its north-of-the-border location, the team had only one Canadian player. The rest were all American college players seeking to play ball during their offseason without risking their eligibility, and staying with host families.
Whiskey Jack coaches contacted CBC coaches in May, and that’s how Kehl found himself making the 18-hour drive to Manitoba from Quincy.
“It was super competitive,” he said of the level of play at the Expedition League. “Every game, every night was competitive.”
Kehl said he never wanted to sit out a game, despite having only six days off the entire season, and led the team in games played.
At one point, on the road in Pierre, S.D., with the Whiskey Jacks down two runs, the team ran out of pitchers in midgame, and Kehl took the mound for the first time since his Quincy days. He went three innings, gave up one run and allowed his teammates to mount a comeback, earning himself the win.
In Brandon, about one hour north of the American border, hundreds of fans showed up to every game, and treated him like one of their own. Hockey is still king up there, but fans still showed support for the fledgling baseball team despite not knowing a lot about baseball, Kehl said.
“It was a great place to play,” he said.
With one more year to go at CBC, he will likely sign with a four-year school after next season. His experience in Canada will come in handy when confronted with the life of a transfer at a big college,
“I will kind of be the new kid,” he predicted, “adapting to an atmosphere while surrounded by people who have already been there. I will already have that (experience) under my belt.”
By Sebastian Moraga, For the Post-Register