In the world of local sports, any signs of normalcy would be welcomed.
Undoubtedly, that was part of the reason for the smiles, all around, at the Terry Fox Sports Complex on Sunday as the 16U Voyageurs closed out their four-game weekend homestand with the Oshawa Legionaires.
Just like every other year, fall ball is about laying a foundation for an off-season regimen of workouts, one which hopefully will lead to another step forward, as a team, come the summer of 2021.
For coach Shawn Paquette and his newly assembled roster of fourteen players, seeing improvement even during this shortened series of exhibition encounters, is critical.
After dropping eight straight games in their cluster which also includes the Ottawa Nepean Canadians, the Voyageurs rebounded this past weekend, earning a 6-6 draw out of the gate, blanking Oshawa 2-0 and 9-0 in back to back games, and dropping a tight affair in the finale, 4-3.
"From that first weekend, three weeks ago, until now, the improvements are phenomenal," said Paquette. "Defensively especially - we were really booting the ball around. We are spoiled here now with Terry Fox field one, with the turf."
"We struggled a bit with the natural grass and the bad hops, but that's something that we, as coaches, have to adjust and line up better when we're heading out of town."
For a crew that enjoys some familiarity, but have clearly not risen together through the ranks, in unison, any kind of game action is helpful.
"Over the course of the past five years, I've played with pretty much all of them, just on different teams," said 16 year-old outfielder Cody Jalbert, a grade 11 student at St Charles College.
"I see a good amount of chemistry coming together, everyone is starting to figure it out. I like how our team is just getting more comfortable. That first weekend that we had Ottawa and Oshawa here, we weren't talking much, we were making errors."
"Now it seems like we're figuring it out, turning some nice double plays," Jalbert added.
Like most everyone else on the diamond, Jalbert is thankful for the chance to simply dig in to the batter's box, facing an opposing pitcher. "It was something we all hoped for," he said. "By mid-July, we were seeing baseball back on TV."
"It gave us a good feeling, some hope that maybe we would be back." It's a hope that middle infielder (mostly 2B, occasional SS) and part-time pitcher William Arsenault has clung to every year, since the age of seven.
"I played hockey and baseball, growing up, but it's always been baseball over hockey for me," said the former resident of Kingston, who moved to northern Ontario just a few years ago. "To be honest, I think it's just the fact that we play in the summer."
"In the summer, there's not much else to do because we don't have school. So if I have a sport that can keep me entertained, that's a good thing," said Arsenault.
Though he would not crack the roster of the rep team in his first year in Sudbury, the grade 10 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School was not dissuaded, continuing to work all aspects of his game, most notably his defensive prowess.
"When I got here, I don't think I was as good as most of the players," stated Arsenault. "I had to get used to the rhythm of the ball game and practice during the winter to make sure I was ready to make the cut."With Ottawa coming to town for another four game set on October 3rd and 4th, coach Paquette is looking for the same takeaway as he would have in any other year, at this time.
"I just want us to learn from our mistakes, improve from our mistakes, and carry on," he said.
The 2020 roster for the 16U Voyageurs includes Vaughn Thompson, Noah Leveille, Martin Audette, Ryan Lacasse, Will Arsenault, Alex Frawley, Cam Bauer, Liam McNiven, Justin Lancup, Cody Jalbert, Nicholas Signorile, Cole McPhee, Ethan Morris and Karsen Chartier.