After a standout season playing baseball this summer for the Jepson Petroleum double-A bantam Knights, Preston Weightman and Parker McBurnie will be lining up as opponents this weekend They'll face each other with their respective provincial teams in one of the most prestigious ball tournaments of their careers.
And it all happens at Joe Martin Field.
Not the Joe Martin Field they grew up playing on in Prince George.
Weightman, selected for Baseball BC's 16U team, and McBurnie, part of the provincial 15U team, are heading to Bellingham, Wash., for the second annual Bellingham Bells Futures Series tournament. The Bellingham tournament provides their first chance to ever compete against each other in a real game.
"I'm actually excited to be able to play against him, and just to see all of his age group in this tournament," said the 16-year-old Weightman. "Parker had an awesome season coming into the four-spot (in the Knights' batting order), just being our power guy."
The four-team tournament also includes the host Northwest Elite 15U and the Langley Blaze Juniors. The Bells are a collegiate team that plays a four-month summer season in the West Coast League and McBurnie can't wait to get on the field which gave rise to future major leaguers.
"I heard lots of major league players, like Ken Griffey Jr., played there, so that's super-exciting," said McBurnie, who will be playing first base and pitching. "I tried out for this team (the past two years) and didn't make it and now I've kind of stepped up my game a bit and made it."
Weightman plays shortstop and pitches and will probably be used at third base this weekend. He was one of the Knights most consistent batters, hitting .342 with three triples, two home runs and 22 runs batted in through 28 games. He usually hit right behind McBurnie in the Knights' order. McBurnie delivered 37 hits, 17 that went for extra bases, and took three pitches out of the park while maintaining a .440 average.
A month ago in Prince George, Weightman and McBurnie each played starring roles in the Knights' dominant romp to the Baseball BC championship.
"Not a lot of people get to do that," said McBurnie. "It was pretty exciting, all the fans, everyone you know watching you, to be able to win in front of them and celebrate it with them. That's a moment I'll never forget."
The following weekend the Knights advanced to the final of the B.C. Minor Baseball championship in Chilliwack, losing to the Cowichan Valley Mustangs on a walk-off hit. Five of the Knights - Weightman, Brenden Gaboury, James Yandeau, Caleb Poitras and Logan Dreher - then joined forces with the Mustangs and helped B.C. finish second at the Western Canadian championship in Strathmore, Alta.
The Knights started indoor workouts at the Northern Sport Centre in January and it paid off in their success against the provincial peers.
"We had good coaching and they really prepared us for the games," said the 15-year-old McBurnie. "They've helped us get this far and we'll carry that in to this tournament in Washington.
"It's a big accomplishment, not a lot of kids have got to represent Prince George down there. The high level of baseball we're going to be facing there, it's going to be really high-intensity and really fun. I just want to do the best that I can and show people what P.G. is made of, show them that we have talent."
Weightman and McBurnie had their first provincial team tryouts in Kamloops in May and also auditioned in July in Whalley. They found out they made the team on the weekend they hosted the provincial tournament at Nechako Field.
"I know some of the guys, but they've probably never heard of Prince George," said Weightman. "When we were at one tryout, they had no idea where Prince George was. They're going to start to learn now. We're going to make a big impact."
They're not the first Prince George players to make a B.C. select team. Paul Wilson, Simon Stoner, Curtis Sawchuk, Mike Schwab and Jared Young, among others, represented the city on various provincial teams at various stages of their youth baseball careers. Some of them went on to attract U.S. college scholarships and Weightman is thinking this is his chance to make a blip on the radar screen.
"What I want out of the game is to get some college schooling out of it and from there see where I can take it," he said. "That's why this is really big for me because there's definitely going to be scouts down there.
"I just want to have a good time and have fun with it, playing at this level of baseball, just make it a great experience going down and playing on this field with all these great players."
Both excel in winter sports. McBurnie, a Grade 9 student at Prince George Secondary School, grew up playing rep hockey and is a now with a defenceman North Central triple-A bantam Bobcats. He's missing his team's season-opening games this weekend to play in Bellingham. Weightman has played the past two seasons at point guard with the Kelly Road Roadrunners junior basketball team and as a Grade 10 player will be trying out for the senior team.
The two B.C. teams face each other in the tournament-opener Friday at 2 p.m. The U-15s will also take on Langley Friday at 4:30 p.m., then will meet the Northwest Elite Saturday at 4:30 p.m. McBurnie's U-14s have two games back-to-back Saturday. They'll face Langley at 11:30 a.m. and Northwest at 2 p.m.
The championship and final games are set for Sunday.
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