James Fischer finished the 2021 regular season with a 3.38 ERA, accumulating a league high of 42.2 innings pitched. The next closest in innings pitched was counterpart Taran Oulton, who completed the season with 33 innings of work.
After 12 years of Sunburst tenure, Fischer consistently takes on a large workload for the Athletics summer after summer. Fischer's work goes far beyond the mound too, as him and Athletics GM Pat Gartner play a big role in player recruitment and team initiatives for the A's. And when Fischer isn't on the bump, he will be down the third baseline giving the signs to the Athletic's hitters.
We sat down with "Fish" to chat about his time in the league and his Athletic's team in 2021:
How long have you played in the Sunburst League? How have the A's changed throughout the years and what changes have you seen in the league throughout the years?
"I've played in the Sunburst league since 2009, so this is my 12th year with last year being off. There has been plenty of changes with the A's over the years: moving from Fort Sask to Sherwood Park and the core of the team I joined was primarily Sherwood Park/Fort Saskatchewan area guys who all knew each other growing up playing together and as the years progressed those guys all moved on from the game and we started adding guys from the city and other places. The biggest change I witnessed from the league was changing the provincials to a playoff format within our league. Those early years when the regular season standings didn't matter you might show up to a Tuesday game with 10 guys vs 10 guys and no one really cared. The games are much more competitive now early in the season because of this."
You've taken on quite the workload this summer on the mound. How did you stay in shape over the winter with gyms closed?
"To be honest this year I didn't really do anything to prepare for the season. Last year I was working out in my basement and finding other activities to do and usually I would be playing ball hockey all winter but with the pandemic I didn't do any of that. I started hiking so I guess that helps. The only thing I really did was throwing in April/May and just played lots of catch until the season started."
How many times have you represented Alberta at Nationals with the A's? Talk about the 2009 team. What was special about that group of guys?
"I've gone to Nationals every year since 2009 and I think 6 of those appearances were with the A's. I might be missing one. In 2009, one of the biggest things for us we only picked up two guys (pitchers) for the tournament. We went to Dartmouth with essentially our own guys and caught fire at the right time. We had lots of really good players, but it's a rarity in Nats that a team go with so few pickups, so I think that chemistry really helped us. The timing of it all was good too because we were mostly young enough that our careers, relationships, families etc didn't exist like they do as you age. We also played a bunch that year like 50ish games. So there were lots of special things about that year."
As a tenured guy, what league developments would you like to see going forward?
"For the league it isn't so much league based but just Senior Men's baseball in Alberta in my opinion has declined in the quality over the past handful of years. Covid is partly to blame too. I've witnessed it in our league, in the NCABL last summer and I think we need to do a better job of incorporating younger guys into the various leagues. The WCBL essentially ruined JR level baseball in this province and it's a shame guys leaving Midget AAA or a couple years in the CCBC or wherever just end up not playing baseball. I don't have answers on how to fix this but I see it as a big issue for the overall growth of men's baseball at all skill levels."