Two months out from their sophomore season, the Kamloops NorthPaws had to act quickly this week to hire a new head coach.
Keith Francis was announced Friday as the club’s bench boss for the 2023 West Coast League campaign. He has coached at the collegiate level since the late 1990s.
“I am looking forward to the coming season,” Francis said in a news release.
“My teams are aggressive and play the right way. I never play the other team. If you play the game and play the right way, usually good things come your way. It’s my intent for the NorthPaws to play that way, too.”
Francis replaces Brian Anderson, who was hired in October. Anderson accepted a job this week at Northwestern University, making him unavailable to the ‘Paws this summer.
Francis and Anderson have coached together in recent years at Pima Community College in Arizona. Francis was supposed to have been Anderson’s assistant in Kamloops this summer and stepped up to take the top job.
A number of Pima players have already committed to the ‘Paws for the coming season, recruited by Anderson before Northwestern came calling.
Francis said it will be nice to have familiarity with those players.
“It will make the job easier,” he said.
“I will continue to implement a lot of things we have here. I know those players’ strong points and weak points. We have a couple of pitchers coming up which will be very important.”
Francis said he expects a fast brand of baseball to be played this summer on McArthur Island.
“We are going to approach the West Coast League aggressively,” he said.
“We will steal a lot of bases, do a lot of hit and runs. That is West Coast baseball — that is the way we’ll play.”
Francis said he plans to arrive in Kamloops late in May, depending on how deep a run Pima goes on. He will begin reaching out to players immediately and will work to bring on at least one assistant coach.
The NorthPaws, who went 26-27 in their inaugural season last summer, will open their 2023 schedule on June 2 in Victoria. Their home opened is slated for June 6, when the Portland Pickles visit Norbrock Stadium.