Chemainus’ Matt Simpson, far right, with other Northland College athletes during an orientation session. (Photo submitted)

Chemainus’ Matt Simpson, far right, with other Northland College athletes during an orientation session. (Photo submitted)

Cool transition to college baseball in Wisconsin for Island ballplayer

Chemainus baseball product anxious to get going after last season lost due to COVID

Wisconsin weather compared to B.C. is a stark contrast, otherwise Chemainus baseball product Matt Simpson has settled in well to his new surroundings at Northland College in Ashland, Wis.

“It’s pretty cold,” Simpson conceded. “Usually when I wake up it’s around -25. Throughout the day, it drops down to -20.”

Not exactly baseball weather yet, but it’ll be getting there soon.

Making the move in the first place at the start of the school year was a bit unsettling with COVID complications and precautions. Simpson had considered Houghton College in New York at one time before making Northland his destination of choice.

“We were reluctant to send him with COVID but coach (Jeremy) Snow and the staff there have been very diligent on all the safety procedures they are doing there – on the field and in the dorms,” noted Simpson’s mom Leanne. “Matt is loving it there.”

“It was definitely nerve-racking, mostly excited though when I first got here,” said Simpson. “I met some of my teammates right away and did a good job of settling in and getting comfortable.”

A whole season of baseball was missed last year due to COVID, as the Mid-Island Pirates never got off the ground in the B.C. Premier Baseball League so Simpson is anxious to make up for lost time.

“We were just practicing and doing inter-squad games against ourselves,” he noted.

Related story: Simpson staying sharp for the baseball call

After some contact with Houghton that Simpson didn’t consider too serious, he had conversations with coach Snow about Northland baseball and the academic program offered there.

“It’s a Division 3 school,” Simpson explained. “They can’t give me any athletic money. My scholarship is based on my academics, based on my grades for VIU and high school. There’s a couple of other little bursaries I got through doing interviews with the international admissions people.”

Simpson left Aug. 21 to get ready for the beginning of school in early September.

“I got to campus and it was just freshmen students,” he indicated.

That orientation week was spent doing activities, a tour of the campus and finding out how everything works.

Simpson is taking an Education program and focusing on math. COVID has changed the course load, with semesters split into two sections with two classes in each.

The classroom sizes are also limited. There are just six students in one of his education classes, with 10-15 at a time in math.

The second semester is operating the same way, but they’re “planning on going back to regular format for September, though,” Simpson said.

As for baseball, the main part of the season is just ahead once the weather warms up.

“When I got here in the fall, we were just kind of doing practices and inter-squad games since our season is in the spring,” Simpson explained.

He returned home at the end of November and stayed till early January, with a bit of a break for the winter.

Practices have been indoors since Simpson’s return. He’s looking to be the back-up to a senior catcher and also playing in the outfield.

“Practices have been going good so far,” Simpson said. “I’m excited for the season to get going.”

He’s also been feeling right at home in Ashland, which he said has about half the population of Chemainus.

“It kind of reminds me of being back home,” Simpson observed.

“It’s been great. It’s a very small campus. It kind of reminds me of high school. It’s a tight community where everyone knows each other.

“It’s also a huge environmental school. They’re always doing trips to the skiing resort that’s close by. That’s really cool because I’m really into the outdoors.”

And the outdoors in Ashland is definitely a cool place to be on the temperature scale, too, for Simpson, as he awaits the ‘Play Ball’ call.