The Boise Hawks and Vancouver Canadians open a three-game series for the Northwest League championship Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
For five Boise players, Game 1 will be the only game they play.
Because of visa and passport issues, the five will not travel to Canada for Game 2 on Sunday and Game 3 (if necessary) on Monday.
The players are relief pitchers Carlos Martinez (from Cuba) and Juan Paniagua (Dominican Republic), shortstop Carlos Penalver (Venezuela) and outfielders Jeffrey Baez (Venezuela) and Yasiel Balaguert (Cuba).
Of that group, the two biggest hits are Penalver and Balaguert, who have produced a combined 123 hits, 76 runs and 69 RBIs. Balaguert, a NWL All-Star, is second in the league in home runs with eight.
No question, manager Gary Van Tol said. Were losing our starting shortstop, who is the best defensive shortstop in the league, and then youve got a starting right fielder who was at the top of the league in a couple of offensive categories, RBIs and home runs.
Van Tol would like to have every weapon available against the two-time defending champions the Canadians beat Boise in last years NWLCS but hes been preparing for the possibility of a series with Vancouver.
In the last game of the regular season, David Lockhart played shortstop, where Penalver has been a mainstay all season. Lockhart, a second baseman, practiced at short Thursday, and Jordan Hankins practiced at second.
Van Tol said the travel issues couldnt be avoided.
The two Cubans are a totally different animal, he said. They escaped their country for freedom, and their passport and visa issue is very complex, and theres nothing you can really do there. The other guys had their passports expire while they were here, so they have to go back to their country in person to get their passport renewed. They cant just get it sent.
Penalver, for example, has an appointment when he gets home to have his passport renewed, and then when he comes back for instructional league, hell be fine. But its not a quick trip.
Van Tol said the problem of having international players traveling to Canada is not unique to the Hawks.
I guarantee you if you call every team in the Northwest League, every one of them has had some sort of issue with passports with Vancouver being in the league, he said.
Thats why Van Tol is prepared for the situation.
Weve known about it, and it comes down to this: If someone asked me if I would take the opportunity to play for the Northwest League championship, but Id have to play Vancouver and youre going to have to lose five guys off your roster, he said. Id take that any day.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424