Baseball fans had an opportunity Saturday evening to listen to three Toronto Blue Jays alumnus while helping the Brooks Bombers raise money for their organization.
Duane Ward, Rance Mulliniks and Jesse Barfield shared their special memories with the Blue Jays while also discussing the importance of community, volunteers and parents and family for baseball.
Brooks native and CTV Regina morning news anchor Darrell Romuld served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.
Team president Jason Thomasen began by thanking everyone for helping the organization fundraise. He said without the support, the team would not be in Brooks.
Jason Wandler, vice-president of baseball operations, talked about the team preparing to enter its third season in the Western Major Baseball League.
He said the first year was a success even though they did not win as many games as they wanted to. Year two was the same. Recruiting was done and on paper, the team was very good. Then all of a sudden, the Bombers did not win as many games as year one.
Leading up to year three, on paper the Bombers are going to be exceptional, said Wandler.
“I really, truly believe we have learned from our mistakes.”
He said it is a guessing game organizing the players and affiliates.
Fans were told the team has so many eyes around the country looking for players.
“I truly believe that what we have right now in terms of our core group of guys that we have coming is going to be a really exciting brand of baseball,” said Wandler.
He said there will be more Canadians on this year’s team than in previous years.
This year’s team will be coached by Kyle MacKinnon. Wandler said MacKinnon was in Medicine Hat with the Mavericks in 2016. In 2017 he was with the Fort McMurray Giants.
Wandler said MacKinnon’s experience in the league will be an exceptional avenue for the Bombers.
The new head coach has been involved with the Ontario Blue Jays program. This has enabled him to build relationships with players and coaches for recruiting.
With a new coach, Wandler said the team’s goal is just not to make the playoffs but go deep into the playoffs as well.
With this comes the need for continued community support. Attendance in year one was really good but last season it dipped a bit, said Wandler.
He said the Bombers hope that a new season will bring a new fan base.
The team will open the new season on May 31 in Medicine Hat against the Mavericks. The first home game for the Bombers will be June 2 against the Moose Jaw Miller Express.
“We are looking to really pack that place and kind of set our season moving forward really well.”
Last year the organization was run by Thomasen and Wandler. The two are looking to expand the board this year to help shoulder the load.
The Bombers are also looking for residents to billet players for the 2018 season.
Wandler was then followed by Romuld who read a letter from coach MacKinnon.
He thanked Thomasen and Wandler for the opportunity to lead the Bombers on the field for 2018.
“I am very excited for this opportunity they have offered me, the staff and of course the players that will be Brooks residents for a couple of months this summer.”
MacKinnon said having been in the league for the last couple of years, he has seen the Brooks franchise since the start.
“It is always tough for a new franchise to come into an established league such as the WMBL and win, however I believe it is time to turn the page. I am confident the bumps and bruises suffered in the first couple of years have taught us all what we need to win in this league, and how the roster needs to be assembled.”
He said the roster itself is not quite finalized but is getting close. The line up will be deep from top to bottom with a consistent mix of speed and power.
“Having played at Elks Field, I understand that the long ball is a huge factor. Having said that, we have confidence in our new pitching staff that they will keep the ball in the park, especially with some power arms at the back of the bullpen.”