By Ryan McCracken on June 19, 2017.
Every day on the baseball diamond is a chance for Frank Podkul to remember his father.
The Medicine Hat Mavericks designated hitter lost his dad in the fall of 2013 and says every game since has served as a conduit to keep the two connected.
So when his Mavs suited up for their annual Wear Plaid for Dad Father’s Day game, Podkul opted to wear his heart on his sleeve.
“Certain days (like Father’s Day) don’t really matter. For me, every day is for him,” said Podkul, who wore a wristband with the word ‘Dad’ written on it for Sunday’s 7-5 win over the Yorkton Cardinals. “He’s been the biggest influence for me in my life. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him and everything he’s done for me and my brother, too. He’s probably the most important person in our lives and for the two of us, every day we get to play baseball is just another day of getting to remember being with him.”
Podkul added he and his brother, Nick, were forced to deal with the tragedy together after their father, Frank Podkul Sr., died suddenly, passing away in his sleep at the age of 59.
“He just didn’t get up one day,” said Podkul, adding he will always remember his dad as the reason for his success on the diamond. “From a young age he always had me and my brother playing baseball. But the good thing about was that he’s not one of those parents who ever forced it upon us … We wanted to do it and he would go out of his way to do anything for us with it.”
Podkul and Nick’s love for the game flourished together — and while they were forced to deal with the unthinkable entering Podkul’s senior year at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana, it didn’t stop them from bringing home a Class 3A state championship in their father’s honour.
“That was kind of a big culmination moment for us, especially at the end of that school year,” said Podkul. “We were the home team and we got to make the last two outs in a row. I was playing third and he was playing short.”
And just like on Sunday at Athletic Park, Podkul and his brother wore the word ‘Dad’ proudly on their wrists for their 6-0 championship win over Gibson Southern.
Podkul stepped up Sunday as well, helping the Mavericks extend their winning streak to four games with an RBI sacrifice fly in the fourth inning to help follow up Sunday’s 12-11 win with a 7-5 victory. The wins put Medicine Hat at 6-7 on the season.
Podkul added the Mavericks seem to be putting it all together defensively after proving their place as one of the Western Major Baseball League’s most potent offences.
“If you even look at the games we lose we were out-hitting and scoring like 18 runs a game. We never felt any pressure that we needed to do anything different on the offensive side. It was just kind of cleaning up the defence, we had some errors and had to limit some freebies and we’ve seen that come out.”
Mavs right fielder Caleb Longley put his own stamp on Sunday’s win with a bases-clearing double off the wall before crossing the plate for the game’s winning run.
The Cleveland, Tenn. product says he was sitting on one pitch in particular, and Cardinals relief pitcher Tyler McDonald gave it to him.
“I knew he had a good breaking ball so I was kind of sitting on breaking ball the whole at bat,” said Longley. “I stayed with the approach and I was looking for a breaking ball I could drive and I got it. He hung it a little bit and I put it off the wall.”
Mavericks starter Michael Carr earned the win after holding the Cardinals to five runs — two earned — on six hits through seven complete innings of work. Will Ziebol pitched in with 1 and 2/3 innings of sound work — holding Yorkton to a hit and a walk with four strikeouts in six batters faced — before Connor Deeds took the rubber for the final out in the ninth.
Reliever Nelson Quark earned Saturday’s late-innings victory despite allowing three runs on four hits in the ninth, though starter Aaron Garner through a solid 6 and 1-3 innings before leaving the game with a 10-5 lead.
“The defence is really coming around as well as the pitching,” said Longley. “Our offence has been there all year, so it’s nice to kind of play a complete game on all faces.”
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