By Ryan McCracken on May 17, 2018.
The Medicine Hat Moose Monarchs and K of C Knights are set to throw out the first pitch in their respective American Legion Baseball seasons with the near-identical coaching staffs and a wealth of returning talent.
While Medicine Hat will be without the Majestics this season due to a lack of players, director of operations Lovell McDonnell says they were happy to field a B-level team for the past few seasons and will continue to benefit from it for the next couple of years.
“We went through a period of four years where we had large registrations, where we knew there was a group moving through … It’s part of a planned move we did. We didn’t plan to have a third team once we got through that registration,” said McDonnell, adding many of last year’s Majestics will suit up with the Knights this season. “Several of our Knights players are Majestics from last year, almost half of the roster.”
McDonnell added he’s thrilled to have retained the majority of last year’s coaching staff. Skyler Stromsmoe is back to coach the AA Monarchs with fellow returnees Adam Moser and Austin Schibler, while Knights head coach Lane Aman and assistant Intek Hong will be joined by former Monarchs player Ryan Fauth this season.
“That’s something I’m quite happy about, is that we’re able to have homegrown coaches who have gone on to do some college baseball somewhere,” said McDonnell. “In the case of Skyler, he’s someone who has played nine years of professional baseball, so to be able to have someone like that come back and be the coach, that’s great. In earlier years we were bringing in coaches from other communities or U.S. coaches to fill those because there was a void in our community.”
Aman added the advantages stretch past the sentimental as well. Aman, Hong and Fauth all played Legion ball with the Monarch in recent years, and that experience has provided them with some insight into how other clubs function.
“It helps knowing what to expect from different teams and being familiar with the league,” said Aman. “(Intek and I) were together last year so there’s a lot of similar philosophies and whatnot. And Ryan I played with in Monarchs for two or three years so I’m real close with Ryan as well and I think we’re a good team together.”
Aman added the Knights will be a younger squad this year, but one that boasts some serious potential on the diamond.
“We’ll be young this year, that’s for sure. We’ll have I think eight players from the Majestics,” he said. “We have a lot of potential, for sure. It’ll be a big jump for some guys coming to this league but there’s tons of potential and I think there will be lots of improvement throughout the year and I really expect us to be competitive.”
While the Monarchs only have three players returning to the roster this season, many of their new recruits enter the team after spending last year with the Knights, and Stromsmoe says he’s looking forward to getting out on the diamond with everyone for their season-opening tournament in Vauxhall.
“There’s 11 new guys and obviously I know who they are but it will be nice to coach them and see what they can do,” said Stromsmoe, adding Braydon Pudwell, Jack Suhai and Will Sharpe will return to the roster. “The good thing is all three of those guys did play college ball as well. They played at a higher level so hopefully they come back here and this should maybe seem easier for him, I’d hope, and they can bring some of their leadership to the younger guys.”
While recent Legion squads have featured a larger number of players from the McCoy Colts, this year’s pair of roster features talent from all areas of Medicine Hat and Dunmore, including the Eagle Butte Talons, Crescent Heights Vikings and Hat High Mohawks — who opened a baseball academy last year.
“I think with the academy being made at Hat High, a lot of the baseball guys are going there now. So it may be the start of a trend where instead of lots more McCoy players, it could be lots more Hat High guys,” said Stromsmoe. “I think it’s a good mix, I think that’s the way it should be. There should be players from all over.”
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