February 28th, 2024

Switch in store for Mavericks: Medicine Hat moved to East Division in busy weekend league meetings

By Medicine Hat News on October 30, 2019.

NEWS FILE PHOTO
Medicine Hat Mavericks third baseman Collin Klingensmith (10) celebrates with teammate PJ Garcia after hitting a home run in August at Athletic Park. Medicine Hat will shift from to the Western Canadian Baseball League's East Division for the 2020 season.

For the first time in their 16-year history, the Medicine Hat Mavericks are switching divisions.

Team owner Greg Morrison confirmed the move Tuesday, following the Western Canadian Baseball League’s meetings this past weekend.

“We’re evolving with the times,” said Morrison, who bought the team in 2008.

The move was forced because two teams won’t be around in 2020 to play. Both Yorkton and Melville have taken a one-year leave of absence. That would have left the East Division with four teams and the West still with six. Medicine Hat will compete in the East in 2020.

Morrison is quick to note the new five-team divisional alignment comes with another major change to ensure rivalries such as the ones between the Mavs and Lethbridge still flourish.

“A 56-game schedule, we will be playing eight games against Regina, Weyburn, Moose Jaw and Swift, then we tailored it so you’re going to play some teams closer to you a little more whether they’re in the division or not. So we’re playing Lethbridge six times, Okotoks four times, Edmonton four, Fort McMurray four and Brooks six.”

So while Medicine Hat will see much more of new division rival Swift Current, they still get games down Highway 3 and save money with fewer marathon trips to Fort McMurray.

“To me it’s an evolution I guess, some of the smaller markets (leaving),” said Morrison. “What does the future hold?

“You’ve got two taking a year off, you’ve got a new one coming. Time will tell, it is what it is unfortunately.”

It was a busy weekend for league governors in Weyburn, as award winners were announced, a new team was confirmed and one other restructured its ownership.

Lethbridge’s Kaleb Warden was the WCBL’s most valuable player, an obvious choice as he was first in RBI (66), tied for second in home runs (12) and sixth in batting average (.369). Bizarrely, however, he was only a second-team all-star.

No Mavericks were named to either first- or second-team all-star rosters, which were dominated by the two teams in the league finals. Okotoks, which won the championship, had one first-team star and four on the second team. Regina, the runner-up, had seven of the 15 first-team stars and four more on the second team.

Swift Current (six), Weyburn (four), Lethbridge (two) and Edmonton (two) were the only other teams represented, with Fort McMurray, Brooks, Moose Jaw, Yorkton and Melville all joining Medicine Hat with zero all-stars.

Okotoks’ Tristan Peters was named playoff MVP, rookie and Canadian rookie of the year, his league-leading .396 batting average doing most of the talking there. Swift Current’s Joe Carnahan got coach of the year honours, while top executive awards were given to Pat Cassidy of Edmonton and Darryl Pisio of Moose Jaw.

Morrison wouldn’t say anything negative about the all-star picks, instead noting that Nolan Rattai, Austin Sojka and Flynn Ridley all represented the team at the all-star game July 7 in Edmonton.

“It’s a pretty short season, to me the all-star game was the big addition this year and we had several players on that team,” said Morrison, who has since hired Rattai as assistant general manager.

There is a new team on the league’s horizon, as Sylvan Lake is building a new ballpark and has been granted an expansion franchise for 2021.

For that reason, plus the uncertainty of the league’s future in Yorkton and Melville, Morrison sees next year’s division structure being temporary.

In Brooks, the Bombers announced a plan to sell the team to a new not-for-profit organization run out of the city. The previous ownership group known as Hard 4 Sports Entertainment will transfer ownership as part of a six-year plan – Hard 4 Sports is also behind the new team in Sylvan Lake.

Morrison said a half-dozen Mavs are already committed to returning next summer, though the team is still looking for a new head coach.

He also said the league has adopted international rules for extra innings, putting runners on first and second base to start every half-inning beyond the ninth.

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