June 25th, 2024

Mavs season gets underway today

By JAMES TUBB on May 23, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Athletic Park sits waiting Wednesday for the Medicine Hat Mavericks season to get underway. The Western Canadian Baseball League team starts training camp Thursday ahead of the season opener Saturday at Moose Jaw against the Miller Express.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

The grass has been cut, jerseys waiting to be worn and hot dogs ready to be grilled: Medicine Hat Mavericks baseball is right around the corner at Athletic Park.

The local Western Canadian Baseball League team gets season preparations underway today with the first of a two-day mini camp getting started ahead of the season opener Saturday at Moose Jaw against the Miller Express.

Returning head coach Kevin Mitchell made it back to Medicine Hat on Tuesday, his first time back in the city following the Mavs losing Game 3 of the WCBL finals to the Okotoks Dawgs on Aug. 17.

Mitchell started last season as pitching coach before taking over as the main bench boss when Mark Goodman left for a pro opportunity in late June. Entering his first full season as head coach, Mitchell says his excitement level is off the charts.

“Coming back with some familiarity of how everything works, where things are and seeing some familiar faces has been awesome,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got guys trickling in, the energy is great. The guys we have here already are super excited, the guys we have coming are super excited. It’s going to be a really special group.”

The Mavs return with four returning players, infielders Brady Bean, Tyler Vanneste and Johnny Vulcano, and outfielder Brady Gardner. Former Mavs infielder Tory Nelson has returned as a member of the coaching staff.

Mitchell, who is the reigning WCBL coach of the year, has a feeling of confidence entering this season compared to last because of the familiarity he has with some players and what Medicine Hat and the Mavericks are about.

“I was so plugged in the last six months to everything going on in the league. I have a pretty good idea what we’re up against and what other teams have and that preparation will serve us well.”

The one difference for the Mavs’ skipper is his left hand is a little heavier after getting married last fall. Mitchell married his then fiancée Katie O’Donnell on Sept. 21 and the two were able to enjoy a honeymoon in Italy before he dove back into baseball in Summit County, Colo., and in preparation for the Mavs season.

He says the support he has from his now wife makes everything else he does possible.

“I had a moment in (the coaches’ office) yesterday, me and Tory and Brody, we’re standing here and I said, ‘Did we even leave,'” Mitchell joked. “The married life has been great, not much has changed – in a good way – our relationship is very much the same. Katie and I communicate really well. This is hard without a doubt, this is hard being away this long but I think because of the way we communicate and the way we build each other up is what makes it possible, and she’ll be home working her summer job that she loves, hanging out with the dog and doing Colorado things, which is awesome. Meanwhile I’m up here coaching baseball, so it’s great.”

Looking back before they can move forward, Mitchell says the WCBL finals loss to the Dawgs has been on his mind over the winter when it came to recruiting, as he helped put together a team he believes can get over the hump they fell short of last season and deliver Medicine Hat its first championship since 2018.

When he looks back on the playoff run as a whole, Mitchell feels nothing but proud of what they were able to achieve.

“I love that team, I absolutely love that team and they love each other and that’s why we had so much success,” Mitchell said. “It’s definitely sunk in, but again, the word is proud. I’m just proud of that group. Obviously, it didn’t end the way that we wanted it to. But I told them right after that game, it only ends the right way for one team and unfortunately that was not us.”

As camp gets underway today and runs Friday in preparation for the season-opening series in Moose Jaw on Saturday and Sunday, Mitchell says he’s just looking for the group to buy-in to his philosophies of baseball and start building a bond he hopes will carry them through the summer to collect that ultimate prize.

“Those are the things that’ll show up in July and August,” Mitchell said. “In terms of the reps, it’s just getting the body loose, getting to know each other, helping them feel comfortable. I want to see a lot of energy, I want to see what kind of passion we have for the game and stuff like that. But what would ultimately be a statistical standpoint, I’m not too concerned about how things go. I want guys to get out there and let it fly.”

The Mavs’ home opener is Wednesday, May 29 against the WCBL’s newest franchise, the Saskatoon Berries.

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