Confederation Park was hopping on Saturday afternoon as the Cranbrook Bandits Senior ‘A’ team hosted some of the program’s alumni in a friendly 10-inning wood bat game.
The second edition of the annual challenge, the alumni once again came out on top, pulling off a 10-6 win in a close and competitive outing. While the ‘A’ team showcased some quality pitching, the ‘old guys’ proved that they still had a lot left in the tank.
“[It was a] great afternoon,” said Bandits head coach Paul Mrazek. “The alumni loved it, it was good for the fans [and] our guys were a little more relaxed than last year.
“They still have to relax a little more. We can beat this team, but they’ve just got to execute a couple of plays.”
A very close score through the early innings, the alumni team pounded in four runs in the fifth to make it a 5-1 game. While the Bandits came back in the sixth to bring it to with two runs, the alumni continued to bring the heat as the evening wound down and the Seniors stayed stuck at 6 runs.
According to Ryley Hunter, the president of the alumni association and a former standout Bandits player, it felt great to get the win.
“Once the score starts getting close, the competitor in you comes out,” Hunter laughed. “You see that you still want to win. Even after all these years, you don’t want to walk away losing.”
Overall, however, he said that the game was a great experience and that it was a blast to see old friends and teammates, some of whom travelled from as far away as Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
“There are a few people that we haven’t seen in 15 or 16 years, so it’s really nice to be able to hang out, hash old memories out and have some laughs,” Hunter said. “Looking back after all these years [you realize] that those [Bandits years] were some of the most fun times in your life.
“When you go on to college and other types of baseball, it’s just not the same feeling as your hometown with all your old friends.”
Hunter is one of many alumni players who continued on in baseball after their time with the Bandits came to an end. A 2003-graduate of the program, he went on to play for Whitworth College in Spokane.
While Hunter’s era was well-represented on the alumni side, the team also had several players who were in the opposing dugout just the year before. Jake Bromley, Rylan D’Etcheverry and Cedar Kemp all made their returns just a single season after moving on.
Bromley played for Thompson River University in Kamloops this past year, D’Etcheverry with Lake Region State College in North Dakota, while Tyler Thorn just completed his second season with the University of Calgary Dinos.
Following the game, an alumni golf tournament was held on Sunday afternoon adding another element to what Mrazek and Hunter hope is an annual event that continues to grow to new heights.
“There are quite a few guys who are going to bring their campers down next year and make it a whole weekend thing,” Hunter said. “We really want to make the golf tournament grow, not only just with the alumni, but in the community. We want to raise some money for the Bandits.
“These guys do a lot of work around the community [and] we want to try and help them raise some money for fieldwork or whatever they need the money for.”
With their exhibition season now wrapped up, the Senior Bandits will have two weeks of practice before beginning their American Legion Montana League conference play on June 15. Starting the season on the road, the Bandits have a doubleheader in Kalispell against the Lakers, before returning on Saturday afternoon to play the Mission Valley Mariners and then playing the Bitterroot Bucs on Sunday.