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BROADCAST INFO: Watch games live stream on YouTube
HOME BALL PARK: Athletic Park; opened in 1977; 2,000 seat capacity (upgrades in 2016 and 2017)
Nestled in Medicine Hat’s downtown core right beside the South Saskatchewan River, Athletic Park is a favourite place to visit on a hot sunny day. The Mavericks drew the fourth-most fans among all teams in the WMBL, finishing the year with 17,656 people strolling through the turnstiles (average of 736 per game). That number was down from over 20,000 in 2016, but is right on par with the previous few seasons.
Mavericks fans have also gained the attention of Ballpark Digest, which dives into the numbers for the summer collegiate baseball attendance. Medicine Hat ranks 90th among all teams in North America.
With Monty, horsin’ around is kind of expected. Joining the Mavericks in 2010, Monty came to Medicine Hat from Sarasota, Florida. And while the heat is nothing new for him, the Mavs’ mascot might not have known what he was getting into when he signed up to gallop around the basepaths with kids after Sunday games. You can also be certain that when it comes to community events, Monty will be striding along with the club.
SAVE THE DATES
- Thursday, May 31 – Home Opener vs. Brooks
- Friday, June 1 – Co-Op Pack the Park vs. Brooks
- Friday, June 8 – Bark in the Park vs. Moose Jaw
- Thursday, June 14 – Stuff the Truck for the Medicine Hat & District Health Foundation vs. Okotoks
- Sunday, June 17 – Plaid for Dad vs. Fort McMurray
- Sunday, July 1 – Canada Day vs. Swift Current
- Saturday, July 7 – Medicine Hat News Pack the Park vs. Edmonton
- Saturday, July 14 – Super Hero Night vs. Fort McMurray
- Friday, July 20 – Girl Power Night vs. Brooks
- Sunday, July 22 – Servus Credit Union Pack the Park vs. Brooks
View the Mavericks’ full schedule here.
PEANUTS & CRACKER JACK
Local has always been the name of the game with the Mavericks. Whether it’s bringing in local players and coaches in the past, or getting local businesses to support the team, the club is on it.
Food and drinks will be no different. One of the favourites has become the Mushroom Swiss Burger, with all patties provided by Reg’s Meats.
Shout out to our 2018 #beer and #cider sponsors!! Giving #medhat fans some great options at #AthleticPark this summer @MolsonCoors @BigRockBrewery @HellsBasementMH @MHBrewCo pic.twitter.com/akj10kCmWC
— MedHat Mavericks (@mhmavericks) May 23, 2018
The Mavericks will also have several beer and cider sponsors, including locals Hell’s Basement Brewery and Medicine Hat Brewing Co. The Mavericks are also touting their Grandslam Drink, which features watermelon, 7UP, cranberry juice and watermelon vodka. Needless to say, no shortage of ways to wet your whistle on those sweltering hot days in the Athletic Park sun.
The Mavericks will be headed up by bench boss Andrew Murphy, who was an assistant with the squad in 2017. He just finished his fourth year with the Henderson State baseball program, helping the Reddies infielders as well as working on hitting and recruiting. As a player, Murphy played four seasons at second base with Oklahoma Weleyan University.
Another familiar face on the bench for the Mavericks will be assistant general manager and pitching coach Kyle Swannack. He held the pitching coach role during the Mavericks’ championship run in 2014, as well as in 2015 and 2017. He’s previously served as pitching coach with Tacoma Community College and Central Washington University. His playing career including a two-year varsity stint with Washington State University.
An interesting name on the staff will be Fehlandt Lentini. A former Calgary Vipers teammate of Mavericks’ owner Greg Morrison, Lentini spent 18 years playing baseball, most recently with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. He also played with the Vipers in 2005 and 2009. The outfielder was known for his base-stealing and high batting average, things he will be tasked with coaching this season.
The Mavericks found themselves in a dogpile behind the Okotoks Dawgs in the WMBL West Division. They ended up in third place, tying Lethbridge with a 27-21 record, while Edmonton was 24-24. Yet, the Mavericks were able to unseat the Bulls in the first round before falling to the Prospects in the division final.
“Last year was a fun rollercoaster of very long games and tough grinding from blue-collar players,” Swannack told Alberta Dugout Stories. “We were obviously bummed we didn’t make it to the championship against Swift Current, but I think we just ran out of fuel and arms.”
When looking around Athletic Park, you will find a couple of odes to previous championship seasons. Winning titles in 2003 and 2014, particularly the most recent one, figure prominently in the minds of Mavericks’ fans and players as they hope to get back to the promised land.
Playoffs are a familiar sight for the Mavericks, who have been past the first round in nine of their last ten seasons. The players have been able to use that experience as well, with about 15 Mavs alums moving on to play affiliated or independent league baseball over the years.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS SEASON
No different than the expectations placed on the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers, excellence is the barometer for the WMBL’s Mavericks, which is why they once again went all over North America to recruit talent.
“Our expectations for this season are we want to get to that championship game and win the title to get the ring,” Swannack said.
You can’t fault him for that mindset after the success the team has had over the past decade. Swannack feels they have the right mix of familiar and fresh faces to challenge for a title. And while he expects the batting order to be strong, it’s on the mound where the team’s strength lies.
“Our pitching will be something to watch this summer,” Swannack stated. “A little veteran presence, with some hungry young arms as well.”
The Mavericks will have plenty of experience to draw from when they suit up this season and it starts with a couple of Alberta products.
Calgary’s Jaxson Hooge is coming off an all-star calibre spring, hitting .382 with nine home runs and 57 runs batted in 52 games for the Tabor College Blue Jays. The outfielder was a .279 hitter for the Mavs last season, including two home runs and 13 RBIs in 34 games.
Congrats to Abdiel Alicea, Jaxson Hooge, Mitchell McIntrye and Tommy Sleva for being selected for 1st Team All-KCAC!! pic.twitter.com/7L78xvWtz2
— TaborCollegeBaseball (@TaborBaseball) May 2, 2018
A couple of locals will also dot the lineup again. Pitcher Nathan Stark will be looking to make more of an impact with the club after appearing in ten games for the Mavericks last season, sporting a 4.10 ERA. Stark was a part of the Canadian-stacked Colby Community College squad this spring, where he struck out 21 batters in 18 innings of work.
The other local is Nolan Rattai. He didn’t play with the Mavericks in 2017, but was viewed as a big part of a solid team in 2016, as he hit .345 with 32 RBIs in 46 games. He’s coming off a decent junior year with Northern Kentucky University, where he hit .235 in 32 games.
Swannack said the Mavericks are also hoping to have pitchers Jared Libke and Barry Caine back in the fold, as well as infielders Rock Jordan, Louie Canjura and catcher Colton Wright.
While local is always a good thing in the minds of Mavericks, they will also be looking to show off an international recruit.
Jumpei Akanuma will be the Mavs’ first player to come from Japan. The Kyoto product pitched with Lee University this spring, posting a 5-4 record with a 5.02 ERA.
The new bench boss has also been able to exercise his recruiting muscles by bringing one of his college products north of the border. 1B/OF Zack Gray hit .323 in nine games as a senior with the Reddies. While he didn’t get in as many games as he would have wanted, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Hamilton, Ohio native has been known to pack a punch at the plate.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Swannack believes Hooge, Libke, and Akanuma will be forces for the Mavericks this year. But a few other players may likely turn some heads.
David Salgueiro was a hitting machine for the Mavericks last season, posting a .374 average with nine doubles and three triples. He spent his senior college season with Central Methodist University, where the stats were also impressive. He hit .313 with three more three-baggers and 19 stolen bases, so expect Salgueiro at the top of the batting order again.
A Friends University pitching combo will also try to make their presence felt in Medicine Hat. Senior right-hander Sean Cruz posted a 2.96 ERA in 22 appearances with the Falcons, striking out 27 batters. He will be joined by junior right-hander Alex Dafoe, whose ERA was higher at 5.89, but he managed to punch out 15 batters in 18 innings of work.
KEY REASONS TO GO TO THE BALLPARK THIS SEASON
It probably goes without saying that “local” is even the focus here. Swannack says Athletic Park has been great for community engagement, as a place for friends to meet up and enjoy a night out.
The team has always cultivated great business partnerships throughout the community, particularly with its “Pack the Park” nights. And with a winning track record over the past few years and the optimism surrounding the squad, fans are likely to welcome a familiar brand of baseball back this summer.