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BROADCAST INFO: Home games are streamed on Country 93.3.
HOME BALL PARK: Shell Place; opened in 2015; 1,700 capacity
The Giants had the fifth-highest attendance in the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL) last year, welcoming 14,207 fans through the turnstiles. That made for an average of 618 fans each night. It was down slightly from the 2016 season, where 17,732 fans came through with an average of 806 fans per game. But the numbers are hard to compare as the club was obviously affected by the 2016 wildfires, which forced the evacuation of the entire community until the beginning of June. The Giants weren’t able to host their home opener until the end of June.
It probably comes as no surprise that baseball is on the brain for the Giants’ mascot OGEE. He’s not only the original gamer for the Giants, but also the Oil Giants. With a smile on his face and a ballcap on his head, you can bet wherever baseball tomfoolery is, OGEE will be there.
SAVE THE DATES
- Sunday, June 3 vs. Lethbridge – Minor Sports Day – all youth in any minor sports uniform gets in for $2
- Tuesday, June 5 vs. Edmonton – Seniors Night – $5 off for all seniors
- Tuesday, June 19 vs. Medicine Hat – Father’s Day game
- Friday, June 22 vs. Medicine Hat – Ladies Night – $5 off admission for all ladies
- Thursday, June 28 vs. Edmonton – Teachers Appreciation Night – $5 off for all teachers
- Sunday, July 1 vs. Melville – Canada Day
- Monday, July 2 vs. Melville- First Responders Night – $5 off for all first responders
- Thursday, July 5 vs. Okotoks – Seniors Night – $5 for all seniors
- Friday, July 27 vs. Brooks – Fan Appreciation Night
View full schedule here.
PEANUTS & CRACKER JACK
The big ticket item this year will be the famous (or maybe it’s infamous) “Beer Batter” promotion making its debut at Shell Field.
“The beer will go on sale at two for $10 if and when the beer batter strikes out,” said Andrew Bradbury, coordinator of scouting and recruiting with the Giants.
TWO NEW BALLPARK FAVOURITES COMING TO GIANTS GAMES THIS SUMMER!
Thats right folks we will be having “Tacos in a bag” and soft serve Ice cream🍦 at every Giants home game this summer!
June 1st Giants take on the Lethbridge Bulls! Tickets available at https://t.co/ycIX7DKk2Y #YMM pic.twitter.com/UZy2JfQmD7
— Fort McMurray Giants (@FMMGIANTS) May 14, 2018
Another major change fans will notice is an expanded concession area, along with some new items like soft-serve ice cream, taco in a bag, slushies, and some specials like Wednesday Wing Nights.
Patrick Riley will be back at the helm for his second season with the Giants. He served as an assistant coach with the Westminster College Titans for the first time this spring. Before that, he was the pitching coach for the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vermont for two seasons. That experience will likely serve the Giants pitching staff well. As a player, Riley went to Castleton University, where he was an All-Conference and All-Academic performer.
A familiar face from his alma mater will serve as one of Riley’s assistant coaches. George Buteau is an assistant at Castleton, working with the school’s catchers and corner infielders. He played his college ball at St. Michael’s College, including two years as team captain.
Rounding out the coaching staff will be pitching coach Shelby Dixon. He just finished his second season as pitching coach at Olivet College. In his first year, Dixon helped the staff lower its ERA by 1.37 runs/game while also reducing the number of walks. Prior to that, Dixon was pitching coach at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky for two seasons.
In their second year of existence, the Giants managed to inch a little closer to a playoff spot. They finished the season with a 20-28 record, an improvement from a 16-32 debut campaign. And while they finished outside the playoff picture, they finished the year with a 7-3 record in their final ten games.
“We took a major step in the right direction and showed that we can compete,” Bradbury said, believing they could have been a playoff team if not for a 1-9 start to the season. “It was great to have largely the same team for the entire season, which showed us that we have a great program that players are willing to buy into.”
While the history of the team is short, the Giants have already seen one player selected in the Major League Baseball draft. Outfielder Justin Bridgman was taken in the 28th round by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2017 draft. After splitting last season between the Princeton Rays (Rookie League) and Hudson Valley Renegades (Single-A Short), Bridgman has moved onto the Charlotte Stone Crabs in the Florida State League to start 2018.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS SEASON
To say that they want to make a push for the playoffs in their third season would likely be an understatement for the Giants. But it starts with getting their first winning record for the season. But it’s more than that, according to Bradbury.
“We want to continue to promote hard work and grit in players and show an improved depth in talent in all positions,” he said.
The bottom line is to build on last season’s late success.
The fate of the Giants season may hinge on the strength of their starting rotation. The club is excited about having some familiar arms returning, including hometown ace Tyler Hodder. The right-hander went 6-2 with a 2.36 ERA in nine starts with the Giants last season, on his way to being a first-team all-star. Hodder followed that up with a strong campaign with Thompson Rivers University, going 2-2 with a 3.61 ERA over nine starts (several close no-decisions).
READ MORE: “The Battery”
Another big arm returning to the roster this year will be Tyler Moskalyk. The Thunder Bay native went 2-4 with a 4.92 ERA in nine starts with the Giants last season. He joined Hodder at TRU in the spring and went 2-3 with a 3.01 ERA in seven starts. None were bigger than a complete game victory over the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute Mariners, where he set the school record for most strikeouts in a game with 18.
The Giants will also be getting the services of pitcher Nik Cardinal back in the lineup. In a reliever’s role last season, the Bonnyville product saw 24 innings of work in 13 games, posting 22 strikeouts and one save. Cardinal started in 14 games for the Allan Hancock College Bulldogs in the spring, posting a 4-4 record with a 5.79 ERA, but also averaged more than 8 strikeouts a game.
We can’t wait to have Nick back for yet another season with the Giants!! June 1st is your first chance to see Nick and the rest of the Giants in action as they take on the Bulls! Tickets available online at https://t.co/ycIX7DKk2Y or at the re opened Shellplace now office! #YMM https://t.co/SvXWPJLvyN
— Fort McMurray Giants (@FMMGIANTS) May 18, 2018
Finally, another couple of local products will be back in the lineup again. One is another TRU product in catcher Josh Iannetti. He hit .254 with a home run and four RBIs in 30 games with the Giants last season. In 14 games for the Wolfpack this spring, Iannetti hit .250 while splitting the backstop duties with Connor Mackenzie.
The other will be Ryan Dunn, who spent the spring with the University of Calgary. Dunn is listed as a pitcher, but has become known for his versatility in playing third base as well. Both he and Iannetti will be looked upon to provide a veteran presence for the young Giants squad.
“With 22 new players, you will have to check out our roster on our website for all the details,” Bradbury joked.
He’s not lying about the variety fans will see on the roster, with players coming from all corners of Canada and the United States. The infield will be a complete change of pace. A couple of Canadian products are on the roster, including Toronto’s Zachary Koroneos, who played the spring with Penn State Harrisburg, where he hit .323 with three home runs and 30 RBIs.
Meet your Giants!!
Continues with first baseman Zachary Koroneos!
Zak comes to the Giants after a pair of great seasons at Penn state Harrisburg. Over those season Zak has hit for a .325 avg also slugging 8 homers, and 13 doubles!
Come on out for the Home opener June 1st! #YMM pic.twitter.com/OmvSzAxETG
— Fort McMurray Giants (@FMMGIANTS) May 15, 2018
The other Canadian is another TRU recruit Liam Rihela, who hit .321 with eight stolen bases and 17 RBIs as the Wolfpack shortstop.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The obvious focus will be on the pitching staff. Hodder and Moskalyk are the two to keep an eye on, according to Bradbury.
“Tyler has always been a workhorse but has really found his strikeout pitch this season,” he said, pointing to Moskalyk leading the Canadian College Baseball Conference in strikeouts.
The club is also high on new recruit Jalin McMillan. A 39th round pick in the 2015 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox, the Chicago native spent two seasons with the University of Illinois Fighting Illini.
— Illini Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) June 1, 2016
“He’s a strong third baseman with plus power and is a plus defender,” Bradbury said.
KEY REASONS TO GO TO THE BALLPARK THIS SEASON
Growth will be the name of the game for the Giants as they look to build on the momentum from the latter part of the 2017 season. With some added excitement about the on-field product, club officials are hoping to equal it with the off-field product as well.
“With our great theme nights, improved concessions and a team built to win with so many great players from great programs, this will be the best summer yet for the Giants,” Bradbury beamed. “Not to mention summer nights at the ballpark in Fort McMurray are amazing!”