Dedicated

By JOE McFARLAND

They are the faces you see every time you pull up to a baseball diamond.

On the field, they are organizing or giving advice to young athletes. Off the field, they are slinging hot dogs and beer in the concessions, selling 50/50 tickets in the stands, or billeting a student or two during the Western Canadian Baseball League season.

They are parents, coaches, fans, and volunteers. And the province’s baseball community wouldn’t be what it is without their amazing work.

They are so involved in the game that it is hard to believe any juicy secret could be kept from them. And yet, that’s exactly what played out in July.

Months in the making, the St. Albert Minor Baseball Association’s new fieldhouse was ready to be unveiled during the Blue Jays Super Camp Field of Dreams ceremony. What President Kurtus Millar didn’t know, is that it would be called the Millar Field House.

“It was pretty surreal to be honest,” Millar told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.

The five-term SAMBA president is quick to single out the different groups who made it all happen and all of those who were in attendance, including the Challenger Program athletes and the 18U squad.

There was one moment in particular where he realized that emotions were going to take over.

“I was doing okay until I saw a tear go down my dad’s cheek and then I kinda … lost it,” Millar laughed. “It was an amazing day and I was honoured by what the association did.”

FIELD OF DREAMS

Legion Memorial Park has been a home away from home for Millar for nearly 30 years.

After moving to St. Albert from Peace River in 1990, he made an instant connection with the local baseball community. He admits moving into a new community at the age of 11 could have been more difficult, if not for baseball.

“I got here and my teammates were awesome,” Millar reminisced. “They treated me like I was part of the family from day one.”

As he made his way from the peewee AAA Cardinals to the rep program and then onto the junior and senior AAA Tigers, his love for the community’s baseball scene grew. When his playing days were done, he wanted to continue his involvement after watching his parents do everything they could for SAMBA.

“I watched my mom work 50 bingos to fundraise to pave that driveway and my dad down there coaching me and my brother every day,” Millar smiled. “Just to see the amount of work that goes into it, you don’t appreciate it fully as a kid.”

That’s when he decided to give back himself, serving on the executive and is now president of the largest baseball association in Alberta.

NOT THE ONLY ONE

When people are as involved in an organization like Millar is with SAMBA, it’s almost impossible to keep a secret from them.

Almost.

That same hush-hush work was also being done in Calgary over the summer, as the Foothills Major Baseball League prepared for its 40th anniversary celebrations.

Planned for August 31, an official ceremony would be held prior to the league’s All Star Game at Airways Park. But behind the scenes, organizers were planning on a special presentation to one of their original members.

Glen Hansen has done everything with the league, from coaching all the way up to four terms as league president.

“I wasn’t a very good hockey player and there were only so many guys in our town who played sports, so I took up basketball and baseball,” the Coronation native told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “And I stuck with it.”

After moving to Calgary, he started umpiring with the Rocky View League and was eventually approached to work with the new league as a coach.

“I said not a chance,” Hansen remembered before finally bending to the pressure a few months later.

In 40 years, he has accummulated a Major League Baseball stadium full of memories, but he never would have imagined he would see the day where the ball park he spent many days at would be named after him.

“I was very surprised and very honoured,” he beamed. “There are a lot of guys who helped with the park and the league, but I guess I’ve been around since the start. I’ve spent a lot of time there.”

LEGACY

Time flies when you are having fun and for both Millar and Hansen, baseball is just a game at the end of the day.

It probably goes without saying, but both were humbled by this summer’s recognition. The thought of seeing their family names on the facilities they have spent so much time in leaves them both speechless.

The plaque at the new Glen Hansen Field reads “the name of this field represents your commitment to our league, your legacy and impact on baseball in Calgary, and your love of the game.”

The namesake is proud of so much when he thinks about passing by the field now.

“It’s really hard to put into words,” Hansen said. “It’s just pride, ya know?”

Millar shares that sentiment, looking towards that new building.

“I’m not too sure how to describe it,” he stated. “It stands out as this big, awesome, blue building with the white ‘Millar’ on there and the giant Cardinals sign.”

The cherry on top is that he’s also watching his two sons, Easton and Everitt, play the game which means they will be visiting even more.

“It looks so cool when you’re driving down there and you think, ‘Man, this is awesome,'” the proud father beams. “This is … this is just awesome.”

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