It was a celebration of Alberta baseball’s best that was years in the making.
For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, Baseball Alberta was able to host its annual general meeting and awards gala in-person in Edmonton November 11-13.
Not held in 2020 and held virtually in 2021, the event allowed the organization to recognize the outstanding achievements of athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers who helped the game return to normal in 2022.
PHOTO GALLERY: 2022 Baseball Alberta Awards
It was also held in conjunction with the Baseball Canada annual convention and awards, which saw a pair of Albertans recognized for their commitment to the game.
The November 12th gala began with the national awards being handed out, and it featured an emotional moment early on.
The family of Alberta umpire Mitch Ball accepted the 2022 Baseball Canada Lifelong Umpiring Award.
Ball passed away in 2021 after a battle with COVID-19.
“Mitch was everything you wanted in an umpire: educated, firm but fair, and someone who had the respect of players, coaches, and fellow umpires alike,” said a Baseball Canada statement.
“Most of all, he was an amazing friend whose impact on others will be felt for a long time.”
READ MORE: Baseball Canada honours its best in 2022
Spruce Grove’s Ellie Jespersen was also recognized on the national stage by being named the Women’s National Team Most Valuable Player.
“Ellie was a spark at the top of the batting order and she solidified herself as one of the team’s top performers at the Friendship Series in Thunder Bay, hitting .375 and recording hits in all five games,” the statement continued.
“She has quickly established herself as a key piece of the squad playing second base and hitting leadoff, which bodes well for Team Canada for years to come.”
Among the other winners:
- Baseball Canada Volunteer of the Year Award – Regan L’Heureux (Saskatchewan)
- Lionel Ruhr Elite Coach of the Year Award – Ashley Stephenson (Ontario)
- Dick Willis Memorial Award for Umpire of the Year – Philip McGee (Saskatchewan)
- Ashley Stephenson Award – Alli Schroder (BC)
- Junior National Team MVP – Myles Naylor (Ontario)
- Province of the Year Award – Baseball Manitoba
RUN OF THE MILLAR
Then it was onto the Baseball Alberta awards and a familiar name was once again called early in the evening.
Coming off winning the 2021 President’s Award, St. Albert Minor Baseball Association head instructor Kurtus Millar was named the 2022 Ted Rudd Minor Coach of the Year.
“I was shocked but really happy and excited when I heard I was winning the award,” Millar told Alberta Dugout Stories.
“Knowing how many coaches we have out there busting their butts and giving their time for our kids, it was really awesome.”
He accepted the award from Baseball Alberta technical director Sheen Bromley, who coached Millar and became a mentor in giving back to the community.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have been surrounded by some really great coaches, my parents and people including my coaching staff this year,” Millar continued.
“I couldn’t have done it without them and I dedicate this award to all of them.”
A driving force in Edmonton’s baseball community and the namesake for Baseball Alberta’s Builders Award, Wally Footz was in attendance for the festivities.
Getting to see the long-time baseball staple provided a special moment for the latest winner of the award.
“He has been such an important part of baseball in this province, and although we have had lots of handshakes at plate meetings over the years, it was an honour to stand on stage with him,” said Parkland Minor Baseball’s Kevin Inch.
“Baseball has been such an important foundation to my life and coaching was almost therapy for me when my playing career ended.”
He said baseball has been part of his identity for a long time and receiving the award made him think back to all of the players, coaches, parents and umpires he’s worked with along the way, including 2016 award winner Chris James.
“He has been my mentor in my coaching,” Inch told Alberta Dugout Stories.
“I have so much respect for him and what he has done for baseball in this province, so it is an honour to be on a list with him and the other previous recipients.”
A pair of major awards went to Sherwood Park Minor Baseball Association officials, with Heather Verhoeven being named the Volunteer of the Year while the Lifetime Member inductee was long-time umpire and official Corrie Davis.
The 2022 President’s Award was given to Renae Clarke of Red Deer Minor Baseball.
Among the other award winners:
- Junior Umpire of the Year – Ty Hogland (Camrose)
- Murray Service Umpire of the Year – Graham Grieder (Edmonton)
- Umpire Hall of Fame – Don Buskas (Edmonton)
- Baseball Canada Grassroots Coaching Award for the Province of Alberta – Trevor Anquist (Irma)
- Coach Developer Award – Desmond Boutillier (Innisfail)
- Off-Field Manager of the Year ‘A’ – Angela Noel (St. Paul)
- Off-Field Manager of the Year ‘AA’ – Danielle Fehr (Edmonton)
- Off-Field Manager of the Year ‘AAA’ – Michelle O’How (Cochrane)
- Ron Hayter Bursary – Jason Serafinchon (St. Albert), Brendan Wabick (Edmonton), Alexander Erumbe (Edmonton)
- Millie Warwick McAuley/Betty Carveth Dunn Bursary – Brynlee Rice (Olds)
- Gordie Wilson Memorial Award – Easton Kitura (Parkland)
- Carl Linden Bursary – Carter Liske (St. Albert)
- Bob White Memorial Scholarship – Connor Baumgarten (Calgary)
- Doris Taylor Scholarship – Cleary Simpson (Red Deer)
- 11U ‘A’ Player of the Year – Maddux Laing (Slave Lake Heat)
- 11U ‘AA’ Player of the Year – Caleb Jorgensen (Black Gold 47s Gold)
- 13U ‘A’ Player of the Year – Michael Sims (Innisfail Hawks)
- 13U ‘AA’ Player of the Year – Asher Rodzinyak (Red Deer Braves)
- 13U ‘AAA’ Player of the Year – Ronan Johnson (Parkland Twins)
- 14U Girls Player of the Year – Brooke Forslund (Team Alberta)
- 15U ‘A’ Player of the Year – Taylor Fankhanel (Bashaw Bandits)
- 15U ‘AA’ Player of the Year – Ava Greiner (Stettler Storm)
- 15U ‘AAA’ Player of the Year – Preston Tocheniuk (Okotoks Dawgs Black)
- 16U Girls Player of the Year – Julianna Scott (Team Alberta)
- 18U ‘A’ Player of the Year – Mac Hillestad (Davisburg Sodbusters)
- 18U ‘AA’ Player of the Year – Zach Crough (Black Gold 47s Gold)
- 18U ‘AAA’ Player of the year – Gavin Galenza (Red Deer Car Star Braves)
- Women’s Open Player of the Year – Madison Willan (Team Alberta)
- Small Association of the Year – Thorsby Minor Baseball
- Medium Association of the Year – Rocky & District Minor Baseball
- Large Association of the Year – Beaumont Minor Baseball
EYES TO THE FUTURE
With the eyes of Canada’s baseball world on our province over the weekend, organizers didn’t disappoint.
Several took to social media to voice their thanks for an outstanding event, while Millar, who also serves as Baseball Alberta vice-president, says he received a ton of compliments and positive feedback.
He believes a lot of the credit should go towards new executive director Danielle Moffat and her staff, adding she was instrumental in the development of St. Albert Minor Baseball for years and are excited to see her grow the game at the provincial and national level.
“She made Baseball Alberta look like rock stars,” he said.
“Danielle is one of those people who is always working in the background and always gets missed. Her and her staff really deserve some recognition, and she is already making positive change to make baseball in this province even better.”
Their focus now shifts to growing the game even further as we head into 2023.