Spring is in the air and that means another exciting summer of Giants baseball is just around the corner.
The Fort McMurray Giants kick off their 2019 season in the Western Canadian Baseball League May 29th when they head to Brooks to take on the Bombers.
The Giants are entering their fourth year in the WCBL and are hoping the lessons they’ve learned over the previous three seasons will help propel them into the franchises first post-season berth.
A lot of changes to this Giants team this summer and the biggest addition is Manager Ray Brown who replaces Pat Riley who managed the club the past two years.
Brown led the Edmonton Prospects to back-to-back WCBL final appearances in 2016 and 2017 and has been a huge part of growing the game of baseball in Alberta since the 1970s.
Originally from Long Beach, California, Brown moved to Edmonton in 1975 to finish off his playing career and in 1977 took his first coaching job in Canada as the Manager of the Edmonton Tigers of the Alberta Major Baseball League.
After five seasons with the Prospects, Brown reached out to Giants Owner & President Dutche Iannetti about the possibility of coaching the Giants and it didn’t take long for both sides to reach an agreement.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Brown. “Andrew (Bradbury) has put together a great team for us and it’s going to be a great summer.”
The Giants finished in fifth place in the Western Division for a third straight year last summer. The club had an up and down season and ended up missing the playoffs by two games with a 17-31 record.
“I play the kind of baseball that I played when I was a kid. We like the hit and run, we like to steal, we like to bunt, we like the homerun we don’t shy away from that but we like to play small ball, find a run anyway we can,” said Brown about the style of baseball he likes to coach and will be bringing to the Giants this summer.
The Giants had a strong pitching staff last summer and will once again be led by Fort McMurrayite Tyler Hodder and Bonnyville, AB native Nik Cardinal. Hodder is coming off another strong season at Thompson Rivers University while Cardinal has showed great strides this past year at Fresno State.
Brown has also brought Rich Walker over from the Prospects. Walker pitched a perfect game against the Giants last summer at Shell Place. Having lots of strong arms will be instrumental this season as the league expanded from a 48 game schedule to 56 games this season.
“I don’t care how hard a guy can throw, I care can he throw strikes. If he can throw strikes, he can pitch for me so we get a lot of strike throwers,” said Brown. “They hit the ball and we get an out and that’s how we can be successful.”
The Giants will also have some familiar faces throughout their line-up as Max Hewitt and Richard Ortiz re-join the club. Both players played in Fort McMurray during the 2017 season with Hewitt setting the franchise mark for hits with 55 and RBI with 38.
Other returning players are Tristin Richardson, BJ Minarcin and Ryan Moroz (2017). The club will also feature local players Quinn Tassie (University of Midland) and Mark Chappelle.
“We’re going to live by the philosophy: Do whatever it takes to win. We got some guys with pop, we got guys with speed, we have guys that can play defense, and we’re going to put it all together and have a great summer,” said Head Scout Andrew Bradbury.
Fans will have a chance to meet the players May 26th during a Family Fun Day at Shell Place. There will be bouncy castles and games for the kids as well as the opportunity for pictures and autographs. The event runs from 12:00pm-3:00pm.
Tickets are now on sale for all Giants home games with the home opener taking place on June 6th when the Giants take on the defending champions the Medicine Hat Mavericks.
Listen to President Dutche Iannetti, Manager Ray Brown & Head Scout Andrew Bradbury talk about the upcoming season below.