‘Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining,’ but the AM Ford Trail Orioles hopes this lining turns golden as it heads to the Western AA Men’s Baseball championship in Elmwood, Man. today.
The Orioles are looking to defend last year’s Western championship and have been bolstered recently by a local ballplayer’s bad luck.
Chris Kissock was released from the Philadelphia Phillies franchise earlier this month, yet the Phillies loss should prove to be a much-needed shot in the arm for the Orioles.
“I’ve been out throwing and catching, and a bunch of guys have been hitting off me, so it has been good practice for both of us,” said Kissock. “I’m excited, it’s fun but I know we’re going to go take it pretty seriously.”
Kissock will also play in the Grand Forks International baseball tournament in September, before joining Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament in Germany.
Kissock is a timely addition, as the Orioles will be without the services of aces Scott Rhynold, Trail native Pat Brown, as well as Connor and Kellen Jones, so shoring up an already depleted pitching staff and infield was key.
“With Kissock back that will be a pretty big addition,” said player/coach Jim Maniago. “He’s looking forward to joining us and having some fun.”
The O’s also signed South Slocan native and Seattle Mariners’ draft pick Aaron Cotter to join the pitching rotation. The right-hander was drafted in 2007 and spent six years playing in the minor leagues before becoming pitching coach for the Spruce Grove Whitesox AAA team in April.
They picked up Denver Wynn, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher and Minnesota Twins draft pick, who played with the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack in 2012 where he received first all-star team honours in the Canadian College Baseball Conference.
The O’s will see the return of Joey Underwood to short stop for the absent Connor Jones, and Kyle Mace to second base, who missed the provincial tournament last month.
As defending champions, the Orioles will be up against very tough competition. In last year’s tournament, one run decided four of five O’s games.
“I don’t feel any added pressure, but I think everyone will be gunning for us,” said Maniago.
Particularly the Elmwood Giants out of Manitoba that have finished second the past two years, including a thrilling 4-3 loss to the Orioles in the final last year at Butler Park.
“When you’re the defending champions going back, you know we’ll see everybody’s top pitcher, I’m sure, so as good as we’re feeling about ourselves, it’s not going to be easy, and we are going to have to play well.”
The tournament opens tonight with the host team Giants taking on provincial representative from Manitoba, the Brandon All-Stars. Trail’s first game goes Friday at 10:30 a.m. against Saskatchewan, and again at 7:30 p.m. versus Alberta. On Sunday the O’s play Brandon at 2 p.m. and the Giants at 8 p.m. The top teams in the round robin will play in the final on Sunday at noon.
“We’re looking forward to it, we can’t wait,” says Maniago. “It happens quick, five games in 48 hours and then your done. So it’s good that we have all the guys we got, because that’s a lot of baseball and it would be nice to spell a few guys off here and there, and be fresh.”