They march to the beat of a different drum. Seemingly on the edge of destruction both on and off the field.
But they sure can play baseball – when they put their minds to it.
More than five years ago when the idea to resurrect the Ryley Rebels was born, it seemed to be destiny the cup would arrive back in the rough and rowdy village of Ryley. With nine championships in 14 years ranging from 1987 to 2000, and a young up-and-coming group of good ball players (Epp, Stensrud, the Reinholts, the Solbergs, etc…) the Rebels were coined the best challenger to the Leduc Milleteer dynasty by the Milleteer man himself, Steve Pahl.
Despite a finals appearance in 2010, they missed the playoffs in 2011 and 2013. Lost in two straight games in the semi-final of 2012. Throughout the regular seasons of 2011-2013, they struggled to get nine guys out many evenings. A league member sent the PBL website a fake story detailing if the Rebels folded, how the expansion draft would shake down. Even they admittedly detailed things would have to change. I recollect hearing Kevin Reinholt go off on the team at the Capt. Ayre tournament in 2009, after only eight guys could show up to a morning game, following a night of partying, “We need to grow up.”
Using this as inspiration, and recognizing things would have to change as much off the field, as they would on the field, the 2014 team took an “us versus the world” approach that seemed to work for them. Due to weather and a gentleman’s agreement with Beaumont, the Rebels had to play nine games in July and 12 of their 19 league/playoff games after July 1.
Even with the easiest schedule during the regular season, the Rebels had the first-place Armena Royals and five-time defending champion Leduc Milleteers in their final two games. They upended Armena 8-3 in one of the best games this author’s seen them play, to clinch a one-game playoff, and it looked like a new Rebels team had taken hold. However, a final regular season loss might have had a less stable Rebels team going, “Here we go again,” when they allowed the Milleteers back in to the playoffs with a 7-3 loss at home on a Monday night.
But this isn’t the old Ryley Rebels. They had new blood from successful Sunburst teams and the Provost Combine Pilots. But make no mistake, the “pick-ups” they got were truly Rebels. On game one of the final, both the Camrose Axemen and Fort Sask Athletics had games as well. Come to recognize, this… is the new Ryley Rebels.
They’ve pushed the league to new ways of thinking. You have to admire their fight. They drove hard to expand to 21-man rosters. They disputed and changed the league tiebreaker rule to avoid a one-game playoff this season. They swept aside the five-time defending champions. They then came from behind to win in game one and held on in game three against a team that has been in the finals three times in five years.
In the end, the Rebels are truly what their nickname says. They do everything on and off the field with a brash sense of confidence and pride that sets them apart from the rest of the league. It’s been fun to watch their progression over the past few seasons, and despite their penchant for Ryley-ing it up on Twitter and giving this author and others a hard time, I will tip my hat to them.
The Ryley Rebels are 2014 PBL champions. In a year when the league was the most competitive I’ve ever seen, they came out on top. They slayed the dragon. And in doing so, slayed the demons that held them back in the past.
Enjoy it. Making playoffs gets tougher and tougher every year. We (The league) can’t wait to challenge the defending champs next year.
And even though we know you’ve cleaned things up when it comes to dedication and showing up to games, it looks like you sure can still party. Again, congratulations.
Ryley Rebels Celebrate on Twitter
The Ryley Rebels celebrated like only the Ryley Rebels can celebrate. Luckily, or maybe unfortunately for us runner-ups, they documented it all on Twitter…