Five years of work finally pays off
Posted July 11, 2012
A record of 7-8 seems fairly mediocre and below average, but for a franchise that’s struggled and toiled for five long seasons and was picked to finish last at the beginning of the season by all local media, the 5-3 win in Ryley tasted extra sweet Thursday night.
When the spring of 2008 came, it appeared Armena men’s baseball was dead. After re-starting the franchise in 1999 by then midget coach and current Alberta Minister of Agriculture Verlyn Olson – a former Armena Royal himself in the 1980s – the team had transformed from a scrappy midget ball team, to a PBL champion, to the Axemen who won two more titles before slowly falling from grace, losing three straight championship series, and fleeing for a more organized league.
Clark Banack, a long-time Armena ball player conceded he would join the Axemen and continue playing with some old friends he’d made through minor ball and the berth of the Axemen – an amalgamation of the Armena Royals and the Camrose Roadrunners at the time.
But something told him to hold out a tad longer to see if there would be any interest in keeping a PBL team going in the hamlet that had been home to four PBL champions and many years of fun in both minor and men’s ball.
With a couple very young Camrose and Hay Lakes prospects, and a bevy of admittedly non-baseball scrubs, Clark Banack decided to give it a go.
He would at times, regret it.
The lowest point was a 24-1 shellacking at the hands of the Leduc Milleteers on June 11. They were outscored 198-41 on the season and somehow managed to win one game early on.
Aside from 2009 when a few key pieces returned and the team underperformed mightily, missing the playoffs with a 5-10 record, the team reverted back to two two-win seasons in 2010 and 2011.
“It was a better team (than 2008) for sure,” Banack said in 2011. “We would kill that (2008) team, but we aren’t getting the results.”
Finally in 2012, the rookies who began in 2008 had matured, some new assets emerged and all the old faces – Adam Johnson, Joel Boettger, Cole Tomaszewski and at times Wes Wilson made it out.
A roller coaster season that saw them blow a 5-run lead in Holden and get shut out at home twice ended sweetly with Joel Boettger beating the Ryley Rebels twice for a the 7-win season.
“This is why I kept it going,” Banack said. “Was to play meaningful baseball on a hot July night. This is so much fun.”
Making it a little bit sweeter was using mostly Camrose and Armena area players. Only two regular players live in Edmonton, and that’s Banack and Jason Buzzell who both played minor ball in Armena.
It might be just one, or a couple more. But it looks like finally, after nearly five years of painstaking work, the dream in Banack’s head to play one more playoff game (even if it’s just a one-game playoff) has come true.