Local baseball players medal at Western Championships
For two Airdrionians, it was a successful summer of baseball.
Kyran Weemaels and Matt Garon racked up the hardware in a busy August, which saw them win a provincial title and come as close as a team can to winning the Western Championships.
For both Weemaels and Garon, baseball runs in their blood. Weemaels, 15, began playing while living in Ohio after his basketball coach suggested he switch sports. It’s a tradition in the Garon family.
“My dad’s side of the family were all into baseball,” Garon, 14, said. “I was brought into it and I liked it. I can’t remember not liking it or not watching it on TV.”
It was both Weemaels and Garon’s first season with the bantam AA Strathmore Reds. After playing tournaments across the province all summer, the team competed at Provincials, Aug. 3 to 5, in St. Albert. The team dropped its first game to Acme 9-10, but rebounded to defeat Red Deer and St. Albert en route to the final. The Reds came up victorious in a hitting bonanza, defeating Grande Prairie 25-20.
The win at Provincials sent the Reds to the Western Championships, which were held Aug. 16-20 in Morden, Man. After playing the best teams in Alberta, the team faced a different challenge in the top teams from B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“It was a lot different,” said Garon. “We’d faced the teams from Alberta so much that we knew everyone, how they hit and how they pitched. Then, we went to this tournament and it was all new, so it was hard to figure them.”
For Weemaels, a pitcher, it was an exciting opportunity to see how well the rest of Western Canada plays ball.
“I thought it was good experience to pitch to different players and see how they hit,” he said. “Just to see the competition throughout Canada was a lot of fun.”
Strathmore went 2-2 during the round robin, including a 10-1 loss to the Chilliwack Cougars. After it defeated Morden in the semi-finals, the Reds set up a rematch with B.C.
The final game was tied 5-5 heading into the ninth inning, and while the Reds tried its best to hold its opponents off, a triple with two outs and two strikes followed by a home run stole the win out from under them. The Reds lost 6-5 to claim silver.
“It was really tough,” said Garon. “We thought we had them. We had so many chances to score up until the ninth inning, we just couldn’t get a hit when we had to.”
While the Provincials were a great tune up for playing at Westerns, earlier in the summer Weemaels had an extra opportunity to play at the provincial level. The 15-year-old won bronze with Zone 2 at the Alberta Summer Games, which were held in Lethbridge in July. It was his second time trying out for the team, but first time making the roster.
“I was the youngest player last year, so I didn’t make it,” he said. “It was a lot of fun being there and playing against people I didn’t know. Bronze was alright, but I thought we could’ve gone further. We lacked in hitting, but it was a different experience and fun to be around people who play the same sport as you.”
The Western tournament closed out the Reds’ summer season, but Weemaels and Garon are both planning on playing fall ball with the AAA team.