Swift Current begins 2014 season on the road May 29 versus Melville
An off season full of anticipation is over and the Swift Current Indians will be on the road today for their Western Major Baseball League season opener against the defending league champion Melville Millionaires.
After a promising season where the Indians again placed in the top three in the WMBL standings, Swift Current is looking for another strong season and an extended playoff run this summer. The Indians finished last season with a 29-17 record at the top of the Central Division and the third best WMBL record with a .630 winning percentage. In the post season they could not turn home field advantage into a series victory as they lost the fifth and deciding game of the WMBL semi-final series 5-1 to the Melville Millionaires.
"That's what the bar is for this organization. We do it to win a championship, and that's the standard that's been set over about three decades now. That's what we try to do. We have a lot of people that put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes, and also a lot of sponsors, and we want to represent the City of Swift Current in a positive way, both on and off the field, and ultimately we want to bring home a championship for the City of Swift Current," explained Indians Coach Joe Carnahan.
After a long off season the pieces of the team's 2014 roster are slowly coming together. They held their first official team practice this past Saturday, but the majority of the players have not found their way to Swift Current.
"We've got about a dozen guys still playing right now in Regionals or World Series depending on the division they're in. Depending on how they do, that'll dictate when they end up coming up," Carnahan said, adding that a delay in their arrival is not necessarily a bad thing for the team.
"You wish them the best success. When you recruit and try to put your team together you want to get guys that are off successful teams because obviously they are doing the right things at the College that they're at. When they come up here hopefully they're still doing the right things and we can click on all cylinders a little bit quicker."
Carnahan, who signed a three-year coaching contract extension in the off season, is excited to see the potential of this year's new off-season recruits and returning veterans.
"We have quite a few returners. That's always a plus when you get that core group back," he said of the veteran players who know pacing of the season and the travel routine, along with knowing the community. "The new guys can kind of rely on the veterans a little bit more. We've got a good nucleus so the other guys should be acclimated pretty quick."
For the new bodies, Carnahan simply wants them to bring a good work ethic whenever they step onto the field.
"Just to come up and play hard. Just talking to coaches we've got a lot of guys that enjoy playing the game that are very talented and they play the game very hard.
We should have a pretty good pitching staff again, and hopefully play some good defence behind them. We've got a lot of talented guys and we'll see where the pieces fit and hopefully strive to win a championship again this year."
Swift Current's traditional success has been built around a strong pitching staff, and Carnahan again expects his starters and bull pen to be among the elite in the league. The Indians pitching staff is bolstered by the return of starter Michael Noteware and reliever Cody Chartrand from the Lewis Clark State College Warriors. The duo helped the Tribe hold opponents to a .243 batting average and the pitching staff boasted a 3.23 team earned run average.
Heading into a new season, Carnahan knows the road to a championship is harder than ever because of league parity.
"There's a lot of good rosters every year. The thing in the last three years that we've seen is the parity in the league is a lot better. From top to bottom it's a very, very competitive league. And it makes it fun to go to the park every day knowing that you're going to be in a battle. And that's what the guys come up here to do, and we want to enjoy competing the entire year."
After beginning the season on the road on Thursday, Swift Current makes their home debut on Saturday when they host Weyburn in a 7 p.m. contest at Mitchell Field.
The Tribe will not have a full roster for their early games, as they are also in action on Sunday in Regina and they return home for their second season game at Mitchell Field on Tuesday against visiting Saskatoon. They conclude their first handful of games with a stretch of four games in four days, hosting Lethbridge on June 5, travelling to Saskatoon on June 6, and hosting Edmonton for a doubleheader on June 7 and 8.