PEI plays and wins for Tanner and Mitch
* Dylan McKenna lays down a bunt which led to Prince Edward Island’s first run in a 3-0 win over Newfoundland as PEI began the Canada Cup playing and winning for Tanner Craswell and Mitch MacLean./Photo: April Whitzman ….
By April Whitzman
LONDON — The sun shone brightly at Labatt Park Stadium and Dan Pulham Field on Wednesday as each province’s top players, aged 17 and under, participated in the first official day of the Baseball Canada Cup which conclude Sunday.
“It’s a great experience to participate in the Canada Cup,” said British Columbia’s shortstop/catcher, Tyler O’Nell, after going 1-for-3 with a homerun in his team’s win against Alberta. “I love the level of competition. The best of the best are here and everyone is focused and determined not to give up.”
Darrell Baker, Team Saskatchewan’s Chef, also added how important this competition is for both the province and the players. “The crème of the crop is on the field representing their province. This is what the players work so hard for, to be able to put on that uniform and hit the field. This is one of the steps that players only dream about.”
Moose Jaw resident, Bryce Crosbie, Team Saskatchewan’s shortstop, highlighted at how honoured he was to be able to participate in the tournament.
“It makes me feel proud to be able to put on a jersey with my province across my chest,” Crosbie said, after going 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs in his team’s 5-4 loss to Manitoba. “I feel blessed to have an opportunity to represent everyone back home who didn’t have the same chance to prove everyone here that even though we’re a small province, we can still compete with everyone across the country.”
Interestingly, for Team Prince Edward Island, the Canada Cup had a lot more significance to them than the name across their chest.
Last December, two former Team PEI players, Tanner Craswell, 22, and Mitch MacLean, 20, were murdered on their way home to PEI from Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethridge, Alta.. The two were driving together to the airport in Calgary on their way home for Christmas, when they were shot and killed … innocent victims in the wrong car.
“The situation shook our community and our players. It has been a very emotional season for our team,” said PEI manager, Wayne MacIsaac. “They play each game for Tanner and Mitch. They’ve put a patch on their jerseys’ sleeves with each of their numbers, wear dog tags around their neck, and chant their numbers before each game.”
They chant “13″ for Crawsell, one the best player to come off the island in the last 15 years.
They chant “6″ MacLean.
They chant to keep their memories alive.
On Wednesday, in the team’s first game of the tournament, PEI won the game for Mitch and Tanner, defeating Newfoundland by a score of 3-0.
After the game, Dylan McKenna, Mitch MacLean’s cousin, and the starting second baseman for PEI, explained how important it has been to dedicate their work and success to the two young boys. “Remembering Mitch and Tanner in everything we do serves as extra motivation for our team. We haven’t been playing this season just for ourselves, we’ve been playing for them. It makes us play that much harder.”
Dylan’s father, Anthony, was able to see some positive to the situation. “The tragedy completely changed our community. But if anything, it has certainly put baseball back on the map for the East Coast and for PEI. The incident has been in the papers and on the news enough that a lot of people have heard what happened. But now, because of it, even young kids know more about baseball than they ever did back home.
“The Maritimes are full of great ball players, they just need a chance to be seen.”
Added Dylan … “There’s a lot more talent and calibre back East than most realize, thankfully, thanks to competitions such as the Canada Cup, this is slowly changing.”