Despite their hopes of winning a Western Canadian Championship being dashed for a second time, the U15AA Stettler Storm baseball team has a lot to be proud of.
The team finished top in its tiering, undefeated, and ultimately winning the Baseball Alberta provincial championships.
It’s a strong group of kids,” said head coach Darcy Warawa.
“They are very unique kids.”
According to Warawa, the core of the team hadn’t changed significantly since the last time the players won provincials and progressed to Westerns two years ago; it was the same year they were cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.
“It’s ironic,” said Warawa.
The Western Canadian Championships were to be held in Kamloops during the early part of August; due to the wildfires in the region and the heavy smoke in the air, the decision was made by organizers to cancel the event after the first few games of the tournament had been played and hours before evacuation alerts were issued for the area.
Warawa says that despite the championships not going ahead, the team is made up of dedicated and committed players willing to sacrifice in order to push the team to the next level. He relayed a story about how some players had started a pre-season fitness training group so that they were ready to take the field when the season started.
During the few short months of the ball season, players sacrifice weekends and holidays to train and play baseball.
“The entire season is a grind,” said Warawa.
“It can take up a lot of your time.”
The 2023 U15AA Stettler Storm consisted of 13 players, five from the U13AA team, 6 others who played last year and two brand-new players this season. The team has players drawn from all over the region, including seven from the Castor, Coronation, and Consort areas.
As a nod to the calibre of the players in the community, Warawa noted that six of 16 players on the Zone 4 Alberta Summer Games U15 Roster came from the Stettler ball program.
“Six kids out of Stettler is pretty significant,” said Warawa.
Heading into the 2024 season, youth coming up from below will have plenty of room to make the roster; due to Baseball Alberta rules only “five or six” players from the 2023 roster will be eligible to return next year.
While Warawa praised the coaches and players for their hard work through the “grind” of the season, he also noted that none of it would have been possible without the off-field support of the parents, also giving up their summers to chase kids ball, or the team’s two managers, Tasha Bozek and Dana Babchuk.
“They didn’t skip a beat all season,” said Warawa, about the managers.
Warawa said the managers organized meals in between games ensuring kids got fed, organized meeting areas for the team to meet wherever they were playing, and a host of other support services.