The Fort McMurray Oil Giants didn’t win a medal at the 18U National Baseball Championships, but head coach Joey Iannetti is still proud of his team’s performance against the best teams nine provinces had to offer.
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The team held their own as the national championship returned to Fort McMurray from Aug. 17 to 20. Games were held at Shell Place, Ross Hennigar Park and J. Howard Pew Park. Fort McMurray’s 18U team finished fifth after elimination in quarter finals.
“We had that expectation we were coming in to win that tournament and we built a team around that thinking we had a really good opportunity to do that this year,” said Iannetti. “I think our bases were covered, we just came up short.”
Fort McMurray was guaranteed a team as host city of the competition. This year’s team included 12 Fort McMurray athletes. About half of those athletes competed in last year’s competition, which was also held in Fort McMurray. Another eight athletes were recruited from different teams based on recommendations from their coaches.
Fort McMurray started strong with a 10-0 victory over Manitoba, and a 14-0 victory over Newfoundland and Labrador. The team suffered a 9-2 defeat to New Brunswick, but fought back with a 19-4 victory over Nova Scotia. Quebec beat Fort McMurray in a tough 2-1 fight. Fort McMurray went on to win 9-7 against the team representing the rest of Alberta.
Iannetti says Fort McMurray showed plenty of strengths this year, particularly in hitting power. The veteran and new athletes meshed well with the athletes from other organizations, which Iannetti said added depth to the team. Returning athletes felt this year’s team was stronger.
“There were a lot of positives and a lot of things that went right. Last year we entered that tournament and didn’t know what to expect,” said Iannetti. “We knew the atmosphere was going to be electric because when we hosted last year the kids just loved the experience.”
In the meantime, the Oil Giants are preparing for their next season. Training starts in September, and athletes will work on getting stronger and faster.
Fort McMurray is hosting the 2024 Baseball Canada Championships. For that tournament, Fort McMurray’s athletes will need to earn a spot on Team Alberta. Iannetti hopes to see local athletes on the team.
Iannetti added recent and upcoming tournaments are reminders of Fort McMurray’s potential for hosting more athletic tournaments. Encouraging sports tourism has been named a priority for the municipality and Fort McMurray’s athletic community.
“As far as our facilities in Fort McMurray go, we play throughout all of Alberta and Fort McMurray has some of the best facilities not only in Alberta, but I’m sure in Canada,” said Iannetti. “The fact our kids have these facilities in Fort McMurray and can host these events brings great opportunities to youth athletes in Fort McMurray and Alberta.”
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