Cranbrook Bandits hand out 2017 team awards

Cranbrook Bandits hand out 2017 team awards

American Legion ball team recognizes parents and players, hand out trophies and make announcement

On Sunday afternoon, the Cranbrook Bandits players, parents and coaches got together to celebrate their 2017 annual awards barbeque.

It was a big summer for the American Legion baseball program, as they joined the class ‘A’ division of the Montana League and also added a junior ‘B’ team for the first time in their history.

Although both teams experienced growing pains in their inaugural seasons in new leagues, with the ‘A’ team putting up a 3-19 record in the regular season and the ‘B’ team going 8-20, Bandits’ president Jeff Bromley said that it was a step in the right direction.

“We had two teams for the first time in the history of this organization. It was a lot of work, but I think we pulled it off,” Bromley said, while recognizing the parents whose volunteer hours made the season possible. “There are a lot of ball players in this town, they’re coming up with five full rep teams, travel teams for Cranbrook Minor Ball, [but] I think the organization is in good shape going forward.”

At the District tournament, the ‘A’ Bandits earned a win in the first round and improved their eighth seed to a sixth-place finish. The biggest win, however, according to head coach Paul Mrazek was the feedback he received while at the event.

“[There were] a lot of good comments [from other teams] who see where we’re going [and] see that we’re going to be competitive,” Mrazek said. “The commissioner [of the Montana League] came up to me after our third game, when we got knocked out, and he only had good things to say.

“He said that ‘Cranbrook can play baseball’ and as long as he’s the commissioner of our district, we’re going to be playing [in the] A [division].”

According to Mrazek, his fellow coaches told him that they see excellent potential and that they should steadily improve even while playing in the top division of the Montana League which includes powerhouses like the Bitterroot Red Sox, the Glacier Twins, the Bitterroot Bucs and the Missoula Mavericks.

“We went and we had a good weekend at district and played well throughout the [entire] year,” Mrazek said. “Maybe we didn’t win some of those games, but we played the top teams. We played them tight for a lot of the games.”

After his comments and the recognition of every player, parent volunteer and other supporters in attendance, Mrazek and ‘B’ team head coach Ryan Phillips got down to the awards.

In a change from previous years, instead of the accolades being bestowed by the coaching staff, a secret ballot vote by the players determined the winners.

For the ‘B’ team, Cameron Reid was selected as the Pitcher of the Year. Philips said that Reid was on the mound “every weekend [and was] a really solid pitcher.”

The Defensive Player of the Year was Carter Marlow, who accepted his trophy as the only ‘B’ award winner in attendance.

The Most Dedicated Player award went to Drake Simek who was praised as “always helpful with nothing but wicked things to say about him.”

The Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards went to Braiden Koran who Phillips said was the team’s “best bat, hitting triples, doubles. It seemed like every weekend he was getting on second base at least.”

For the ‘A’ team, the Rookie of the Year award went to pitcher and shortstop Tatszuki Ishihara.

Pitcher of the year was a split decision with both Brandon Thorn and Dan Mercandelli sharing the award. Mrazek said the two players “pitched the most amount of innings [and their] walks [and] hits per inning pitch were among the lowest for the amount that they had.”

The Offensive Player of the Year award was another shared trophy with Cedar Kemp and Carson Meggison tying in the vote count.

Of Kemp, Mrazek said that “he had the highest runs, highest walks, highest stolen bases [and] the third highest on base percentage and the most hit by pitch.” Meggison, on the other hand, “got on base a lot, [had] the most RBIs, was up there in walks, up there in hits [and] was above average on base percentage.”

Meggison was also named the ‘A’ team’s Most Dedicated Player of the Year.

Both the Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards for the ‘A’ team went to Robert Nickell who spent the majority of the year at catcher and also played third base.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Mrazek announced another exciting development for the Bandits baseball program.

“This 2021 we’re starting a fall program [and have] eight games lined up already,” he said. “The first practice will be on September 13 and [it will] go until October 29. We’re looking at playing Mission Valley, Polson and the [Calgary] Redbirds.

“[It’s] another step in the right direction and another big thing that we’re doing.”