MSBL players look to AA baseball leagues

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Matt Gunning can’t say that the Manitoba Senior Baseball League’s decision to take a year off was a shock.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/03/2016 (2340 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Matt Gunning can’t say that the Manitoba Senior Baseball League’s decision to take a year off was a shock.

The veteran player, who was named the AAA loop’s best player as he won league titles with the Brandon Cloverleafs in 2014 and the Oak River Dodgers last summer, was saddened by the development.

“I guess it wasn’t altogether surprising given the events of the last two years,” Gunning said. “It’s kind of been trending that way. It’s certainly disappointing considering the history and the legacy of the MSBL in Brandon and the communities around it. It’s unfortunate really.”

Colin Corneau/Brandon Sun Brandon Marlins’ Dustin Asham tries to outrun Neepawa Farmers' Ian Hockin to third base during the MSBL semifinal last summer. Asham plan to play senior AA baseball this summer.

The MSBL was down to four teams in 2015 after the Reston Rockets left, with the Cloverleafs and Neepawa Farmers struggling to field a team some nights for a variety of reasons.

When both teams told the league in February they were finished, the executive decided last month to put the MSBL on ice for a season and review its status in the fall.

That left players scrambling to find a place to play.

Fortunately, the four senior AA leagues in the area — the Santa Clara Baseball League, Andrews Agencies Senior AA Baseball League, t South West Baseball League and Border West Baseball League — provide 25 teams in the region.

Mike Levandovsky managed the Neepawa Farmers of the MSBL last summer, which faced its challenges finding local players. He expects that local ball players will likely head to the Neepawa Cubs of the Santa Clara Baseball League.

“I think some of them are going to get their games in with the Cubs,” he said. “(Matt) Sneesby and (Garett) Rempel played with them last year and Shane, my son. There are probably only going to be about three more.”

Gunning chuckles when asked where he plans to play. He said he had fun with the Oak River Dodgers last summer, but he lives a block away from the diamond that the Virden Oilers of the South West Baseball League play on.

He will play with the Dodgers when they represent Manitoba at the AAA nationals next summer, and Oak River will ask for the opportunity at the South West league’s spring meeting to join their nine-team loop.

“That will be a decision to make if they’re both in the same league,” Gunning said.

Dustin Asham played with the Brandon Marlins last season, but was young enough that he could also play AA baseball last year, so he may return to the Andrews Agencies Senior AA Baseball League champion Canadian Tire Cardinals.

If the Marlins do try to field a local AA team, he will have to weigh his options.

He said at least players impacted by the MSBL’s collapse will have a place to play.

“It’s definitely a lot easier knowing that I’m still going to be able to play high level ball,” Asham said. “I’m still going to be able to have fun with the guys. For the Marlins, everyone is going to go into the AA league anyway so it’s going to make that league a lot stronger and even all of Westman. It’s definitely exciting for the teams that are going to be adding those guys.”

Now 19, former Cloverleaf Mason Hodgson plans to play with the junior Marlins team that will participate in the Manitoba Junior Baseball League.

He will also stay with the Young Guns in the Brandon league, where he has heard he may play with or against some of his former Cloverleafs teammates. Others may just take the summer off.

“You don’t think of a team like the Cloverleafs ever folding or a league that has so much history,” Hodgson said. “I was a third generation Cloverleaf. My grandpa played for however many years and my dad, of course, played. Just hearing stories about how competitive the league used to be and being involved at a young age and seeing the talent that was there and the potential for the talent to come in, playing against guys from the States who go to college or have been to college, it was definitely the most special part to the league.”

Asham agrees. He will miss stepping out on the field on a nice summer evening

“It was part of the community,” Asham said. “You’ve got the Brandon Marlins and people showing up to our games. There aren’t many ball teams around Westman where you have that many people coming. It was special getting to play at nice, big Andrews Field under the lights.

“It had a good feeling to it when you stepped on the diamond.”

» pbergson@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @PerryBergson

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