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Cardinals split first 10 games of the season

The 18U AAA redbirds jockey for position in the Baseball Alberta Elite League as wildfire smoke floods diamonds.
Luke Prostebby stands in the batter's box for the 18U AAA Cardinals. Liam Froment/ Photo

After the opening month of regular season play, the AAA U18 Cardinals have a record of five wins and five losses, good for third place in the Baseball Alberta Elite League standings.

As head coach Kurtus Millar points out, all of those matchups have been hotly contested, with the margins of difference always being slim.

“We could be 10-0, and could be 0-10,” said Millar.

“We’ve been in every ball game, and we’ve had chances to win all of them. The most runs we’ve lost by is two. A couple more hits with runners in scoring position and we win those games.”

Already, the Cardinals have hit the road for tournament play. In mid-April, the team travelled to the Kamloops Spring Classic tournament where they won two games, lost one, and tied one.

Most recently, the red birds came out on top against Sherwood Park, winning 9-2 in a capital region match-up last Wednesday.

A large part of the success the Cards have found has been a consequence of their solid defensive play, both on the mound and in the field.

“I think our pitchers have been good with some really great appearances,” noted Millar.

"Our defence has been pretty good for the most part — some blips here and there and our bats have been streaky. We’ve had chances to win every game. With more reps and experience, I think this group will gain confidence and start to win more of those close ball games.”

With only five returning players, this year’s squad is relatively young. 

“It’s probably the youngest 18U team we’ve ever had — we only have five vets this year,” pointed out Millar, noting that this season’s experience will help situate the 2024 team to be even stronger.

“Next season only one player ages out of the program. I'm excited to watch them develop and grow as young men.”

It’s still May, and much of the season remains unplayed. The ultimate aim of this summer is to snag some gold. 

“Our goal for the season is always to win a championship,” said Millar, adding the focus and dedication that is currently being invested to see such a bold aspiration become a reality.

“Our coaching staff is working hard to help our boys develop and learn how to compete at this level. They’re practicing four days per week plus workouts in the gym. We’ve already seen some good improvements in guys.”

As has been true for many Albertans throughout the past month, the ongoing effects of wildfires have put a damper on the season. Despite the team’s ethic and resilience, Mother Nature has presented some unavoidable barriers.

“Last year Baseball Alberta adopted a new weather policy which includes air quality,” said Millar, drawing attention to the fact that whether or not the season’s original schedule comes to fruition is ultimately out of the team’s control.

“With an air quality index of seven or higher, we have to suspend all activities. This weekend was really hard," Millar said of the long weekend tournament that had to be cancelled due to the smoke. 

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