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St. Albert Cardinals season underway

Baseball is back at Legion Memorial Park.
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Dylan Martins was the starting pitcher for the U18 AAA Blue St. Albert Cardinals home opener on May 7, 2022. JACK FARRELL/St. Albert Gazette

The new minor baseball season is underway. 

The U18 AAA Blue St. Albert Cardinals played their home opener on Saturday against their Calgary U18 AAA counterparts.

Cardinals head coach Ben Grabia, a St. Albert Minor Baseball alumni himself, said the team has a "really strong group of rookies this year."

One rookie on the team, Dylan Martins, was entrusted as the starting pitcher for Saturday's windy afternoon game. Grabia said Martins, who wasn't able to play last year due to an injured tendon in his throwing arm, is one of the team's "best young arms." 

Martins threw 79 pitches through 3.2 innings, struck out four batters, and kept the game within reach for the Cardinals before a big fifth inning capped by a Calgary grand slam sealed the victory. The final score for the Cardinals home opener was 18-5. 

A humble Martins said the game "was obviously a rough start" for him. "I couldn't get off the mound sometimes."

Martins threw a fastball, changeup, curveball, and a slider. Martins's slider, which he said is "sometimes" his favourite pitch, made one spectator at the game exclaim, "Wow," after a Calgary batter swung and missed during the third inning.

The ball player said he's looking forward to pitching a lot of innings for the team this year, especially since he missed all of last season.

The team managed to put their rough first game behind them and bounced back for the remaining weekend contests. The Cards went on to beat the Grande Prairie Northern Lights 24-8 on Saturday night. On Sunday morning the Cards swallowed an 11-6 loss in a rematch against Grande Prairie before getting their revenge against Calgary in a 15-3 blowout victory to close out the weekend.

The season ahead

Grabia, who was the team's head coach last season as well, said he's "looking to have more consistency from the group this year.”

“I think things I really strive for [are] accountability and being able to self-motivate each other as a group," Grabia said. "I’m here for the guidance."

Grabia said he tries "to be a little bit harder on them." He said he has a "hate me today, love me tomorrow kind of attitude.”

The team has four returning players this season: Jakob Reiniger, Brennan Stewart, Zach Lausch, and Evan Gunderson. Grabia said, "It’s nice to have the four guys that have played at this level last year and had a lot of success for us last year.

"It’s nice for them to lead this group because we’re pretty young and it’s going to be a long year.”

Gunderson said he feels more like a leader this year than last. 

"It’s definitely changed, being second year and playing previously on this team."

Another change for Gunderson this season is a new position.

“I trained all winter at second, so I just got switched over to shortstop," he said. "It’s pretty fun over there.”

Gunderson said what he's looking forward to most this season is "hopefully going to provincials." He added that he thinks the team will have a good chance this year. 

The next games the U18 AAA Blue team will play at Eng-Con Diamond in Legion Memorial Park will be during the Larry Rindero Memorial Tournament from May 20 to 23. 

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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