Hard to say goodbye for Express veterans

Matthew Gourlie
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Six players see their WMBL careers end

Miles Hunter didn't want to leave with the season on the line.

Jason Renner from the Moose Jaw Miller Express pitches in Game 4 of their WMBL playoff series Monday at Ross Wells Park.

His Moose Jaw Miller Express teammates didn't want to leave period.

Hunter was a surprise starter in Monday's Game 4 of the WMBL playoffs. Hunter is set to start medical school at the University of Calgary in the fall and was supposed to be back in Calgary on Monday. Instead he was patrolling centre field of Ross Wells Park.

"It was a surprise. It was a surprise for everybody," said Hunter who said he had to convince his family to drive through the night to get him back to Calgary for Tuesday morning. "We got that last out in Game 3 and I thought 'oh geez, I don't want to walk away from this.' We won that game and it was impossible to walk away from these guys.

"We're a bunch of brothers who really only have one thing in common and that's that we love the sport."

Monday's season-ending loss was a tough pill for a lot of the veteran Express players. Many of them sat in the dugout well after the final out was recorded.

In addition to Hunter, pitchers Terry McNabb, Jason Renner and Todd Leavitt also played their final WMBL game and veterans Frank Pluskota and Austin Russell also saw their Miller careers draw to a close.

"These were the best two years I had in awhile," said Renner who is from Spokane. "I owe coach Hunt and coach (Olafson) and my host family the Pisios everything. They've been so gracious to me the past two years."

It's the second straight season where the Express has been eliminated in the first round of the WMBL playoffs. The Express finished the season 24-22 to finish second in the Central Division. Head coach Michael Hunt saw a lot of progress from their young players over the course of the season. 

Hunter, McNabb and Aidan Stinnett were first-team WMBL all-stars. Stinnett also won the WMBL batting title with a .293 average and was named the league's rookie of the year.

"Connor Keating came in as a thrower and turned into a pitcher. Aidan Stinnett came in as a young guy who hadn't played all year and he ended up winning the Silver Slugger of the year. It's up and down the lineup. What can you say about Terry McNabb? His career win record for three years didn't equal (the eight) he had this year," said Hunt. "We had some guys that really, really shined. I can't be prouder of what we had."

While the players posed to photos and prepared to head home for their fall baseball seasons, Hunter was saying his goodbyes before a long trip home.

None of them wanted their summers to end, but Hunter felt that if it had to end, he was happy he ended his career on the field in Moose Jaw, battling with his teammates.

"I can't describe how lucky I felt to have that fall back into place and be able to sneak away from school a little bit on the long weekend to play a little ball," said Hunter. "It was nice to be with the boys and to fight with them all of the way to the end."


Organizations: University of Calgary

Geographic location: Calgary, Ross Wells Park, Spokane Moose Jaw

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