Though it wasn't the storybook ending that the Moose Jaw Major AAA All-Stars wanted, losing to Team BC in the National Final, which shattered their Little League World Series hopes, they still played the very best baseball they could and relished the opportunity.
Moose Jaw opened up their tournament with a 15-5 loss to the very same BC team, but that didn’t faze them.
“After that first game I had all the kids sit down and say hey in a tournament like this we’re going to need everyone, and everyone is going to have their shining moment somebody to step up,” says head coach, Troy Turner. “That’s why we had our success, is everyone had a little part in every single game.”
The team would follow that up with six straight victories, including two of those walk-off wins to earn themselves a spot in the National Final. All 11 players played a part in the tournament run they had from their strong pitching to hot bats, and defensive plays you see in Major League Baseball.
They met their match with BC in the final, as the team from Little Mountain capitalized on Moose Jaw’s errors, eventually winning the game 9-4, despite a fight from the All-Stars. For most or all of the Moose Jaw players, this was the first major loss of their young careers.
“They were definitely disappointed. We had video that morning and told them what we were going to need to do to win and everything had to be clean and we had to execute. I’m definitely super proud of the kids for how they fought back in the last inning. I told them after the game that this is not going to define your baseball career.”
Though the kids may not have realized it at the time, they had the whole City of Moose Jaw behind them the deeper they got into the tournament. Local establishments were broadcasting the game, Mayor Clive Tolley sent an inspirational message to the team, and everyone was rooting for the All-Stars.
“They were so-called rockstars up in Calgary, but I don’t think they realized the type of support they had back home. I’m sure once they start talking to their friends and their relatives, there's going to be a lot of hype around them, which was awesome to see.”
Turner says the support they had from the community began with their BBQ fundraisers prior to the tournament beginning, as the team exceeded their goals, thanks to the generosity of Moose Javian's.
While in Calgary, the players were treated like rockstars from playing on a state-of-the-art ball diamond to having a major media outlet covering each game, to thousands of people in the stands cheering them on each day. Turner says the experience and the team exceeded expectations.
“It was great! How they treated the kids, coaching staff, the parents, the whole setup there was first class. Seeing the caliber of baseball even on the Canadian side, I thought we had a lot of work to do, and we would need kids to step up. After the first couple of days, we as a coaching staff saw that we had a pretty good chance to do what we did.”
The All-Stars become the first Moose Jaw Little League team to make it to the National Final since 2003.