The Rocky Mountain Bandits held their team awards this week on home soil at Confederation ball park, recognizing players and volunteers for their contributions over the season.
Head coach Paul Mrazek gave the players and parents a state of the union address after a barbecue dinner and handed out some hardware to a few of his players.
“Really happy with today,” said Mrazek. “The guys who got the awards were well deserving.”
Ryan Phillips was twice recognized as Pitcher of the Year and Most Valuable Player, while other awards were handed out for top rookie, dedication and top offensive and defensive performers.
Mrazek had nothing but good things to say about his star pitcher.
“The last two years, he’s been a guy that I can put on the mound and I expect to get a full game out of,” Mrazek said.
It was Phillips’ last year, as he ages out of the program, along with fellow pitchers Carter McDonald and Taylor Blackburn.
Phillips is already in talks to attend a college in North Carolina to continue his baseball career.
“There’s a school there called Barber Scotia College,” he said. “The program there doesn’t start there for another two years, so I probably won’t be heading there this year, but next year, I’ll look to be going to North Carolina.”
Phillips’ final season was his best after four years in the Bandits program, as he threw heat from the mound and batted a 0.270 average.
“My first year, I felt like a small fish in a big pond, in a way,” Phillips said, “and looking back, I can’t believe how much I’ve grown on the field and off, but if I had to pick a year, it’d probably be this year, just because it got my most strike-outs, my most wins, my best GRA’s, so I’m pretty happy with this year.”
Over the course of the season, the Bandits compiled a 11-22 record—their best run since 2008, but there’s more to the story behind the numbers.
Mrazek said 12 of those losses were only by one score, and with some improvements in a few areas, their record could have been very different.
“We had a pretty good year,” Mrazek said. “I’m happy with our progress and our development.”
Outside of baseball itself, Mrazek acknowledged the support from parents and volunteers, which helped out in areas such as running the concession, organizing umpires and paying the bills.
That kind of volunteer work drives down the cost of enlisting a player in the Bandits program, he added.
“It’s huge, without that, it couldn’t be done,” said Mrazek. “Without that, the parents would not put out $2,500 for their kids to play. We charged $1,300 this year, we’re hoping to come down to $1,100 next year.
“If the parents didn’t run the concession, if they didn’t sell outfield signs, if we didn’t sell raffle tickets, if we didn’t do kids camps, it would be $2,500, so with all the volunteers, it’s a necessity and it couldn’t be done without them.”
The Bandits were also a part of organizing the annual Sam Steele Ball Tournament, teaming up with four other local baseball organizations to make it happen.
“The Bandits were asked to run the concession, so I was there for all the meetings and brainstorming and planning and helping out with the decision-making,” said Mrazek, “but Seana Coolbaugh took the lead on that, did a great job, and we had people step up from fastball, slo-pitch, men’s league, Cranbrook Minor Ball, so everyone played a part in that.
“Those were three full days and our parents stepped up and did a great job.”
Rookie of the Year
Top Defensive Player
Top Offensive Player
Pitcher of the Year
Most Valuable Player