Roughly a dozen new faces came out to tryouts for the Rocky Mountain Bandits baseball team on Wednesday night as the squad looks towards the beginning of a new season in a couple weeks.
The Bandits have a returning nucleus of seven players, but head coach Paul Mrazek hopes to add a couple more to round out a full-time roster of 14 players, with another half-dozen for practice purposes.
One big change for the program is a switch from a AA league in north Idaho, to an A league in northwestern Montana, which has a couple benefits for the team, added Mrazek.
“A few of the teams are closer to home, so that’ll help with travel a little a bit,” Mrazek said. “We’ll be more competitive, it will be better for the program and it’s going to help with keeping more kids playing at our level, rather than packing it in.”
Ryan Phillips-Clement, a veteran entering his fourth and final season, is looking forward to getting back out onto the pitching mound.
“I’m excited,” said Phillips-Clement. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot and I’m just excited to get back out on the field and see what I can do.”
Phillips-Clement, along with fellow pitcher and veteran Carter McDonald, were on hand to help out Mrazek during the tryout at Confederation park.
Seeing the younger kids out on the diamond reminded McDonald of how he felt four years ago when he was competing for a spot on the roster.
“The first couple years, I was nervous all the time, cause I’m part of the youngest group out there and you’re looking up to these big kids,” said McDonald, “but now I’m the big kid and have to be a leader on the team and I’m really looking forward to getting out there and showing everyone what to do.”
After the tryout, the team holds their first practice on May 13, and takes off for their first tournament at the end of that week in Kalispell.
“I enjoy travelling with the team, getting to bond with the players and have a good time,” said Phillips-Clement.
Both veterans added that the move to the new league in Montana will translate into some more competitive games.
“A couple years ago, we just looked overmatched, but I think now, the younger kids will be able to get more exposure into the game and we’ll be having better games,” said McDonald. “I really look forward to having my last year playing a bit more evenly matched baseball. It’ll be funner I think.”