Former catcher Brandon Ouillette keeps watch behind home plate as head coach Paul Mrazek (back bench

Former catcher Brandon Ouillette keeps watch behind home plate as head coach Paul Mrazek (back bench

Baseball season draws near as Cranbrook Bandits prepare for tryouts

Cranbrook Bandits Montana State ‘B’ Baseball tryouts set to begin Friday at Confederation Park

The Cranbrook Bandits have made two consecutive trips to the Montana State ‘B’ Baseball championship and will look to make it three in a row as the 2016 season rolls around.

The first step on that long, dusty trail will be taken this Friday at 5:30 p.m. as the Bandits open two-day tryouts at Confederation Park in Cranbrook.

Bandits head coach Paul Mrazek expects to have 11 to 12 players returning from the 2015 squad, leaving openings for five or six newcomers on the active roster. American Legion Baseball teams are permitted to carry 18 players on the active roster.

Monday morning, Mrazek said his wish is to carry 16 players on the active roster for the 2016 campaign, with an additional two to four players on the practice roster.

Having seen a number of key components, including infielders Connor Armstrong, Devon Marra and catcher Brandon Ouillette age out, there exists plenty of opportunity for young players to earn a roster spot in 2016, according to Mrazek.

The Bandits dugout director has seen regularly increasing interest in the program, sparking him to expand tryouts from one day, as was previously the case, to two days ahead of this season.

After the opening day of tryouts Friday, auditions will wrap up Monday, April 25 (5:30 p.m.) at Confederation Park in Cranbrook. From there, Mrazek and his staff will pare the roster down in preparation for team’s first tournament, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15 in Libby, Mont.

After playing a 43-game regular season in 2015, Mrazek said the expectation is to play 46 games over the course of the 11-week campaign this summer.

The Bandits will open their home slate when they host Trail for a doubleheader Saturday, May 21 before welcoming Eureka to Confederation Park for a doubleheader on Sunday, May 22.

Aspiring players interested in trying out or with questions about the Bandits program are encouraged to contact Mrazek via email (yanzek@shaw.ca) or phone (250-919-6706).

While the Bandits came up short in the 2015 Montana State ‘B’ championship, it was their second consecutive trip to the state finale after winning it all at the conclusion of 2014.