The Lewiston Truckers return to the Grand Forks International as defending champions. They defeated the Geelong Baycats from Australia in the 2011 final. This was the third time in four years that the Truckers would take home the top prize. The Truckers, summer name of the Lewis Clark State Warriors, is one of the top NAIA College programs in the United States. They finished the 2012 season ranked eighth in the nation, with a record of 42-14.
Two players, who led the Truckers to a GFI title last year, Austin Pentecost and Luke Goodgion, were selected in this year’s MLB draft. Pentecost was the first Warrior ever to be drafted by the Chicago Cubs. LCSC has now had at least one player drafted from all 30 of the current MLB franchises.
At the time of writing this, Seattle Studs had just completed a 3-game series in Arcata, California. After it was over one headline read “Studs Too Strong for Crabs.” After losing a 2-1 squeaker in the opener, Manager Barry Aden’s Emerald City squad bounced back with convincing 13-1 and 8-5 victories. Humboldt is a very good ball team but as GFI fans have discovered over the years, so are the Seattle Cheney Studs. Each year the outstanding mix of college, ex-college and ex-pros is a recipe that results in success. Two players on their roster, Jett Hart and Derek Jennings, are back with the Studs after being signed to Independent Pro contracts late last year. Last season, Aden described Jennings as “the best non-professional shortstop I have ever had play for me.”
The Trail Orioles are defending Western Canada Senior AA Baseball Champions. They won the title in their own backyard last August when they defeated Manitoba in the final. Their backyard is Butler Park which has seen its share of top baseball events. Twice in the last eight years it has been the host site for the BC Senior Men’s championship. In 2003 Trail hosted the BC Babe Ruth provincials, and going further back in time the 1995 Babe Ruth World Series was played there. Trail has a profound love for baseball and a history that runs deep. The Orioles will be in Winnipeg, Manitoba in late August to defend their Western Canadian crown, and should be well prepared to do battle at the GFI as they arrive in Grand Forks two days after returning home from the Keystone province.
Langley Sr. Blaze – The Blaze arrived in Grand Forks in 2011 for the first time. And what a debut! In only their second year in existence, this team was all business. They breezed through the Round Robin, winning 3 in a row while outscoring the opposition 24-6. Fans and opposing teams soon realized this team from the Fraser Valley of BC had a very talented roster. Of course, this tournament is unpredictable; as has happened before an apparent underdog rises up and slays the dragon. In this case it was the Geelong Baycats from Australia, who stunned the Blaze in the quarter final. Langley’s run at the championship was over. They are back, no doubt even more determined. Dave Diachuk and Steve Petersen, the architects who built such an excellent lineup, are extremely responsive and helpful in providing information for tournament organizers. A class act!
The Canada West All-Stars will make their first appearance in the GFI. The team will be composed of mainly college grads, ex pros and current college players. The team will be anchored by Greg Wallace, (OF, Team Canada Alum, university of Evansville standout) Jared Johnson, (INF, Team Canada, Marlins Draft pick), and Jordan Blundell (INF, Indy Ball, NAIA All American). The team will also feature some young talent in Cody Chartrand (RHP), Mike Monster, (RHP, Reds Draft Pick, Junior National Team). The team will be managed by Geoff White, (Former Ex Pro, NAIA All American, Current Head Coach at Okanagan College), assisting him will be Lyall Foran, ( former D1 coach at Norfolk State and Atlanta Draft pick), and Norm Caig
(Last appearance at GFI was when he Coached Larry Walker with Team BC).
The San Diego Stars are British Columbia bound in 2012. Their schedule has them playing in three tournaments in our province. They will be in Kelowna for the Canada Day Blast tourney, and remain in the province to play some exhibition games against BC teams before they participate in the annual KIBT event in Kamloops. Then six weeks later they will return for the GFI. Surely they will be singing, “On the Road Again,” by the end of the summer. Mickey Deutschman has been the GM/Field Manager since 1985 and has led this Southern California team to many championships. The Stars remain a highly recognized talent within the baseball community, locally, nationally and internationally. Mickey D. also operates the San Diego Baseball Academy, a training-coaching program for ballplayers and coaches. Current: The Stars remain a highly recognized talent within the baseball community, locally, nationally and internationally. Four international championships, defeating Team USA, state and local league championships and many earned appearances in the NBC World Series.
The Parkland Whitesox have been in existence at the Senior AAA level since 2008. From 2008 to 2011 they won 3 of 4 league titles and will be shooting for another in 2012, however they have made the jump to the more competitive Sunburst Baseball League which features the 2009 National Champion Fort Saskatchewan A’s. The Parkland roster is made up of local players from the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, and Edmonton area. It features many current and former college players, and a former MLB pitcher in Lou Pote who recently retired from professional baseball after a North American League Championship with the Edmonton Capitals in 2011. The Whitesox will be looking forward to representing Alberta at the 2012 GFI with serious hopes of a playoff run.
UCLA Bruins UCLA is one of the most familiar names in College athletics in the United States. The Bruins, in the major sports of basketball, football and baseball, have a history of excellence and championships. The UCLA Bruins Alumni baseball team is participating at the Grand Forks International for the first time. This squad from Los Angeles was formed in 2005 and their Head Coach is legendary UCLA coach Gary Adams, the winningest coach in UCLA history. Sharing the leadership of the team is General Manager, Marty Stuka. Marty is a businessman but maintains a heavy involvement in the world of baseball, including the Director of International Baseball Operations for MVP Baseball. He has coached against national teams from 8 different countries and in 1983 he coached the French National Baseball Team in the European Championships.
The Northwest Honkers Organization was founded in 2010 by a group of former collegiate baseball players. A simple passion for the game along with the urge to continue to compete at a high level drove the idea to put together the Honkers Organization. The Northwest Honkers will be playing at the GFI for the first time. Two players of note on their roster are pitchers Jason Salers and J.D. Scholten. Salers played at Pierce College in California. His career was disrupted by Tommy Surgery in the fall of 2007. He was signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010. Scholten led the NCAA Nebraska Cornhuskers with an ERA of 2.08 in 2002, later playing independent pro ball in Sioux City, Iowa. He also played in Canada, Belgium and Germany.
The Kamloops Sun Devils have had an excellent season in 2012. They recently made it to the final of the BC Senior Championships in Prince George before losing to the Langley Sr. Blaze. At the very competitive Kamloops International Tournament in mid-July they had their best showing in many years, narrowly missing the final. The Seattle Studs defeated the Sun Devils 2-1 in extra innings in the semi-final game. The Studs went on to claim the title over Everett. At the KIBT event the top pitcher (Wataru Asaoka) and top hitter (Dillon Morgan) were both from the Sun Devils. Ray Chadwick continues as their Head Coach and will have a number of players on the roster from Thompson Rivers University, where he has built a successful program over the past 10 years.
Team Canada 2011 Grand Forks International All-Star pitcher, David Otterman, was selected in the 7th round of this year’s Major League draft. Notably, he was the 2nd of 26 Canadians picked, and 4th overall in the NAIA, which had a total of 44 players drafted. After being selected by the Milwaukee Brewers, Otterman had this to say, “When I got to UBC, I was a long way from where I am today. It’s a testament to the coaching staff at UBC because it shows that they can take young ballplayers (like myself) and shape them into professionals. There is no question that I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without the program at UBC.” The Thunderbirds represent Canada at the GFI; with them will be players from last year, along with exciting new recruits.
Lewiston Paffile Truckers – Seattle Studs – Trail Orioles – Langley Sr. Blaze – Canada West All-Stars – San Diego Stars – Parkland Whitesox – UCLA Bruins – Northwest Honkers – Kamloops Sun Devils – Team Canada – Thurston County Senators
Thurston County Senators Making their third consecutive appearance at the GFI, the Senators from Washington State are led by Head Coach Scott Kelly and team owner Matt Acker. Thurston County is a semi-pro team affiliated with the Puget Sound Collegiate League. Their roster is flexible by design and is the top level of talent you will find in amateur baseball. An independent schedule has them playing West Coast and Pacific International League teams. Two players currently in the Senators lineup are pitchers Michael Calderon and Damon Porter. Calderon just completed his junior year at Bellevue University in Nebraska where he registered an ERA of 2.61 and was named the Midlands Conference Pitcher of the Year. Porter recently graduated from Faulkner University in Alabama where he was the team’s top closer.