2015 Stan Musial World Series Champions from Houston, Texas will be making their first appearance at the GFI. Last summer they defeated the Long Island Storm in Farmingdale, NY to capture their first national championship. The Storm won the 2005 GFI. The Express are led by their President Robert Van Nieuwenhuyzen and are part of the Coastal Baseball League in Southeast Texas.
SAN FRANCISCO SEALS
The Seals were established as a summer collegiate travelling team back in 1985. Abel Alcantar, President and GM, is the driving force behind this team which resurrected the famous Seals name that once was associated with the minor pro team in the City by the Bay . The original Seals operated from 1903-1957. Their most famous alumni is Joe Dimaggio who would go on to star with the New York Yankees. The modern day Seals have been one of the finest travel teams in America. The Seals name in San Francisco lives on in another way. The SF Giants popular mascot is named Lou Seal!
CALGARY SIDEARM NATION
Geoff Freeborn pitched professionally for Calgary Vipers of the Northern League. He has also played ball in Europe, including Germany and France. He actually suited up in the European Championship one year. One baseball commentator said, “Geoff has bounced around the baseball globe.” And he will bounce into Grand Forks this summer, managing the Calgary Sidearm Nation. At one point in his career he developed an effective sidearm-submarine pitch which prolonged his career, hence the team name.
From his vast contacts in baseball he has assembled a team of former college and professionals, a few having played for Canada’s national team.
SNOQUALMIE VALLEY HURRICANES
The fourth team who will be making their debut in at the GFI are the Snoqualmie Valley Hurricanes. The architect behind this Washington State squad is Peter Kairis. They recently formed an alliance with the Dragons Baseball Club. Associated with the Dragons organization are Fernando DaSilva, born in Montreal, and a former draft pick of the Montreal Expos, along with Raul Ibanez, who is now a special advisor to the LA Dodgers. The Hurricanes and Dragons have an excellent philosophy in supporting youth and providing them with opportunities in life.
The Seattle Studs return as the defending GFI champions as well as the defending National Baseball Congress World Series champions. That was their second NBC title in three years – a remarkable achievement.
The Studs have been a prominent semi-pro team for many years, playing a regular schedule in the Pacific International League, several non-league games as well as tournaments. Their rosters over the years have included future major league players such as Tim Lincecum and Brent Lillibridge.
Everett returns for the third consecutive time to Grand Forks, both times making it to the finals. Oh, so close! Will 2016 be the Merchants year to win it all? Their long-time manager Harold Pyatte is one of the most dedicated baseball persons you will ever come across. His commitment to the Everett team over the decades is a remarkable and heart-warming story. The team will have a roster of committed and gifted athletes. Their schedule this summer includes a trip to Alaska to play a six game series against the Alaska Goldpanners.
KAMLOOPS SUN DEVILS
The Sun Devils won the Bronze Medal at the 2015 Canadian Championships, defeating the host New Brunswick team 5-1 in the medal game. Their Head Coach is Ray Chadwick, born in Durham, North Carolina, and a former pitcher with the California Angels. The team will include several players from the Thompson Rivers University roster.
Burnaby won the GFI in 2014, only the second Canadian team to do so, the last being in 1976. The Bulldogs were Canadian champions in 2010 and have captured six provincial titles. Their General Manager David Laing is a class act; he also serves as the Executive Director of Baseball BC. They will once again bring a competitive squad to Grand Forks, looking to relive the euphoria of their win two years ago.
NORTH SOUND EMERALDS
The Emeralds have been a welcome addition to the GFI the past few years. Last year, Henry McAree, offered up the finest pitching performance of the tournament. He is playing college ball this spring for the Lewis Clark State Warriors. Another Emeralds player, Mason Pierzchalski, was the GFI All-Star first baseman in 2015 and is currently at North Dakota State (NCAA) where he is currently one of the top three hitters.
The Emeralds will have a new manager/head coach this summer. Greg Goetz has a reputation of being an excellent pitching coach. One of the players he coached in college is Keone Kela, now an outstanding relief pitcher with the Texas Rangers.
THURSTON COUNTY SENATORS & WEST COAST GUNS
The Thurston County Senators are part of the Puget Sound Collegiate League and the West Coast Guns play an independent schedule against teams from the Pacific International League and other Northwest teams. Matt Acker is the driving force behind both these squads. Once again they will be in the hunt for the big prize money in Grand Forks. Matt also owns and operates the Kitsap Blue Jackets of the very strong and competitive West Coast League. There are a lot of first-rate baseball players in his camp and the rosters of the Senators and Guns will be well stocked for the 2016 GFI.
The Honkers have just released their 2016 schedule and will be playing at least 50 games this summer, 28 of them before they land in Grand Forks. Martin Lawrence is the General Manager of this Washington State team and his wife, Jocelyn, acts as the Assistant GM. An integral reason for establishing this club a few years ago is stated on their website, “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.