Manitoba rallies ‘round Zeus the Moose

Summer games baseball team looks to improve on silver-medal finish in 2017


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Team Manitoba’s baseball squad is bringing a secret weapon to the 2022 Canada Summer Games next week in Niagara, Ont.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/08/2022 (229 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Team Manitoba’s baseball squad is bringing a secret weapon to the 2022 Canada Summer Games next week in Niagara, Ont.

So, what is it?

“It’s this kind of a clay statue of a moose… It’s kind of become our team mascot,” explained head coach Cody Benson on Thursday.

“So if someone is player of the game, they get it and then they get to hand it out to the next guy at the next game if we win. It’s kind of fun. They named him Zeus the Moose and he’s kind of brought us together. It’s something fun to put in the dugout and have the guys kind of rally around… I have no idea how I’m gonna get it on the plane but we’ll figure it out.”

Hey, whatever works.

The legend of the roughly 12-inch statue began last month when the group travelled to Minneapolis for a 96-team tournament. Assistant coach John Patmore was walking through Mall of America and came across the moose and figured it’d make a fun trophy to give to whoever won the team’s mini-golf round later. Zeus ended up making his way to the diamond to see the boys make it all the way to the semi-final.

“It brought a spark and a joy to the lineup,” said starting pitcher/designated hitter Ethan Giesbrecht.

“I don’t know if it’s superstitious or what, but it sure has helped our team in a big way.”

Team Manitoba is hoping it can rally behind their beloved moose to get to the gold-medal game. The last time the Summer Games took place was in 2017 in Winnipeg and Manitoba played Saskatchewan in front of 7,000 fans at Shaw Park in the championship game. Saskatchewan ended up winning 3-1, but it was still a big positive as Manitoba hadn’t won a silver medal in the event since 1985. The province is still searching for its first baseball gold.

“Our tryout process has been going for about a year now. Cody and rest of the coaching staff selected a strong group of guys so I think we’ve created a team that will give us a good shot at winning the whole tournament,” said Giesbrecht, who plays for the Altona Jr. Bisons and will be headed to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas later this summer.

“I think Minneapolis was definitely the spark that got our team going… Even since then, our camaraderie as a group has definitely grown and we’ve become more comfortable with each other and I know that has translated to our gameplay as we started winning consecutive games there in Minneapolis.”

The baseball rosters are made up of Grade 10 and 11 players. Each team, howwever, is allowed to have two Grade 12s. Benson used those two precious spots on Giesbrecht and catcher Cody Gunderson from St. Malo.

“Ethan Giesbrecht is if not the, one of the best pitchers in the province for his age group. He’s been amazing on the mound all year, but especially for us in these tournaments, he’s been huge,” said Benson, a 29-year-old with four years’ experience coaching in the provincial program. Benson, who used to play junior college ball in North Dakota, also coaches out of the Home Run Sports Training Centre.

“And then Cody Gunderson catches and hits third for us. He’s been on a tear at the plate. He’s been hitting everything. And he’s so solid behind the plate. He shuts down anybody that tries to run on us. He’s so good back there.”

There are no returnees from 2017, but Giesbrecht has pitched under the bright lights as he took the mound in the final of the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask. against Alberta. Alberta came out with a 4-2 win, but Giesbrecht took a lot from the experience and has used it to help the younger talent get ready. Giesbrecht hopes he and his 88-m.p.h. fastball get another chance to pitch for gold.

“I think I have the composure to pitch in those games and I’m able to overcome the pressure that’s involved,” Giesbrecht said.

“I enjoy pitching those kind of games. The pressure helps me and I use my intensity to attack hitters and just give my team the best shot that I can.”

Manitoba’s first game takes place Sunday against Newfoundland and Labrador at Oakes Park.

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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