Sultans pick up MJBL year-end awards
While the Carillon Sultans couldn’t bring home a Manitoba Junior Baseball League (MJBL) championship this season, team members didn’t walk away from the 2022 season empty handed.
Bryan Gerbrandt was named co-manager of the year alongside Elmwood’s Ed Kulyk. In Gerbrandt’s final season as Carillon’s manager, he helped lead the team to the league semi-finals, falling to Elmwood in a competitive series, handing the Giants their only loss of the post-season.
Gerbrandt was quick to praise his team for helping him earn the award.
“I was surprised and honoured, and that just shows we had a good team this year,” Gerbrandt said.
“It was great to hear and awesome that I got that award. I appreciate that from the league.”
Zach Giesbrecht and Linden Meilleur earned all-star nods at third base and left-handed pitcher respectively, with Jon Esau taking home the league’s sportsmanship award.
Teams give votes for all-stars for players on other teams.
Giesbrecht mostly split his time this season between third base and first base, playing with the MJBL Sultans and the senior team. For the juniors, he was the team’s most dangerous bat, with a 0.362 average recorded on the MJBL’s website.
He didn’t just knock in base hits, as Giesbrecht also lead the team in slugging percentage.
“(Giesbrecht) is a great player, he’s great off the field as well, a true gentleman,” Gerbrandt said, noting his corner infielder set an example many players followed.
“It was great to have him as one of the leaders on the team.”
While fans of the junior program will be sad to see Giesbrecht move on from the program, they’ll still be able to catch him on the ball diamond as he continues to play for the senior Sultans in the Winnipeg Senior Baseball League.
Meilleur was Carillon’s most consistent pitcher this season, racking up a 4-1 record over six starts in 2022. He also pitched the most innings of any Sultans hurler, posting a 3.47 ERA.
“He’s always consistently Linden,” Gerbrandt responded when asked what makes Meilleur so good on the mound.
“He’s a hard worker, but he’s been consistent. I’ve coached him from first-year midget, and he hasn’t changed a bit. It shows, he comes here ready to play.”
Pitching match-ups based on handedness play a role in all levels of baseball, not just the major leagues. Gerbrandt said the benefits of having a good lefty in the lineup goes beyond game-day.
“If guys don’t have left-handed pitchers on their team, you don’t get to see a lot of left-handed pitchers in practice,” Gerbrandt said.
“When you do have that left-handed guy on your team if you’re able to get your hitters to practice off of him, that’s a benefit of having lefties on the team.”
Esau came away with the league’s sportsmanship award, and Gerbrandt was quick to praise his work on the field.
“He’s a very vocal guy, he’s very respectful of everybody,” Gerbrandt said.
“He also played a big role on our team this year.”
As Gerbrandt is leaving the Sultans program, he noted for baseball to continue to grow in the region, a lighted baseball diamond is needed. When the senior Sultans made the WSBL finals this year, they had to play home games in Winnipeg with no field in the region capable of hosting a night baseball game.
“We don’t have the facility to be able to draw more people to come watch the games,” Gerbrandt said, noting as the days get shorter, the drama of baseball ramps up for casual fans.
“Especially at intense times like playoffs, its unfortunate we have to go to the city… It’s not going to grow if we don’t make changes, and they’re very important to keep the sport growing, otherwise it trickles down to the young kids.”
First pitch for the MJBL season is usually in mid-May.