Bulldogs won’t be taking a bite out of Kansas

The Emo Bulldogs, who sparkled in last year’s Division II NAFA World Series, won’t be making the trip there later this month due to travelling and player availability problems.
Team manager Grant Swire said a major barrier was getting their core squad together to play in tournaments outside the Rainy River District Fastball League–something that’s very important in preparing for the Aug. 22-29 showdown in Kansas.
“We just haven’t had the guys making the commitment like they did last year,” said Swire. “To play that kind of ball, you have to play together at out-of-town tournaments.”
Swire met with his players last week to officially axe the World Series from their schedule.
“They kind of knew it was coming,” he noted, adding the team also pulled out of last weekend’s Pinewood invitational tournament.
He stressed money did not play a major factor in the decision as the team’s sponsors were willing to provide the funds. But he did realize the travel cost to Kansas were more expensive than they were for last year’s tourney in North Dakota.
One of the drawbacks with the decision is the fact the team will have to start from scratch next year in earning a berth to the 2002 World Series.
Their berth in this year’s event was given by virtue of their top 10 performance at last year’s competition in North Dakota, where they went 4-2 against some of the top fastball players in the world.
Overall, Swire was unhappy with the way things went down but, at the same time, was respectful of what his fellow players–players he’s suited up with for close to 10 years–chose to put their energy into.
Catcher Wayne Strachan and fielders Shane Bliss and Brent Tookenay, for instance, have been spending a lot of their time getting the Borderland Thunder Junior ‘A’ hockey team ready for its inaugural season.
“It kind of bothers me but it was something out of our control,” he said. “It’s not like the guys didn’t want to [play in Kansas].”
Strachan, a former professional hockey player and current Thunder head coach, recognized a choice had to made.
“It was just that before we played together in tournaments all the time,” he noted. “This year, with being busy with hockey, when we could go, others couldn’t go. In that sense, we felt we couldn’t compete at that level.”
He added it was tough for a fastball veteran like Swire to organize the meeting.
“For the most part, in general, everyone was upset. I guess for Grant it was tough on him because he’s the one that had to bear the news,” Strachan said.
The Bulldogs still lead the RRDFL with a 17-2 record as of Monday, and dominate the major statistical categories. Despite their success, though, Swire admitted the team is not the same squad from last year as half of the team were pick-ups from the region and incumbents Dennis Mounk and Dave Taggart didn’t play this year.
In an effort to make up for missing the World Series, Swire said they’re considering taking part in the Minnesota state tournament later this month. Their next tournament action outside the league is this weekend in Dryden.
Meanwhile, Strachan still believes the core of the team–when everyone turns out–can compete with anyone in the region, country, and continent.
“When we play our top nine guys, we’re as tough as any team out there and it’s too bad we won’t get a chance to try and prove that,” he said.