Axemen look to youth to take next step

By Ryan Stelter, Camrose Canadian

The Camrose Axemen’s season didn’t exactly go according to plan, but the future is bright for the senior AA men’s baseball club.  

“It was a little bit more disappointing than we thought,” Axemen manager Kris Kushnerick said. “We were hoping to be able to compete for a playoff spot this year.”

The Axemen lost 5-3 to the Edmonton Athletics in the season finale at Harry Andreassen Park in Camrose on Aug. 2.

Next summer the Axemen will get younger, setting them up to be successful in the coming North Central Alberta Baseball League seasons.  

“The big thing will be our young players and getting them into the system and getting them more involved with the team, I think that it will go a long way in ensuring that the team survives,” Kushnerick said. “That means we get younger, faster, things like that. Things that an old team desperately needs.” 

This season the Axemen had an injection of midget AA players suiting up at the senior men’s level who performed well.   

“They’re able to hit in this league quite well,” Kushnerick said of the midget call-ups. “They’re very versatile, Camrose has always had players that can play multiple positions. In senior men’s baseball as the lineup changes game to game, having guys that can play in more than one spot goes a long way in making sure that we can have some success.” 

It has been a tough season for Cal Zimmer, a long-time member of the Axemen.  

“It was a trying year, we had some young guys and some old guys so we were kind of missing the guys that are in between,” he said. “We struggled with pitching and defence but I thought halfway through the year we started to come around and hit the ball a little better.” 

The 39-year-old outfielder and short stop had a good year, hitting .324 with four RBI and a .490 on base percentage. Zimmer does not know if he’ll be back in an Axemen uniform next season. 

“We’ll see, I’m going to be 40 next year so we’ll have to see where I am in the winter, what my off-season training is like,” he said with a laugh.  

With Camrose now fielding a peewee AAA program, Kushnerick said it has done a lot for baseball in town, and potentially will help the Axemen in the future.  

“I think it’s been huge for Camrose minor ball, especially because they’ve been a successful peewee AAA team, they’ve done quite well this year,” he said. 

“Hopefully they can keep building that up, not only should that help senior men’s baseball in town, but the area.” 

Kushnerick is hoping the Axemen can make the playoffs this year. 

“Next year probably looks like a .500 record will get you in the hunt for a playoff spot,” he said. “It’s always nice to challenge and play meaningful games in July.”  

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