Axemen return to Powerline Baseball League
Camrose Axemen first baseman Joe Pasychynk attempts to tag St. Albert Cardinals pitcher Tanner Mclean-Poll during North Central Alberta Baseball League action at Harry Andreassen Field in Camrose on June 30, 2017. The Axemen have left the NCABL to return to the Powerline Baseball League this season. File photo/Camrose Canadian
The Camrose Axemen are going back to their roots.
The Axemen have left senior AA league the North Central Alberta Baseball League to return to the senior A level of the Powerline Baseball League.
The move was officially approved at the PBL's organizational meeting on Thursday last week. The Axemen had notified the NCABL they were leaving the league on March 6.
The move was necessitated by two major factors. The club is going through a rebuilding process providing a bridge to younger players graduating from minor ball. The club is also running into difficulties with the travel schedule that had the Axemen playing as far away as Westlock.
"Based on recruits and talking to the current roster we had, it was not going to be feasible to participate in the North Central Alberta Baseball League this year," said Axemen manager Kris Kushnerik. "There is the desire to play more baseball more locally and that is not something the NCABL could accommodate."
The Axemen started out in the PBL as the Armena Royals in 2000, changing their name to the Armena Axemen in 2003. They joined the NCABL as the Camrose Axemen in 2009. The Axemen won three-straight PBL titles from 2002-04 and lost out in the final the next three years before jumping to senior AA.
It took the Axemen a few season to climb the ladder at the higher level but broke through in 2012 where they lost the best-of-three final 2-1 to the Westlock Red Lions. They made it back to the final in 2014 but were swept the Edmonton Blackhawks. In 2015 they once again lost 2-1 to Westlock in the final and have missed the post season the last two years as the roster has gotten older.
Kushnerick says the PBL has come a long way since the Axemen last played a campaign at the senior A level.
"The Powerline League is much, much different than when the Axemen left in 2007," said Kushnerick. "It's less of a recreational, small town league and more of a baseball league … I've ben in the Powerline League since 1999 or 2000 and it has gotten way better with things like actual baseball rules, lineup rules … most teams actually have uniforms and fields are well groomed. That's not something that was happening in the mid-2000s."
They will be rejoining the Camrose Roadrunners to give Camrose two teams in the PBL while the Armena Royals filled in the Axemen's spot after they left for the NCABL. This means there will be a number of built-in rivalries already to go.
"Hopefully getting a Camrose versus Camrose Wednesday night or Thursday night game would be appealing to local baseball fans to come out and watch," said Kushnerick.
The Axemen are in a full fledged rebuilding mode and will likely have a roster with 11 junior aged players on it this season with some older veterans like Kushnerick sprinkled in.
"It will be a young team of local kids," he said.
The league will get going in April, but teams are at the mercy of the weather in terms of getting on the field to practice and hold training camp. The Axemen will play their home games, as always, Wednesday and will be on the road on Tuesday and Thursday. The Roadrunners are at home on Thursdays with road games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"To really get going we need it to dry out and for the snow to be gone," said Kushnerick.