To say the least, it was an incredibly successful Western Canadian Baseball League season for the Moose Jaw Miller Express.
From their winning ways on the field that saw the local crew hold down first place in the East Divsion right until the final week of the season, to the incredible fan support right from the opening game, and their amazing run right to the final game of the WCBL championship series, it was a season to remember in Moose Jaw.
All that success on the field translates into success off the field, and Miller Express president Darryl Pisio couldn’t say enough about how outstanding the 2022 campaign was after so much time away due to the pandemic.
“We’re extremely happy with how things turned out this year, after two years of being away from the game it was nice to get back,” Pisio said. “Then it just built from there, the players just kept on getting better and better and winning and winning and the excitement just continued to build throughout the year. So it was awesome.”
The Express finished their regular season with a 33-23 record and were only caught for first place by the Regina Red Sox on the second-last day of the campaign. That success carried over into the playoffs, where they swept the Swift Current 57’s, defeated Medicine Hat in three games and took the powerhouse Okotoks Dawgs to three games -- including a memorable Game 2 win in front of close to 1,000 fans at Ross Wells -- before falling in the WCBL Final.
By literally every measure, that’s one heck of a successful campaign.
“When you lose the last game of the season, it's never fun, but you take a step back a day later, kind of reflect on things, and you realize that there were a lot of amazing things that happened this year,” Pisio said. “It's all attributable to everyone really, from the players to the coaches, from fans to billet families, to sponsors, volunteers, you name it. It's nice, just to see some excitement happening in Moose Jaw and everyone just embracing it.”
Fans also had an opportunity to enjoy plenty of upgrades both practical and cosmetic at Ross Wells Park, just the start of what Pisio expects will be a host of improvements in the coming years.
All that work could have come with a hefty price tag, but as per usual, the Moose Jaw community stepped up. Businesses donated time, money and effort to help with the renovations, making Ross Wells that much better of a place to visit.
“There's a huge list that we can go through,” Pisio said. “You have Cypress Paving helping us out with the paving and getting it done quickly for us. Elite Coating Systems and Rental Rehab helped us out a bit, Western Lumber donated some supplies and United Rentals helped out with the painting as well. Then Sherwin Williams, of course, with their huge donation of paint. And Strictly Fences did some great work, too.
“So it comes down to the fact that you just have an entire community behind you wanting to help out in any way. And it even leads into Homestand 2022 happening on Sept. 10, last year River Street Promotions had some of the proceeds go to Ross Wells and they’re doing the same this year. All those things have greatly helped. And it just speaks volumes of the people in Moose Jaw, wanting to embrace and support it.”
Even better news? It’s just a start, with consultation coming up soon that could make things even better for 2023.
“There's a lot of people that use the diamonds and the park, and we’ll be talking to [Ross Wells board president] Charlie Meacher about what he would like to see done next,” Pisio said. “I know that the lighting is probably a big thing that needs to get completed, that will be back in the city's hands to hopefully help with that. But right now, it's just one small step at a time and we're moving in the right direction, which is awesome.”
Then there are the team finances. With the amount of support the Miller Express had from fans this year, including several games that cracked the 750 mark in attendance, Pisio wouldn’t be surprised to see things turn out well on the ledger book this season.
“We'll see how the numbers come out, but we're confident that things will be okay for next year,” he said.
One thing that’s certain, the 2022 campaign was memorable -- and will be for a long time if how fans reacted to their on-field heroes is any indication.
“Tamara [Pisio] was with some of the guys at the bank exchanging their Canadian cash for U.S. cash, and people were recognizing them and taking pictures with them and just thanking them for a wonderful season,” Pisio said. ”So it’s really cool how much all this meant to the community, and we’re hoping we’ll be able to have another great season next year.”