Some kids from Muenster spent a weekend in much warmer temperatures than we had here in Saskatchewan.
Six ball players and one of their coaches from the small town of 342 were playing in the Top Choice Veterans Memorial Baseball Tournament in Phoenix, Arizona from November 11-13.
The players and coach Chad Hofmann are all involved with teams in the Saskatoon Fall Baseball Program.
At the end of August, seven players tried out in Saskatoon for teams in this program. They all made it, and surrendered their Saturdays to practices in Saskatoon and playing in tournaments.
The seven players from Muenster are on four different teams, based on their ages.
Logan Hofmann played on the 12 and under team, Brody Frerichs and Jordan Breker on the 13 and under team, Carter Frerichs, Devin Hinz and Nick Anderson on the 14 and under team, and Taylor Rueve on the 15 and under team. Hofmann is coaching the 13 and unders.
It is difficult to practise baseball in the fall, Hofmann said, but they were lucky this year. They only had to be indoors for the last two weeks before leaving, due to the nice fall weather.
"Other than that, we were outside," he said.
Teams in Saskatoon Fall Baseball are made up of about 75 per cent Saskatoon kids, and 25 per cent from the rest of the province, including Muenster, Hofmann noted.
The trip to Phoenix marked the end of the season, Hofmann noted.
In Arizona, each age group played in a different tournament, and there are 20 to 24 teams in each age category.
However, due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, Nick Anderson was unable to get to Phoenix for the tournament.
"Getting there and home was a challenge," Hofmann told the Journal a few days after their return, and not just for the Andersons. "But other than the flights, I can't complain about anything."
Each team with a Muenster player on it won at least one game in their tournaments.
The 15-year-olds had one of their games cancelled due to rain - about half an inch fell on Saturday night, which meant they could not play on Sunday.
The 12-year-olds also had one of their games cancelled, but luckily, it could be rescheduled, Hofmann said.
The 12-year-olds, including Logan Hofmann, actually played in the silver or B side final. And though they lost to the team from Albuquerque, New Mexico, they were thrilled to play the final in the Big League Dreams park, Hofmann said.
They exchanged hats with the other team at the close of the game, and got little championship rings, Hofmann said. It didn't matter that they lost - they were just thrilled with everything going on around them.
Though Hofmann was only coaching one of the teams with kids from Muenster on it, he kept a close watch on all the players from his hometown.
"I heard from all the coaches, that the Muenster kids played really well all weekend... and that they were some of the nicest kids they were coaching."
Logan Hofmann pitched a no-hitter in the game his team won in the round robin, his father reported, so they were happy with his play.
The 13-year-olds had Jordan Breker in the outfield and Brody Frerichs on first base, pitching and in the outfield. They were also two of the team's top three hitters in the tournament, Hofmann reported.
"They played really well," he said, adding that the team lost out in the gold side quarter-final.
The 14-year-olds had Carter Frerichs on second base and Devin Hinz in the infield and pitching, while the 15-year-old team had Taylor Rueve catching, and doing a good job of it.
"They all played well. The coaches said good things about them."
Outside of the tournament, the Muenster residents went to an NHL game, and toured Chase Field, where the Arizona Diamondbacks play.
"The weather was outstanding. The diamonds were unbelievable," Hofmann said, adding that many of the parks were replicas of legendary major league parks, like Fenway, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium.
"They were cool," Hofmann stated. "Pretty impressive."
Most of the teams they were playing - mostly from Arizona, but a few from Minnesota and New Mexico - had a lot more experience than the Saskatoon teams, Hofmann said. One had played over 80 games since August, when it's too warm to play.
"In September and October, they play doubleheaders after school every day," he said.
They are serious about baseball in the U.S., he agreed.
"Their baseball is treated like our hockey."
Still, the games they played were mostly pretty close, Hofmann said.
The biggest difference that he could see was in the other teams' defensive play.
"You could tell they've fielded hundreds of balls," he said. "They were pretty smooth."
All in all, it was a great experience, Hofmann noted, adding that the players are all thinking of doing it again.