The Airdrie Brewers are more than just a baseball club – they are a family. Homegrown; community owned operated and cultivated.
“Out of our 17-man roster – 16 played minor ball in Airdrie,” says general manager Tim Kehoe. “It’s an Airdrie team – that’s part of the uniqueness of it … we got local boys playing ball and having some fun with it.
“That’s a big part of why we are doing it … most of these guys all played together since they were eight years old,” says Kehoe. “They have known each other forever.”
Members of the team play for the love of the game, community and camaraderie. And because the Brewers are a non-profit organization, players must earn the right to play.
“They’ve got a little bit of skin in the game … beyond just showing up and getting everything paid for,” says Kehoe. “They are not professional ball players – we want them to be responsible with how we are portrayed in the community.”
By day, Kehoe is a pilot with more than 30 years of experience. He currently flies for WestJet.
“We had a couple of (WestJet) tickets (last year) – so we gave everybody tickets to (buy and) sell … to recoup costs.
“We are not for profit … [not] a big corporation,” says Kehoe. Subsequently, the team survives (economically) through raffles, modest sponsorship, and money put in by the players.
Fresh of off their inaugural season, the Brewers are looking to flip the script; not only in the standings, but also on how the team is run and managed as well.
Toward the end of last year players were expected to become coaches as well; to take a more executive role and lead both on and off the field.
When Kehoe and four other fathers – Dan Carefoot, Tracy Donst, Rob Rattie and Charlie Row – brought the team to life, that is how they envisioned it. To build a foundation; then hand over the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. All five men have sons, ranging in age from 19 to 24, on the team.
“Myself and four other dads that have kids went through the Airdrie little league system,” says Kehoe, who has been involved in amateur hockey and baseball for more than a decade now.
“You get out of little league and there is no more baseball … you go play slow pitch and that’s all you have left to do.
“We got together and came up with an idea on how to get a team going and looked at a couple different leagues,” explains Kehoe.
Ultimately, the team ended up joining the Parkland AA baseball league based on geographic and economical viability.
Speed, power, talent
The product on the field makes Parkland AA very competitive senior baseball.
Hitters at the plate can expect to see off-speed pitches in the 70s (mph), and fastballs touching 80.
In its heyday Parkland was home to as many as a dozen teams, but now only features a little less than a half dozen. Urban sprawl and migration – ambitious young men leaving for greener pastures – are the root causes.
Last year there were five teams; this year is still in flux, with Kehoe expecting to see four or five teams, maybe six at most.
“It gets a little repetitive,” he admits. To alleviate the monotony, so to speak, the Brewers will look to branch out this season by entering a few tournaments.
Whereby they will have a chance to play teams from other leagues.
Their first priority though will be to improve on last year’s performance.
“Our record wasn’t great. We won six, lost 12 … it was an eye opener,” says Kehoe.
Especially for the new kids on the block who “thought they were big stuff,” says Kehoe, chuckling in retrospect.
“Farm boys rippin’ the ball (throwing said kids off their game).
Now that they are in their second year and acclimated, the Airdrie Brewers are getting ready for opening day.
And their general manager is hoping for a decent turnout; more support from the community, more locals in the stands cheering on the home team.
“Get out and watch local boys having a good time on the diamond,” he encourages.“It’s a chance to … get some community spirit behind the team that represents Airdrie.”
Opening day for the Brewers was May 27 at Chinook Winds, with lots of fun activities ahead because Brewers baseball is always a family affair.
For the complete season schedule, visit Airdrie Brewers on Facebook.