MERCHANTS HISTORY

The Innisfail Merchants are a Junior AAA baseball team that play out of Innisfail, Alberta (pop. 7,876).  They have represented the province of Alberta at the Western Canada Baseball Association (WCBA) Junior AAA championship over the past four years.

The nickname Merchants was first used by the Innisfail Senior men's team from 1980 to 1986 which featured such players as Murray Steeves, Murray Meikle, Derek Baird, Mel Harvey, and Paul Bergeron to name a few.  The senior men's team was reincarnated in 1995 by Ray Bergeron as the Innisfail Senior Indians which still compete at a high level to this date.

In 2011 a group of young men aged 19-20 looked to create a team that would compete at the Junior level while also competing with the Senior Indians.  They put together a team of 11 players that competed in a best of 3 provincial playoff with the St. Albert Tigers.  Ten of these players and two coaches traveled to a soggy St. Albert to play the first 2
games in a double-header format.  After a lengthy rain delay both games of the double-header were split with St. Albert winning the first game 4-3, and Innisfail rebounding in game 2 with an 8-4 victory.  Game 3 would also see the rain fall as the series winner-take-all game took place in Innisfail.  With Jay Kirkham joining the team in time to pitch the finale for the local junior team -then known as the Junior Indians the Innisfail team won Provincial gold with a 9-1 victory.

With just over a week to recruit, book time off, and satisfy the coaching criterias, the Innisfail junior team looked to the Town of Innisfail and the generosity of it's businesses to help in funding their trip to Winnipeg, MB to compete at the WCBA championships.  The community members stepped up to the plate.  Businesses such as the Fox & Hound, Central Alberta CO-OP, G&R Builders, Proform Concrete Services, and community members Vern Loughlean, and Curtis Flewelling contributed financially to aide in the venture.  However the bulk of contributions came from the Innisfail Senior Indians as they provided not only a large portion of the finances but also uniforms, equipment, and most importantly the players to compete in Winnipeg.

 1980 Newspaper Article Announcing the Winner of the Name the Team Contest

Meet the Merchants 80's
newspaper article
2011 Alberta Junior AAA Provincial Champions
2011 WCBA Jr. AAA Silver Medalists
2011 Round Robin Standings
After a very successful 4-1 record in round-robin play which saw the Innisfail junior team seeded as the top seed, they once again met up with the Altona Bisons in the Gold medal game.  Unfortunately the Alberta representative could not sustain their previous success as they fell 6-3 and settled for a silver medal finish.

Instead of being showered with champagne, the group from Innisfail were instead showered with accolades.  Tournament organizers, officials and fans praised the young team on their success and sportsmanship at the tournament.  It was then presented that Innisfail consider hosting the event, as the tournament was scheduled to move to Alberta in 2012.  With that it was decided that Innisfail would be the WCBA Junior AAA host for 2012, and the Junior Indians would look to the past, and the generosity of its community and rebrand the team as the Innisfail Merchants Junior AAA Baseball Team.

With great community support the Innisfail Merchants hosted the 2012 WCBA Jr. AAA championships with great success on and off the field.  The team would sneak into the finals once again and face off against Team Alberta comprised of a team of 18 and 19 year-old players out of the Alberta Midget Baseball League.  As could be heard by some of the many fans that attended the final this would be one of the best baseball games ever played in Innisfail.

Team Alberta jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and things looked bleak as the Merchants' bats were finding it hard to come from behind in the tournament, however Blair Mulder tied the game in the top of the second inning with a 2-run home run deep to right field.  Single runs for the Merchants in the 3rd and 4th innings saw the hometown team turn a 2-run deficit into a 2-run advantage.  Team Alberta would battle back and score singles of their own in the 4th and 6th and send the game to extra innings.  Unfortunately for the hosts they couldn't keep them down long enough as Team Alberta would plate the gold medal winning run with a 2 out single to right.  The fans were treated to some old school baseball action, and the tournament organizers were happy with the results.

Blair Mulder Hits a 2 run Homerun
2012 WCBA Junior AAA Silver Medalists
Jamie Whitehead Pitches at 2013 WCBA Tournament

 2013 would see the Merchants load up again to get over the hump at the WCBA Junior AAA championships, and with 9 members of the original 2011 team rejoining the team there was great hope for a gold medal finish.  The tournament would take place in Regina Saskatchewan, and again Innisfail would be pulling from the smallest population amongst all of the competitors, but bringing the most experience with them.

The tournament started off slow and once again hitting would be a problem for the team from Alberta.  Struggles in the first two games would leave the Merchants with a tough hill to climb just to make it to the finals for the third straight year.  The team would then rattle off three straight wins to finish out the round-robin portion.  The last battle would be against the tie-breaking math equation to see which of the three second place teams would move on to the gold medal game, and unfortunately this year would find the team heading back to Alberta empty handed.  The finals pitted a pair of teams that the Merchants beat in the tournament with the Pembina Valley Orioles topping the Arm River Indians.

In 2014 the Innisfail Merchants returned to the place where it all began Winnipeg Manitoba for the WCBA championships once again.  The 2014 version of the Merchants would see a total of 7 new faces on the roster, and would rely on a long commute to Winnipeg to bond as a team.  A last minute change to schedule would see the Merchants scramble to adjust to a new schedule, as well as shake off road legs, and play the St. Boniface Legionaires in their tournament opener.  After a hard fought come from behind win in extra innings the Merchants would look to beat the defending champion Pembina Valley Orioles in game 2.  Solid pitching, but shoddy defense would lead to a 4-2 Merchants loss, and a need for some of the veteran leaders to step up in the 3rd game against the Saskatchewan representatives from Weyburn.  With 3rd year member Brady Porter taking the mound he would hold the Beavers to one run, while also leading with his bat.  Porter would launch 3 homeruns, while his battery mate Levi Moon would launch one of his own sending the Merchants to a convincing 13-1 victory.  With Pembina Valley sweeping the round robin their opponent would come from the winner of the last game featuring the Innisfail Merchants and host Elmwood Giants.  This would once again be a memorable game as the Merchants surrendered an early 3-0 lead to Elmwood and would have to claw there way back if they had any hope of playing on championship Sunday.  The back and forth affair would once again come down to the bottom of the 7th as the Merchants faced a 5-3 deficit, and with an early run the Merchants were down one, with a runner in scoring position, but alas they would once again find themselves on the outside looking in losing the game 5-4

2014 Innisfail Merchants


John Voykin (11) Pitches at 2014 WCBA Tournament


Matt Whitehead (30) and Trevor Sakatch (15) 2014 WCBA


Corbyn Shields (2) 2014 WCBA
The Innisfail Merchants Junior AAA Baseball team would like to thank everyone who has made the past four years a very rewarding experience for the team, coaches, players, and volunteers.  We look forward to striving to be one of the best junior baseball programs in Canada.