Smiles, cheers and high fives filled Spitz Stadium Sunday evening as the Lethbridge Bulls pulled in with the Western Canadian Baseball League Trophy.
Fresh off their win against the Edmonton Prospects, head coach Chance Wheatley led the team off the bus carrying the trophy.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “This is what you play for and to be able to get it done and sweep through the playoffs, it’s fantastic.”
It was Wheatley’s first season with the team, making this win even more special.
“This is kind of why you take the job, is to win,” he said. “To be able to do that my first season, it’s pretty special.
“A lot of people coach for a really long time and never get to experience it, so it’s amazing.”
The Bulls took out the Sylvan Lake Gulls 2-0 in the first round. A change from the regular season where the Gulls won four games in a row.
“The guys were looking forward to the playoffs and kind of looking past a few games,” said Wheatley. “When playoffs started, the guys showed up, competed and played fantastic.”
The Bulls did it again in the second round, beating the Edmonton Prospects 2-0 and securing the 2021 WCBL tile. The team last snagged the title in 2015.
“We were really lucky to be able to do what we were able to do and play our best baseball when it mattered the most,” said first baseman Ty Penner. “I couldn’t be more proud of the guys in that locker room and it feels really good.
“It’s hard to believe looking back on it now, but I’m just really happy.”
And that happiness won’t be wearing off anytime soon. Seeing the trophy in Lethbridge, and being a part of the win, has been a dream for Penner.
“To bring it back to my hometown is just, really surreal to be honest with you,” he said. “I’m just really happy I could do it and proud to be from Lethbridge.”
He remembers watching the Lethbridge Bulls as a young kid. Now, he’s the one inspiring the next generation.
“I watched these guys growing up my entire life. I was the little kid down the line I see now asking for my autograph. I was that same kid asking for the autograph.”
Due to the pandemic, the season looked different. The rosters for the WCBL competition were filled with Canadian players instead of the usual American imports coming to play for the summer.
The Canadian comradery meant seeing quite a few familiar faces on the field.
“There’s only a few guys to pick from,” said Bulls catcher, Noah Or. “A lot of them hail from the same high school team or college team so we were all able to come together and get really close.”
Now, with the season over, the players will head back to school with some new bragging rights.
“For those guys to have those bragging rights going back to school with those guys and stuff like that is awesome,” said Wheatley.