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Saskatoon Baseball Club hires WCBL champion Joe Carnahan as inaugural coach

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Saskatoon Baseball Club hires WCBL champion Joe Carnahan as inaugural coach
WATCH: Six-time WCBL champion Joe Carnahan will lead the Saskatoon Baseball Club in it's first season in the league next summer, hired as the organization's head coach – Jul 7, 2023

For Joe Carnahan, leaving the Western Canadian Baseball League three years ago was one of the toughest decisions he’s had to make.

But after some time away from the league coaching youth baseball, he feels ready for a return to a WCBL dugout – this time in Saskatoon.

“After they gave me what their vision is going to be I was definitely interested,” said Carnahan. “I had further conversations with Steve (Hildebrand) and just got more details. It’s something that I really want to be a part of and it’s going to be something special.”

Carnahan has been hired as the first head coach in franchise history for the expansion and yet to be named Saskatoon Baseball Club, set to take to Cairns Field in the summer of 2024.

After two decades as either a player or manager, Carnahan took a step back from the sport in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic citing the difficulties of having to tell committed players that they would not be coming north of the border.

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“I really wanted to get back involved and I missed it,” said Carnahan. “If COVID would have never hit, I probably would have never ended up not coaching in the league.”

It will be a change of scenery for Carnahan, who has spent his entire WCBL career with the Swift Current 57’s and got to establish himself in the community as well as in the Saskatchewan baseball family.

“It’s a fun league, with coaching it you get players from all over North America,” said Carnahan. “So you get to meet a bunch of new guys, see how they gel together, help them gel together and then be a piece of them building their future careers and getting better.”

Carnahan’s resume is extensive with six WCBL championships to his name, three won between 2001 and 2006 as a player and another trio won in 2010, 2016 and 2017 as Swift Current’s manager.

He’s been recognized on an individual level as well, capturing league MVP and playoff MVP honours twice over his playing career and he’s a four-time WCBL coach of the year.

“The biggest thing for me was just making sure we had someone with obviously some past experience, but also a track record,” said Saskatoon Baseball Club president Steve Hildebrand. “We want to come out of the gates hot, we want to make sure that we’re competitive right away. And, I truly believe Joe is that guy.”

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Hiring Carnahan ticks off another box for the Saskatoon Baseball Club, as they are in the process of deciding on a team name with the finalists being the Saskatoon Berries, Saskatoon Bridge Pigeons, Saskatoon Cobra Chickens and Saskatoon River Pirates.

With under a year to go before opening pitch, Hildebrand said the buzz in the city is already building around the return of summer league baseball to Saskatoon.

“We’re all excited,” said Hildebrand. “Just even around the community, people are excited about baseball coming back here. We’re looking forward to providing some great entertainment and a good team on the field.”

The next steps for Carnahan will be hiring the rest of his coaching staff and recruiting talent for the 2024 season, tasks which the former Swift Current slugger is excited to move forward with.

“To have a team here in Saskatoon is something that’s definitely been missing in the WCBL,” said Carnahan. “With Steve and the ownership group that’s having the team, it’s going to be run right. It’s going to be a lot of fun, we’re going to be involved in the community and it’s going to be a great place for players to come and play.”

Voting for the Saskatoon Baseball Club’s official name is open until July 11, while the inaugural season ticket drive is also underway for the organization.

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