* Your 2014 Marysburg Royals of the Saskatoon Senior Baseball League. This season officially marks the 98th year of operation by the senior club . ….
By Andrew Hendriks
They played on through droughts.
They played on through World Wars.
They continued to field teams no matter the change in leagues.
Yet, as another spring approaches and the Marysburg Royals prepare for their 97th year of operation there is concern.
Will Cole Bauml be in the outfield this summer?
On the one hand they hope heâs there, they want him there.
On the other they hope heâs busy elsewhere … drafted by a pro team from the Northern Kentucky University Norse roster this June.
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Marysburg sits 178 miles north of Regina.
The small Saskatchewan hamlet is known for its dense farmland, a turn of the century Romanesque revival church and, despite a relatively sparse population, the communities long-standing history with baseball.
Although local historians have uncovered documentation stating baseball was played in and around the region as early as 1906, Marysburg Royals officials formally cite 1918 as the inaugural season, making 2015 the 97th year in which the township has fielded a competitive ball club, officially.
Of course, the areaâs expansion corresponds directly with the birth of the gameâs modern age making 1906 an understandable junction point for the games arrival within a region that, by the turn of the century, had already began to see rapid growth.
In 1890, a group of 10 German families migrated to the area from Rastdat, Russia. Upon arrival, they proceeded to lay down roots in the raw and relatively undeveloped region just north of the American border and by the 1900s, reported accounts of their many successes within the newly formed St. Peters Colony had started to attract those from abroad.
Come 1905, the regionâs population had swelled exponentially as railway travel helped draw various families from the United States including many from Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Thanks in part to the instructive efforts of Father Casimir Cismowski, a priest who migrated to St. Peters shortly after its establishment in the early 1900s, baseball caught on with local youth.
The influx of American culture started to help shape the surrounding community, the game quickly rose to prominence as a form of inexpensive entertainment for those around the region.
Cismowsk’s fellow clergyman, Father Mathew Michel would later help grow the game by thrilling young fans with stories of Major League greatness as, hailing from the United States, he was privy to a taste of the big league baseball prior to relocating north.
After all, it was Michel who had once caught the attention of none other than Babe Ruth while attending a game years before his arrival in Saskatchewan.
One summer afternoon in 1929, Ruth, a known catholic, had spotted the collared priest sitting in the first row prior to descending into the New York Yankees dugout at the end of an inning. A short while later, the future Hall of Famer emerged from the depths, carrying with him a baseball signed by some 15 Yankees including Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey and himself.
After getting Michel’s attention, the Babe proceeded to toss the Father the ball prior to sauntering out to his position in the field. This gesture left a lasting effect on the long-time fan, one that he would share countless times throughout the coming years.
With the game experiencing growth similar to that of the vastly expanding local communities within St. Peters, a number of individual settlements had begun to field clubs of their own. Both Marysburg and nearby Munester included.
The 1959 Marysburg Royals.
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Though all of their initial rivals have since folded due to a lack of general interest and declining populations, the Royals continue to persevere, fielding competitive ball clubs year in and year out.
Nearly a century after the teams inaugural season, baseball remains a focal point for those within the local community. A focal point thatâs evidenced by the fact that, despite Marysburg’s population consisting of no more than 20 individuals, the club usually draws anywhere from 50-75 fans to the local ballpark for Sunday doubleheaders against their Saskatoon League rivals.
Providing more than just an outlet for athletic prominence, playing for the Royals has become that of a family affair for many of ball players who hail from St Peters Colony and its surrounding area.
“We have had a team every year since 1918 and there has been at least one Strueby on every single one of those teams,” said Curtis Strueby, a school teacher from nearby Lake Lenore and current shortstop for the Royals. “I truly believe that family ties and close-knit family friends play a huge role in this teamâs success and chemistry.”
Marysburg’s population is 20 people. Exactly. Strueby counted the people who live âin townâ by name in his head,
In 2015, more than half of Marysburg’s 20-man roster will consist of players that are picking up right where their relatives have left off, creating a sense of family pride that, along with establishing a cohesive environment, helps forge an element of closeness that those within the Royals clubhouse refer to as âsecond to noneâ.
Joining Curtis are brothers Paul and Luke who, with cousins Geoff and Mathew, make up a quarter of the clubs roster alone.
“We have literally all grown up together,” added the Royals shortstop. “Some of us may be different in age but we have known each other for our whole lives. The chemistry and fun we have playing on this team is remarkable.”
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Jay Del Mah wrote on his site Western Canada Baseball:
From 1918 when Fred Strueby took the mound for Dead Moose Lake (the former name of the community north of Humboldt, home of Glenn Hall former Chicago Black Hawks netminder, who also played for the Royals) to 2013 when six of the grandsons of the late Isidore Strueby — Curtis, Geoff, Luke, Mathew, Paul and Shaun — have carried on the family tradition.
Wayne Strueby (father of Curtis, Paul and Luke and son of Isidore) is the current coach of the team.
Isidore and Sylvester, two of the six sons of Frank Strueby (whose father Francis Xavier Strueby came from Wisconsin to settle the area in the early 1900s) have been inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame in North Battleford along with the legendary Erwin Doerksen. The family itself was honoured with induction in 2000.
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In addition to the Strueby’s, the Bauml clan have also staked a claim to Marysburg lore as this summer, a trio of current players will look to continue a long-standing tradition of family success within the Saskatchewan baseball community.
A tradition that includes a pivotal spot on the silver medal Canada Games 1989 squad in Murray Bauml and a pitcher in Ron Bauml who, by the estimation of Saskatchewan Baseball’s high performance director, Greg Brons, was one of the best left-handed pitchers from the province.
Unquestionably, the next generation of Bauml ballplayers has big shoes to fill.
One of the Royals current family recruits has already begun to turn heads while playing collegiality south of the border. And, according to his coach, Todd Asalon, professional scouts are beginning to take notice.
Through 24 games with the Northern Kentucky Wildcats, outfielder Cole Bauml is leading the team in nearly every offensive category including batting average (.392), on base percentage (.473) and slugging percentage (.763).
In addition to a dominant slash line, the 6-foot-3 outfielder has amassed 74 total bases and plated 15 runs while 25 of his 37 hits have gone for extra bases … five of which have been home runs.
Attracting his share of earned attention whilst attending Northern Kentucky University on scholarship, Bauml is doing his part to put St. Peters Colony on the map, and the 22 year-oldâs impressive performance throughout the first two months of the NCAA play has those in Saskatchewan excited for his return to the Saskatoon Senior Baseball League later this summer.
That is, if his services aren’t already enlisted elsewhere.
“We would love to have Cole in the lineup,” said one teammate, pausing for dramatic effect. “But we would love even more to have him off perusing ‘other’ opportunities.”
The other Canucks on the Northern Kentucky roster are: INF David Head (Claremont, Ont.), LHP Adam Jafine (Toronto, Ont.), OF Conor Ledger (Toronto, Ont.), RHP Jake Shaw (Grand Bay-Westfield, NB), INF Mike Moffatt (Waterdown, Ont.) and OF-1B Gianfranco Morello (Etobicoke, Ont.).
Cole Bauml lives in Muenster (Population: about 450), 13 miles from Marysburg.
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With a strong connection to family heritage, in addition to an appearance by one of the games most endearing figures, St. Peters baseball history has all the makings of a real-life W.P. Kinsella novel and with a dedicated group established players returning to Marysburg in 2015, this summer promises to yield storybook results for the Royals once again.
-Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)