It’s been nearly 10 years since a pair of former Lethbridge Bulls and Vauxhall Jets players were killed in a shooting along Highway 2 near Claresholm, but the teams they called their own continue to honour their legacy.
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Tanner Craswell and Mitch Maclean were killed alongside their friend Tabitha Stepple in a murder-suicide in December of 2011 that also injured Shayna Conway. Last year, the Bulls were not able to host their annual TCMM Memorial Game due to COVID-19, but on Monday the club continued the tradition.
“It’s a very important day for the Bulls’ family and the Vauxhall Jets’ family,” said Bulls head coach Chance Wheatley.
“We kind of had a quick chat with our guys before, saying that it’s still very important to carry that on.”
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For many players now on the Bulls roster, the tragedy happened when they were children, but the locals on the team understand just how crucial the legacy is.
“I’ve been to these games lots of times when I was younger,” said Lethbridge product Dalton Demers, who said he was 11 when Craswell and Maclean were killed.
“I didn’t really understand as much of the importance until I started playing in Prairie Baseball Academy and Lethbridge Bulls, and then you kind of understand the impact these guys had on us.”
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Demers said this year’s roster has plenty of local players who can fill in teammates not from the area.
“Without even telling them, they know it’s a big part of us,” he said. “We have their jerseys hanging up in the locker-room, and any of the guys that go and work out at Prairie Baseball Academy see their names all over, and everybody’s wearing the wristbands.
“Everybody knows it’s important, even in an unspoken way, but we certainly talk about it and it’s a real tragedy.”
Each year, the memorial game begins with unfilled spots at second base and shortstop, left vacant for infielders Craswell and Maclean.
Ty Penner said the players know how meaningful the night is for the community and alumni, and the goal is to always put on a show.
“You know the guys were younger, right? So they maybe didn’t even hear the story, or weren’t around to hear about Tanner and Mitch,” he said. “So I do think it leans a bit more to people that knew Tanner and Mitch and want to come out and enjoy a baseball game in their honour.”
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The annual game between the Bulls and Jets raises money for the TCMM Memorial Fund, which focuses on bringing players from the Maritimes — where Craswell and Maclean were from — to Alberta to follow their baseball dreams.
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