Michael Olson, a 2009 Monticello High School graduate, went to Medicine Hat, Alberta last summer looking for a chance to play some more baseball.
A year later, back in Alberta, he ended up finding one of the best summers of his life.
Olson, playing his second consecutive summer for the Medicine Hat Mavericks of Canada’s Major Western Baseball League, helped lead the Mavericks to their fourth consecutive postseason.
A year after getting upset in the championship series, the Mavericks wouldn’t be stopped short this year. Olson and Medicine Hat took three out of four games from Swift Current in the championship series, to capture the Western League crown.
Olson said the past few months, and specifically weeks, were some of the best he’s had, especially in sports.
“This was my favorite sporting experience I’ve had,” said the recent Concordia (Moorhead) graduate.
The experience all started with a few connections. After spending his first couple college summers playing baseball around the Twin Cities area, Olson’s college coach, Bucky Burgau, who also helps coach Fargo’s semi-pro baseball team, was able to find him a spot in Medicine Hat playing for an old friend.
So last year, Olson and a Concordia teammate made the trip (approximately 15 hours from Monticello) west for a new experience.
The first summer was a memorable one for Olson. While he didn’t play as well individually as he would’ve liked, he was thrilled to be on such a good team. The Mavericks dominated the league throughout the year before coming just short in the Western League playoffs.
Being that the Western League is for college players, Olson was surprised to find out he was eligible to go back this summer after graduating from Concordia in the spring.
“Finding out I could go back up got me excited,” said Olson, who knew immediately that he wanted to avenge last year’s upset loss.
This year, the team played closer to .500 ball, finishing the regular season with a record of 25-21, good for second in the West Division, and most importantly, good for a playoff berth.
Olson had a big regular season for the Mavericks. The right fielder hit .299, while belting a league-leading nine home runs. Olson also finished second in the 11-team league in triples (4), fifth in runs batted in (35) and fourth in slugging percentage (.548).
“I was really happy with the way I played overall,” said Olson.
He also thoroughly enjoyed the experience off the field. He lived with host parents, and spent almost all of his days with teammates, watching Netflix in the morning before moving between the gym, the batting cages and the baseball diamond during the afternoon and evening hours.
Night in, night out he enjoyed facing strong, consistent opponents.
“It’s good competition,” said Olson. “It’s a lot of guys that are wanting to play after college.”
But in the postseason, no opponent was good enough to topple a Medicine Hat team that felt destined to capture what they missed out on the season before.
“We were all ready to get to the championship game,” said Olson. “We kind of had a feeling that this year would be the year.”
And it was.
In the opening round, Medicine Hat took three out of four from the Moose Jaw Miller Express. In the West finals, Medicine Hat again won the five-game series in four games, topping their rivals, the Dawgs from Okotoks.
That brought them to the championship series, where they faced off with the Swift Current Indians.
Swift Current took game 1, at their ballpark, 6-5.
But the Mavericks weren’t shaken. They stole game 2 on the road, before coming back home to win game three and the championship clinching game four.
Olson said it was shortly before the championship dog-pile, and ensuing trophy presentation, when the accomplishment started to sink in.
“I started getting chills after the first out of the last inning,” said Olson, adding that he realized “this is going to happen.”
And it did. The Mavericks closed out the final inning, winning the game 6-3 and adding another highlight to what has been an impressive baseball career for Olson.
It’s a career that he hopes isn’t over quite yet. While he has started searching for a day job, he’s continuing to use connections in baseball as he tries to latch on for one chance at playing with an Independent League team.
“You only have so long to give that a shot,” said Olson. “And that’s exactly what I want to do.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org