It has been 40 years since Alberta baseball fans were first introduced to the Pacific Coast League. On April 14, 1981, the Edmonton Trappers took to the field on the road against the Portland Beavers. Eight days later, April 22nd, the Trappers made their debut on home turf, taking on the Tacoma Tigers at Renfrew Park. It was quite the journey in making that happen. Efforts to start a new professional baseball league in Western Canada fell through, as did hopes to bring a Pioneer League team to face Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. Edmonton’s Mr. Baseball, Mel Kowalchuk, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and looked into the possibility of Triple-A coming to town. When an expansion team wasn’t feasible, he looked at buying an existing franchise, bringing in Peter Pocklington to help finance a deal for the Ogden Athletics. After some back-and-forth, the deal happened, the team moved and the rest, as they say, is history. We chatted with one of Kowalchuk's friends, Orv Franchuk, and former pitcher Bill Atkinson about that inaugural season.
April 22, 2021