Mandan is set up to have a special season, with a new ballpark to finally call home as the Braves, Mandan hopes to have the storybook ending of hoisting a trophy there at the start of June.
Two years in the waiting, after months of patience and anticipation, the Mandan Braves opening their new home on Thursday in a doubleheader sweep of Dickinson. The field ushering in excitement for where Mandan can go this year.
“I think that there’s a great appreciation for the nice field,” says head coach Dewitt Mack. “Being out here and getting out here as early as we are. The first week of practice and we’re getting out on the field, that doesn’t happen normally, so I think they appreciate that and hopefully, we’ll see that in their effort.”
The Braves, like so many other teams in the WDA, don’t have a ton of experience coming back, but with summer ball to lean on, players are stepping up as leaders, especially on the mound.
“For me, I’ve been in that position before so I kind of know the feeling and what I’ve got to do when I’m up on the hill,” says senior Ben Kleinknecht. “But for those younger guys, it’s a new experience for them. So I feel like just that leadership has to help them and guide them through that and you learn when you’re up there. It’s the best way to learn.”
Mandan feels there’s a familiarity within themselves that can make them a good defensive team, one that can shut down big innings.
“We’re not a team that’s going to tear you down for making a mistake,” says senior Anthony Johnson. “We’re a family here so we’re going to pick our teammates up. If you strike out, or you do what you don’t want to do, I know we’re going to have ten other guys that are going to pick you up and help you get that next hitter.”
This storied program wants to add another state title to their trophy case, especially with the tournament in their backyard.
“If they haven’t thought about it, we’ve mentioned it already,” says Mack. “That’s our goal is to make it to state at our home field. Nothing’s worse than coming to watch when state is at home.”