Cascades create diamond memories
By MIKE MURPHEY
Roy Hobbs Baseball
Trevor Strandlund says he will owe Jim Swanson forever for the opportunity to play one year of professional baseball.
If there is a debt to be paid, though, Swanson says Strandlund and he are even. Because it was Strandlund, a few years later, who convinced Swanson to come and play with the Tacoma Cascades in the Roy Hobbs World Series.
“In 2003 and 2004, Trevor just bugged me and bugged me to get involved with the Cascades,” Jim said. “And ever since then, I’ve never been able to say ‘no’ about going back. It would have to be something pretty special to keep me away.”
Trevor Strandlund, 49, and Jim Swanson, 44, have both spent their lives around baseball. Trevor as a gifted pitcher, Jim as a solid player and a dedicated organizer who has put Prince George, British Columbia, on the baseball map in Canada.
Just a couple of months ago, Prince George hosted the Baseball Canada Senior Championship Tournament, and Jim managed the Prince George Axemen to the title, defeating the defending champion Windsor Stars in the title game.
Back in the 90s, though, in that same Baseball Canada Senior Championship Tournament, Jim watched Trevor carve up the competition on his way to recognition as the tournament’s top pitcher.
“He was a 33-year-old lefthander who had never played pro ball,” Jim recalls. “He wasn’t overpowering, but every time he took the mound, he got people out. Great changeup, hit his spots with the fastball. Like a left-handed Tom Glavin.”
At the time, Jim was working as commissioner of the Prairie League, an independent professional league involving teams in South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. When he became General Manager of the league’s North Dakota Varmints the next year, he remembered the left-handed pitcher.
“I called Trevor to see if he was interested in giving professional baseball a shot,” Jim said.
“I was too old,” Trevor recalls. “I had no ambition other than to just play for that year. But I did want to have that experience.”
The highlight of the season for Trevor came in July when the Varmints were in Austin, Minnesota, to play the Southern Minny Stars.
“We had a bunch of guys with sore arms,” Jim recalled, “and we’d gotten rained out the day before so we had to play two 7-inning games. Trevor started the first game, and got a 7-0 complete-game win throwing only 57 pitches. The manager asked him if he could start the second game, and he said sure. When he walked the lead-off hitter in the 6th inning – his only walk of the day – the manager finally came and got him. Trevor got the win in both games of the double-header.”
As general manager of the Varmints, Jim would normally have been on the phone to every newspaper sports editor he knew spreading the word about Trevor’s performance.
“But I couldn’t,” Jim said. “We had to keep it on the down-low because we didn’t have the proper paper work immigration-wise for him to be across the border with us during that series. So he never got the recognition he was due.”
Trevor has been going to the Roy Hobbs World Series with the Cascades since the early days of the tournament. But he has quite a baseball resume beyond Hobbs and the Prairie League.
He played semi-pro baseball in Australia for a year. He’s won a batting and pitching title in the Canadian National Tournament. At 45 he got a win as starting pitcher for the British Columbia team in the Gold Medal Games. And at 46, as pitching coach for Canada in the World Baseball Challenge, he pitched an inning against the United States’ best young baseball talent. Several years ago, he accompanied a group of Seattle high school baseball players on a “barnstorming” bicycle trip to Satchel Paige Field in Kansas City, playing baseball games along the way.
But no matter what else they do in baseball, both Jim and Trevor say the highlight of the year is their week with the Cascades at the Roy Hobbs World Series.
“We’ve got a great group of guys,” Jim said. “We’re probably never going to win an open division or AAA championship, but we’re out there battling, everyone taking it the right way. It’s the best week of our year.
“It always is.”