Sunday was a day to celebrate for the Red Deer Riggers as they captured their 14th provincial senior AAA baseball championship at Great Chief Park.
Yet there was just a bit of sadness.
Riggers veteran Dwayne Lalor announced following the 3-1 victory over the Fort Saskatchewan A’s in the championship final that it was his last game as a player.
When the majority of the Riggers’ fans heard the news most just smiled and nodded as if to say that he would be back as the Riggers attend the national finals next season.
But Lalor was adamant that his playing days — at least with the Riggers — are over.
“This was my last game,” he said with a touch of emotion in his voice. “It started with a win at Great Chief Park and finished with a win.
“Wow, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Lalor knew during the season this would likely be his final year which was a major reason why the Riggers bid for the provincial championships.
“I didn’t want it to end on a ball field in Fort Saskatchewan. I wanted it here where it began,” he said.
It’s the end of a 29-year playing career that saw the 46-year-old set every record imaginable with the senior squad.
He had a career batting average of over .400 and twice led the team with an average of over .500.
In 1985 he batted what’s still a team record .529.
He finished with close to 1,500 hits, 800 RBIs and over 1,000 runs scored.
And the records would have been even better if he didn’t miss close to two seasons playing for the Canadian national senior team and two others while coaching the Canadian national junior squad.
The graduate of Washington State University has done it all with the Riggers. He was head coach from 1988-2001 and has filled every role in the executive from GM to president.
One thing is for certain, while his playing days may be over he won’t be far from his beloved team. Chances are he’ll remain in the executive and plans on attending the nationals next season, but “I’ll have on a golf shirt rather than a uniform.”
Lalor has touched a lot of people along the way, whether it’s the players with the Riggers or on the opposition.
Red Deer Stags pitching coach and co-manager Davin Gulbransen is one such player. He played several seasons for the Riggers before joining the Stags.
“It was a remarkable career and the way he was still playing at the end was a testament to his desire for the game and his conditioning,” Gulbransen said. “He’s done a lot for baseball in Red Deer. His dad (Wayne, who passed away in 2004) and Dwayne were major reasons the sport in the city is so popular. They were key in the Riggers and there’s a lot of players who are now with the Stags, who played with them. If there was no Riggers there would be no Stags.
“We have two of the best senior teams in the province right here and that only benefits our Red Deer Minor Baseball program. It’s a place for the kids to play after midget.”
The Stags and Riggers have one of the best rivalries in the province and it was the Riggers, who eliminated the Stags in the provincial semifinals, 7-5, Sunday.
“It’s a great rivalry and I think I get 10 more grey hairs every time we play,” said Gulbransen with a laugh. “It’s a fun rivalry and good for both teams.”
Gulbransen was naturally disappointed with the loss Sunday.
“As much as I hated to lose, I appreciate the way Dwayne got to go out,” he concluded.
Riggers manager Curtis Bailey grew up watching the Lalor and the Riggers and was always impressed with the way Dwayne handled himself.
“He made sure things were done first class whether it was on the field or off. He did a lot of stuff behind the scenes that people don’t see that’s an important part of this organization.
“Considering the amount of time he needs to do his real job (teacher and basketball coach at Lindsay Thurber) is was impressive to see the amount of time he spent with the baseball team.”
The loss of Lalor, on the field, will definitely leave a hole which won’t be readily filled, according to Bailey.
“Even this year when he missed the odd game there was something missing,” said Bailey. “It’s an intangible that this team had whether he was playing or just in the dugout.”
But Lalor won’t be away from the game. He’s coaching with the provincial team at the Canada Summer Games and will work with the kids in the Red Deer Minor Baseball Association.
“I want to spend time with the kids, and with my kids,” he said. “And I won’t be leaving this organization (Riggers) completely either.”
And who knows he may put the uniform back on one day to play a little oldtimers baseball.
But no matter what he does, it’s what he’s already done that should give him a place in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.