Missoula's Tres Cunningham was hoping for one more season as a Missoula Maverick player this summer. However, due to his commitment to play football at Montana Western this fall, Mavericks' manager Brent Hathaway could not give him a spot back on the AA roster. What he could offer him was a head coaching position on the first ever Missoula Mavericks 'B' team.
“I said absolutely," said Cunningham of Hathaway's proposal. "And then he asked me if I had any ideas for assistant coaches.”
“He (Cunningham) told me Hath was putting together a ‘B’ team and asked if I wanted to be his assistant coach," said Alec Bouchee who is working as a coach alongside Cunningham this summer. "Never had a ‘B’ team before, so I’m pretty excited.”
The new ‘B’ team offers a lot of benefits to younger players, perhaps most important of which is giving them their very first taste of the legion program.
“They’re really good with us and we get to meet all the ‘A’ and ‘AA’ coaches too,” said 'B' Mavericks pitcher Ricky Stevens, who just finished his freshman year at Sentinel high school. “We get use to the field and get used to the coaching and what they expect out of you. So it’s a real great program to start out with.”
“It’s pretty good. We have some pretty cool coaches with Tres, Tanner and Alec," explained 'B' Mavericks first baseman Kyle Pollack, who just finished his freshman year at Missoula Loyola. "They’re all good guys and they know what they’re talking about.”
All three coaches for the 'B' team in Tres Cunningham, Alec Bouchee and Tanner Maier have played on the Mavs AA team within the last couple seasons. So it has been a quick turnaround for them to go from a player on Coach Hathaway's team to a member of his coaching staff.
“He gave me the practice schedule and that’s pretty much all he gave me," laughed Cunningham. "The rest has been up to us. The first couple of practices were a little rough and we weren’t quite sure, but now I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on it.”
“We just got done playing; it’s still pretty fresh and so all this information we’re giving them, I was just hearing it nine months ago," explained Bouchee. "They’re pretty good listeners and they’re very eager to learn and get better at baseball so that part has been nice.”
“It’s been a really good thing because they understand what it’s like to be on Mavs and what it’s like to just come off,” said Stevens. “So they know what you should be doing and they really can help you out from a player’s point of view.”
After a couple months of practice, the ‘B’ team just started playing games this week. Of course the young squad wants to win but they know the daily competition will make them better players no matter the score.
“That’s something that I don’t think any of these kids have done before is that much intense baseball for that long of a time,” said Bouchee.
“We just want to give each kid their shot so they can prove their stuff," said Cunningham. "And hopefully we’ll get some wins out of that.”