A Small-Town Baseball Team Plays Big

By Beacon Staff

Glacier Twins Head Coach Lindsay Fansler knows the numbers, give or take a year or two. And some of them are a bit disheartening.

He says it’s been 11 or 12 years since the Twins made the American Legion Baseball AA state tournament, and at least five since they’ve had a winning record. But he also knows another statistic that might help explain the other numbers – his team is drawing from a smaller population base than other AA teams.

The Twins, who play home games in Whitefish, get their players from Whitefish and Columbia Falls. Fansler said Bigfork kids can also play for the team, but few make the long trip. Other AA teams are drawing from population bases such as Missoula, Billings, Great Falls, Bozeman and Kalispell, as well as larger cities in Alberta.

“We know full well that we have the lowest draw of any AA team in the state,” Fansler said. “So we know we have to work harder in practice and on the field than any other team.”

That’s the philosophy Fansler has been preaching in his two years at the helm of the Twins. And the players are obviously taking it to heart. Combine that with the talent level of this year’s squad and it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Twins are enjoying their best season in quite a while.

Glacier is 15-10 on the season, coming off a victory over the Kalispell Lakers.

“I tried to set the tone for our program as a new coach last year: what we would like to see for the kids now and see in the future,” Fansler said. “Our goal is to learn how to win games at the AA level.”

“I’ve got a great group of kids who buy into the philosophy and are prepared to win games at this level,” he added.

Ten of the Twins’ 13 AA players are in their final year of eligibility, meaning there’s a lot of experience across the board. Like Kalispell, Glacier’s program also has an A team, which is a level lower than AA.

“It’s a veteran team,” Fansler said of his AA squad.

Utility player Jeremy Nielson is leading the team in batting average from the leadoff position, while infielder Kyler Blades is also hitting almost .400. Outfielder Geoff Streeter leads the team with five home runs.

From top to bottom, the lineup has batted well, but Fansler would like to see more consistency out of his pitching staff. Fansler said lefty Cody Hill, the team’s No. 1 pitcher, “can be a dominant pitcher when he throws strikes.”

In general, Fansler feels the key for all of his pitchers is to throw more strikes.

“We know we are going to have to clean up our pitching – we’ve been walking too many batters,” Fansler said. “We feel that if we throw strikes we force the action on the other team and we have a good defense.”

“Our offense gives us the chance to win baseball games,” he added. “So far our offense has been able to carry us. We’re averaging close to 10 runs a game.”

As the Twins enter their conference schedule, Fansler believes his team has what it takes to make it to the postseason. The top four teams from Western AA qualify for the state tournament. Fansler said Missoula and Great Falls are the frontrunners, leaving open two spots for the taking.

“We feel it’s going to be a dogfight between Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Kalispell and ourselves to see who gets those last two spots,” Fansler said. “We feel we’ve got a chance to get there.”

For more information, visit www.glaciertwins.org.

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