By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Blair Hanna hails from Red Deer, Canada, which is in the Alberta Province, just across the Montana border and halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. He is also the manager/player for the Red Deer Legends, an MSBL World Series staple since somewhere around 2000. You have no doubt either witnessed or played against one of his Canadian entries over the past couple of decades.
It is not easy assembling, organizing, and managing multiple teams to make the trip to Arizona from a bordering country. For Blair’s efforts and dedication, MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler has inducted Blair into the 2023 class of the MSBL World Series Hall of Fame.
“I am very appreciative of this award,” stated Blair. “MSBL has given us a chance to play baseball and endeavor to provide that opportunity to older players to play in Canada and MSBL. The World Series is a great way to meet new Canadian and American friends. I have played with other teams in other MSBL tournaments and met many US players who are now Legends. Again, thanks MSBL!”
Hanna continued, “We originally came to the World Series as the Snowbirds in the 48-over division but then somebody else became the Snowbirds so we switched to the Legends, for no particular reason,” explained Hanna. Thankfully, I have some reliable friends who do the on-field managing in the younger divisions. I do all the detail stuff for all of them but I just can’t be everywhere during games.”
This year Blair and the Legends will field seven teams in the 50+, 55+, 60+, 65+, 70+, 73+, and 75+ divisions.
“I will play in the 65s, 70s, and 75s this year and manage as many of the others as time allows.
If you do the math, you can see that over 100 players will be representing the Legends this year. Where do you pull the players from?
“We have been fortunate over the years to have made a lot of friends whom we have played against and they like the way we approach the game while having a good time. We pull not only from other Canadian provinces, but our teams also have members from over 15 states! We are always keeping our eyes peeled for players.”
Blair is a retired school Principal and later a retired Surface Land Agent for Oil Companies. He is also the president of their local Red Deer Twilight Baseball Association, where he plays against his two sons. He and his wife also have four grandchildren and a pup ‘Anni’ who hasn’t missed a game in three years!
“Our league is an over 30 league but our Legends team plays with seven guys who are over 70! We still do OK. We just want to play ball.”
I asked Blair what his personal baseball resume consisted of.
“I was a pitcher, shortstop, and outfielder a few years back. I am primarily first base and outfield now. I played small-town baseball and started playing senior ball at 16, as some of the older guys made room for us young ones. At that time an old ball player was 30 years old!
At 21 I started playing with Red Deer in the Alberta Major Baseball League, consisting of Canadian players and several US college players per team. There were multiple tournaments in Western Canada. One year we won all five tournaments. Several US players went on to play in the Major Leagues.
We played in the Kamloops, BC tournament where the Alaska Goldpanners played. That team played in the Alaska summer league and the whole league was made of players from US colleges. I have been fortunate to have played against several players who went on to MLB.”
Are there any individual moments that are truly special from his baseball life?
“This year, 2023, I was inducted into the Canadian Oldtimers Baseball Federation Hall of Fame. It was a great honor to go along with the six Championships we have won. Our League allows us to stay ready for the MSBL World Series. As a group, we have won nine rings so far. We are very proud of that.”
As a reporter for MSBL I personally remember 2017, as I was covering some of their games for our website. They won three divisions! I asked Blair to recap that magic year for us.
“That year we took ten teams! We won in the 65+ and 70+ divisions and I think the 55+. That was a pretty crazy year but worth every minute. Our first championship came in 2006 and it never gets old. That still remains my most cherished memory. We had a guy on third representing the winning run in the championship game and our guy bunted and their third baseman threw it away and we won. What a moment!”
Red Deer has a population of about 100,000 and it is still a challenge to play ball, stay baseball-ready year-round, and be up to the challenge of World Series competition. What do they do to stay sharp?
“There is an amazing indoor facility under a dome in Red Deer that is over 100,000 square feet and includes complete fields, a lacrosse area, and also six batting cages. We can work out year-round no matter what is happening outdoors.”
Wherever they are able to practice, they are effective. They have over two decades of success stories to prove it!