Wednesday, 03 August 2011 16:14

Funk fought hard to the end of his career

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)

By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Conrad Funk was hoping to end his Western Major Baseball League career with a bang. He did exactly that Aug. 2; just not the type of bang he wanted.

With one out in the top of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the WMBL West Division semifinal, Funk, who wanted to end his playing career with a record ninth league championship, charged after a flyball into the right field fence at Mitchell Field, knocking down the Great Plains College sign in the process.

He didn’t catch the ball, allowing Medicine Hat’s Adam Masse to record a triple, but he never gave up on the ball. That image of him giving everything he has on the field, which is the last picture the 526 fans at the game will have of Funk, is exactly how the 31-year-old Swift Current native wants to be remembered as a player.

“I was playing hard and there was no way I was letting up in the ninth inning and the season on the line,” said Funk, who went 1-for-3 with a single in the Tribe’s 3-0 loss Tuesday night. “I'm just glad I didn’t hit a pole and hit that sign there.”

For the last 16 years, Funk gave the Swift Current Indians everything he had on the field, be it coming up with a timely hit or crashing into a fence to prevent a base hit or home run.

He started on the team as a 15-year-old in 1996 in the old Saskatchewan Major Baseball League as then-manager Harv Martinez was hoping to groom him into a star. Funk didn’t play much that first season, but he became a regular starter for the Indians for the next 15 seasons. Changes to the WMBL’s eligibility rules next season have forced the 31-year-old to leave the game he loved so much.

Despite not ending his baseball career with the championship he desired, he still has fond memories of his time with the Tribe.

“It has been great,” said Funk, who is a Stark and Marsh employee. “I've had an outstanding team every single year. Joe has been a great coach and a great friend. Harv before that taught me a lot when I was growing up and I'm very appreciative of the community and the board and just everybody allowing me to play here every year and allowing me back when I was older. It has just been great.”

Funk’s forced retirement will leave a big hole to fill.

The six-foot-three, 215-pound Swift Current native was never a vocal person in the Indians dugout. Still, he garnered a lot of respect. He brought a lot of confidence and poise to the team and he always had him teammates attention when he did speak up.

According to Joe Carnahan, who played with Funk from 2001 to 2007 and has coached him since 2008, the best feature Funk brought to the team was his heart.

“You don’t play the game for as long as he has if you don’t have a lot of heart,” said the Indians’ head coach. “It has been a pleasure to have played with him. It has been a pleasure to have coached him and it’s even more of a pleasure to have him as a friend.”

Shawn Lee, who is being forced to retire from the league after playing for the last five years, is also appreciative of what Funk accomplished as an Indian.

“It’s amazing what he does at his age every winter to get ready for the spring,” said Lee, who is hoping to get a work visa so he can stay in Swift Current. “Come spring and the playoffs he’s here and he’s ready and he doesn’t get injured. I haven’t figured it out yet. There has to be some secret.”

Funk knows it’s time to move on now his playing days are over. He would like to stay with the organization, although he’s not sure in what capacity.

He does know, however, he is about to experience a huge change in his life and many different emotions when next spring rolls around.

“It’s going to be really tough. For over half my life I’ve been playing for the Swift Current Indians,” said Funk. “I think once tax season is over, it’s going to be a little empty, but my wife and I are expecting our first child, so I’m looking forward to that as well.”

Read 602 times

More In SW Sask Sports...

More In Entertainment...