Ben Dalke had a great season for the Moose Jaw Miller Express this summer, but it almost might not have been.
The Castle Rock, Colorado product suffered a torn ACL that cost him the entire 2016-17 season. He was cleared to join the Millers for the summer season and made the most of his opportunity.
“Just knowing that I had to take a full year off and knowing that I can’t take things for granted because it could just end like that, so I just came out and did everything I could and it ended up going my way,” said Dalke.
Dalke led the Millers in most offensive categories throughout the regular season, winning the team’s Silver Slugger award and picking up the Fan’s Choice award as well.
In 46 games, Dalke hit for a team-high .331 average with 13 doubles, seven home runs and 44 runs batted in, which were all the best on the Millers. He was also in the top-15 in the league in all four of those stats as well.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of rust on him, he got right into it,” said Head Coach Michael Hunt. “He was a big, key guy for us.”
While he was the most dangerous hitter for Moose Jaw at the plate, Dalke was also a key arm out of the bullpen throughout the season, registering two saves and a 1-0 record in 11 appearances. He had 14 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings of work.
He was also a steady presence at first base, posting a 0.982 fielding percentage over 358 innings.
Dalke said after having to sit out an entire season, he didn’t know if he’d be back on the field again, so he savoured every moment of this season.
“You don’t want it to end ever and then it does, but I was fortunate enough to come back,” he said.
“This summer was fun, I had a great time up here and get to meet all these guys and the seniors that were up here, it was a joy to play with them and I’m going to miss them a little bit.”
The Millers’ season ended last Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Swift Current 57s in Game 4 of their best-of-five first round series. Dalke felt like they were a couple of hits at key times away from extending their season.
“We showed them that we could beat them at any given day, throughout the year as well as post-season,” he said. “The score doesn’t really tell what the game was, it was a lot closer and the series could have been a coin-flip.”
After enjoying his first summer in the Friendly City, Dalke said he still hadn’t decided if he’d be back in Black and Yellow next summer.
“My mom was telling me that need to stay close to home, but we’ll see, I had a good time up here, that’s for sure,” he said.