Long-time Boissevain Centennials teammates Corey Billaney and Junior Brake will be inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in June of 2023 in Morden.
“It’s an honour,” Billaney told CJRB’s Barry Lamb at Tuesdays media conference in Brandon as the Board of Directors of the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame unveiled its latest slate of inductees. “Listening to all the other inductees and you can go through the long list of people, I’m sure getting closer to the date I’m going to take a look at all the people who are inducted into the Hall. It’s an honour to be in the same category or conversation with those people. I’m pretty humbled and honoured all at once.”
Billaney played his minor ball in his hometown of Boissevain and was an elite level catcher from an early age. He played for Manitoba’s Youth team in 1993, 1994 and 1995.
“Baseball is a slower sport and a bit more methodical,” said Billaney. “Thinking about the game is something I pride myself on and having the ability to manipulate the game in certain ways as a catcher is something that I liked to do and still like to impress on some of the people and kids that I coach now. I enjoyed catching and always considered myself a catcher.”
In 1994 Billaney began his stellar senior ball career as he joined the Southwest Baseball League’s Centennials at the age of 17.
Billaney noted that each season is special in its own way.
“A lot of times when you go to a Western or National championship and you’re with Manitoba, we kind of get looked down upon at those compared to B.C. or even Alberta or Ontario. So, when you go to these events and you’re successful, those are the big ones. Playing in a small town and with a lot of local guys – those ones are special too. Going back and rolling through the years, thinking of all the teams I played with, it’s awesome to think about.”
Billaney played mostly with the Centennials but also spent some time in the Manitoba Senior Baseball League with the Birtle Blue Jays and Neepawa Farmers.
He was inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame with the 1991-96 Centennials teams, the 1993-97 Farmers teams as well as the 1999-2004 Blue Jays teams.
“It was an honour to go with them into the Hall of Fame,” said Billaney who was a Southwest Baseball League All-Star 14 times. “Going in with a team is awesome because you get to remember that team and those games you played with that team but it’s also unbelievable going in as an individual. I’m just very humbled to think about all the things that obviously other people recognize in me individually which I don’t see but obviously someone else does. It’s an incredible honour.”
Between 1988 and 2017 Junior Brake and the Boissevain Centennials won the Southwest Baseball League championship nine times and the Provincial Senior AA championship four times. The Baldur Regals added Brake to their roster for the 2009 and 2015 Western Canadian AA championship and they won both years.
“It’s quite an honour to be going in,” said Brake. “It’s pretty special. It’s just so much fun playing. The success is a cherry on top as well. It’s just been a lot of fun over the years.”
Brake spent 25 years on the mound playing senior ball and since 2017 he’s been in the dugout coaching Centennial teams along with Corey Billaney.
Boissevain won the SWBL championship in 2018 and 2022.
“It’s lots of fun to still be on the diamond with all the young guys coming up now,” Brake said. “It’s nice you can give something back but it’s nice just watching those kids and what they can do too.”
The 25th Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Banquet will take place June 3rd at the Access Event Centre in Morden which is the home of the Hall of Fame.