PBL Profile: Jason Buzzell
Posted January 1, 2020
The man who is responsible for documenting both the Powerline Baseball League and Armena Royals history has the honour of our first profile. Jason Buzzell, the enthusiastic young man found on the field dressed in Armena Royals blue and white with the sweet swing from the left side of the plate, has had a huge impact both for the franchise he spent his whole career with and the league.
Before the days of social media, the Powerline Baseball League (and prior to that the Armena Royals/Axemen franchise) had a feature that very few baseball leagues had, a website. Along with the standard schedule and scores, the PBL website was a source of discussion and opinion, so much so that comment sections of stories were often lit up by readers all the way until the emergence of Twitter. There were contested opinion pieces, hard hitting stories with facts and stories about the game of baseball bringing people and communities together. No senior men's league had anything like it then, and even now. Buzzell’s appetite for local baseball history has also given the league, and the Royals, a lengthy historical record that few teams and leagues are able to compare to.
On the field Buzzell’s enthusiasm for baseball was easy to spot as he was usually the guy making the most noise on a great play by his team and a guy who had a knack for a timely hit. Like many players in the PBL, Buzzell found himself progressing from a young ball player whose only worry was about his own play and contributing to the team’s success, to being the guy who was relied on by a new group of young ball players who looked to guys like Jason to ensure they would have a team to play on. It is one of the most unsung parts of senior men’s sports, organizing and running a team of adults, and not only did Jason work to keep the Armena Royals on the field, he worked tirelessly to ensure that the league had a voice in the area.
The man whose passion for the PBL and the game of baseball played in small town Alberta, is the perfect person to start our profile feature with.
What was your baseball background prior to playing in the PBL?
I was actually born in the States and my dad was U.S. Military. An assignment at Malmstrom AFB led to me playing on a base team that was REALLY bad and I began to hate baseball and love hockey more. That led to playing hockey when my mom (Canadian) moved to Bawlf, Alberta, and playing hockey in Killam and Strathcona. My mom dragged me to Armena after meeting the Brett Harke's mom Carol while we did our banking in Camrose. Thank God she did. I was an Armena ball player after that in Midgets and then the Royals.
When did you start playing the Powerline Baseball League and with which team?
The Armena midget team converted fully to a PBL team in 1999-2000. We still played midget that season, too I believe, then even though I was still midget age, most of the other guys were too old so we just did PBL. Scott Peterson took over the team that 2000-2001 season.
What teams in the Powerline Baseball League did you play with during your career?
The Armena Royals from 1999 to 2005 and from 2009 to 2014
Do you remember your first game in the Powerline Baseball League?
I don't! I know that first season we felt overpowered especially as the season wore on. Early on we won some games due to being in shape and young but there was one night in June I think the Brewers bear us 25-2 or something. It was a real eye-opener.
What was that first year of Powerline Baseball League baseball like for you?
I remember more the second and third years. Getting thumped and being "the friendly kids" wore off pretty quick when we would all of a sudden start winning against teams like Bardo and especially Lamont. We seemed to have a good rivalry with Bardo and Camrose but Lamont hated us. They would try and intimidate us. Beating them in some playoff series a few years later was pretty gratifying. But really there were only one or two yahoos. Guys like Kris Kushnerik, Johnny Ewaniuk and others were great guys in the end. Maybe one of the best teams to not make the final.
How did the Powerline Baseball League change during your years in the league?
The league has maintained its truest and purest sense and that's why I love it. Overall the schedule, the playoff format to some degree and the Tuesday/Thursday setup I used to push to change makes it so awesome.
Is there a specific game or games that come to mind as being memorable for you during your time in the Powerline Baseball League?
Oh my gosh. So many. But one that I hate to be selfish always comes back to me. In 2003 we won game one against Bardo pretty handily but in game two we only had nine players and a few of our vets were gone. Bardo was up 6-4 heading into the final inning and with two outs, a teammate John Spigott hit a double and then I hit a HR to tie the game. We added two more and won the series. We also went on to win the championship that year. There were so many more but that one stands out.
Was there a pitcher in the Powerline Baseball League that you dreaded facing was there a pitcher that you had a tremendous amount of success against?
I always loved a challenge. I hope they felt the same. Donny Oslund when I first came into the league stood out as this mythical guy who threw so hard. I think it wasn't as hard as it was even a few years earlier but he intimidated us. Somehow, guys like Mike LeClaire, Ronny Oslund and Josh Banack always stymied us on a random night with knuckle balls, change ups etc... It wasn't dread but it was like, OK, come on, is it going to be a good night or frustrating night.
When you pitched in the Powerline Baseball League, was there a particular hitter that you had a tough time getting out?
Everyone. Of course, Ray Lehman was the biggest hitter when I was young. There was one game in Armena Ryley hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off me and he hit a total of three that game. I was in relief. We came back and won like 19-17. He had many big hits off me in the 2000s. I only had that one off him.
How would you describe the difference between the regular season and those best of three series playoff series in the Powerline Baseball League?
The playoffs were that one moment where every error mattered. It was always a mistake or a rock in the infield that broke open the game. The intensity was what I loved. All season long was pretty laid back. Then the playoffs were as close as I ever got to playing truly "competitive" baseball. We had like 200 fans lining the fences in Camrose and Armena. That was a thrill seeing as regular season you could barely break double digits most nights.
What was the most memorable playoff run like and Powerline Baseball League Championship like?
The afforementioned one in 2003 was good but 2004 was grittier. The final against the Camrose Colts we were starting to fade and they were better than us. We got smoked in game one in Ohaton of all places due to rain and gutted out game two and three victories. The team had some infighting during the year and celebrating in Armena that night in the shack was something I will never forget.
There have been numerous on-field, maybe even off-field, rivalries in the Powerline Baseball League over it’s history. Was there a particular rivalry that you were involved in that was memorable?
Bardo was my favourite place and team. I used to hate all these "old guys" who would beat us even if they were only a few years older than us. As time went on we would beat them more and more and they were so respectful to us and then we obliged when we rebuilt Armena and they beat us. The beers in the Bardo grounds after a win or a loss were special. I miss them.
Are there any Powerline Baseball League stories that you have heard, seen or know about that would be great to share?
I tried to tell some tales to the younger guys about Ray and Donny and Chipman but the Bardo pies at Bardo Day and the Roast Beef Supper were my favourite day.
There has always been a wide variety of baseball fields that players have gotten the opportunity to play on while in the Powerline Baseball League. What was your favourite baseball field to play on and what were some endearing features of that field that made it your favourite?
Armena is No. 1. Bardo was a 1A. If my mom hadn't met the Harkes, I likely would have been an Athletic.
Were there any memorable moments that have stuck with you about the Powerline Baseball League tournaments?
The BRBL always hosted the best tournaments. PBL ones were hit or miss. Ryley sports days was usually fun. One time we announced the game with MLB names. But Heisler in the late 2000s was most fun. We had to have set 6 or 7 pallets that night to stay warm in the rain. Cadogan as well was memorable when I travelled with the Ryley Rebels.
What was your experience while being a part of the Powerline Baseball League Executive?
Avoidable. But then it got better and we stayed more focus. No offense to the old guys but they were focused on the wrong things. Once we got umpires and stopped skimping on that cost, the meetings went faster and we got to the Last Chance quicker.
How has baseball remained a part of your life after your Powerline Baseball League playing days and what is in store for you in the future?
I play Over 30 baseball down in Omaha now but it's not the same. I always think to myself the PBL was the one moment I felt like a big leaguer. Not because of the fields or talent, etc... but because of the history.
A big thank you to Jason for taking the time to share his stories about his time in the Powerline Baseball League. Listening to a baseball guy talk baseball is something that will never grow old.
In our next profile we are excited to highlight Mike Leclaire. Mike spent his entire PBL career, which dated back to the early 1990s, with the Bardo Athletics. The history and tradition that comes with playing for one of the original PBL teams is evident in Mike’s stories as he will give baseball fans a firsthand look at what the PBL was like before many had the opportunity to suit up in the league. Due to his longevity on the field, a lot of current PBLers would have played against Mike and the A’s towards the end of his career making him a familiar face to the baseball community.