Ten years later, Ryan Boguski is on his way back to Prince George.
At the RE/MAX Centre City Baseball Canada Senior Championship, Boguski will patrol the outfield for Team Manitoba, otherwise known as the Reston Rockets. When nationals were last held here in 2002, he was a member of the Brandon Marlins.
Boguski will notice some rather drastic changes when he gets here. The biggest, of course, will be the presence of Citizen Field -- which opened in 2006 -- and the absence of Monty Gabriele Park, which once sat on ground now occupied by the River Point shopping complex.
Boguski won't be catching any long fly balls over there, but he could sit down for a steak at Mr. Mikes or hunt for a new flat screen TV at The Brick.
"I think it's fantastic to have a guy who was here 10 years ago," said Jim Swanson, who was chair of the 2002 nationals and is filling that role again this year. "He saw Monty Gabriele Park, he hasn't seen this field. What's fun for me is that I know he has told his people in Manitoba that this was the best nationals he ever attended in terms of organization and atmosphere and civic pride and involvement. We packed the stands for that tournament and the bar was set to a new level for the nationals with what we did in 2002. That allowed us to be able to [host] the 2009 and 2011 World Baseball Challenge tournaments and to get this one back for 2012."
At age 36, Boguski is the senior guy on the Reston roster.
The tournament starts Thursday and runs through Sunday. In its opening game, at 11 a.m. on Thursday at Citizen Field, Manitoba will battle New Brunswick (Chatham Ironmen).
WINDSOR THE TEAM TO WATCH -- The Windsor Stars may just outshine everyone.
The Stars enter nationals as favourites and defending champs. Last year in Chatham, N.B., they rolled to a 6-1 record and beat the Burnaby Bulldogs 8-2 in the final. The Stars have won the past five Ontario championships and will host nationals next year.
"They're about eight pitchers deep," Swanson said. "They're good, they're experienced, they don't know how to lose. Five years in a row to win Ontario, and winning Ontario might be tougher than winning nationals. I don't think there's anybody in the tournament not counting them as the No. 1 seed."
It should be noted that the Stars did have a tough time in this year's provincial championship game. They won 5-3 against the Strathroy Royals, a team that will be here as Ontario 2. The Royals received a berth in nationals when the St. John's Capitals of Newfoundland informed Baseball Canada they wouldn't be making the trip west.
"The fact Strathroy only lost 5-3 in the Ontario final this year probably tells you how good Strathroy is too," Swanson said. "So I might even rank the Ontario teams 1 and 2 in this tournament."
The top two throwers for the Stars are 29-year-old John Picco and 31-year-old Steven Carter. Picco, a six-foot-one, 210-pound lefty, went the distance on the hill in the 2011 national final against the Bulldogs.
BOYD BRINGS PITCHING POWER TO HOSTS -- Chances are, fans of the Prince George Westcana Electric Axemen will come to like 28-year-old Leon Boyd in a hurry.
Boyd, who tossed strikes for Team Canada at last year's World Baseball Challenge at Citizen Field, will be one of the key Axemen hurlers at nationals. He holds Canadian and Dutch citizenship and helped the Netherlands win the 2011 World Cup tournament, an event that included the powerhouse Cubans.
"Leon will pitch a significant game for us," said Swanson, who is also the Axemen manager. "He'll be a guy that we count on to get us a win."
Boyd also pitched for the Netherlands at the 2009 World Baseball Classic, where he faced some of the best hitters on the planet. In his team's first outing, Boyd earned a save against the heavily-favoured Dominican Republic when he fanned Toronto Blue Jays basher Jose Bautista to end the game.
Boyd, who also saw action at the 2008 Summer Olympics, is a six-foot-six, 200-pound right-hander who was born in Vancouver. His fastball has been clocked at 92 miles per hour.
The Axemen have the unenviable task of playing Windsor in their first game (7 p.m. Thursday, Citizen Field).
See Thursday's Citizen for continuing coverage of the Baseball Canada Senior Championship.