After 20 years with the franchise, Joe Carnahan has stepped down as Head Coach and General Manager of the Swift Current 57’s.
Carnahan recently informed 57’s President Brad Woods that he would be leaving the team after 13 seasons as the coach, which followed up on a decorated seven-year playing career in Swift Current.
“There was a lot of factors and it just comes to a point in time where you know when it’s time, you just get that feeling. I’ve been riding the bus every summer for 19 years and this would have been 20. It’s just time to stop doing that and put my focus in different places,” explained Carnahan.
Carnahan concludes his coaching career with 402 wins and 235 losses for a .631 winning percentage in Swift Current. He led the franchise to nine division titles and league championships in 2010, 2016, and 2017.
“I’ve been thinking about it for awhile. In my mind now was the right time to kind of move forward and let the organization get somebody else in place and keep everything going on the right track.”
Carnahan is synonymous with baseball in Swift Current after being a part of all six Western Major Baseball League championships over his 20 years.
“A lot of great memories and the relationships that I was fortunate to get throughout the time here with the organization. That’s the thing that you remember the most is just the people that you’re around and have the opportunity to meet and build those relationships, that’s the most important thing, that’s the biggest thing I’m grateful for and the biggest memories that I have.”
The native of Ashland, Wisconsin came to Swift Current in 2001 and won WMBL titles as a player in 2001, 2005, and 2006. He was named the WMBL Most Valuable Player in 2002 and 2004 and was the Playoff MVP in 2001 and 2005. Carnahan was named a WMBL All-Star five times in seven seasons as a player.
Despite all the accolades and championships, his experience in Swift Current really came down to the people he said.
“The biggest thing is just the people. I came up here when I was in college and I was just going to come up for one summer. I met a bunch of good people up here and I kept coming up and ended up moving up here and have been involved with the organization for a long time. That was just through the people I met and I just wanted to continue staying involved with the organization.”
While still playing, he took on the role of pitching coach in 2005 under legendary coach Harv Martinez and took over as head coach in 2008. Carnahan was named WMBL Coach of the Year on four occasions.
“On the field and off the field we’ve had a lot of challenges along the way and that’s what makes it fun, trying to get through those challenges and make things work out and try to have success that way,” he explained.
His first league title as a coach came in 2010.
“The first one was fun. We had a really good group of guys. That one was just a lot of fun just being around those guys and just starting coaching at that time as far as head coaching. Seeing those guys take ownership of their season and their desire to win and they were just fun guys to be around.”
Carnahan led the franchise to another championship in 2016 with a flawless 9-0 run through the playoffs in the last season played as the Swift Current Indians.
“We had a pretty good idea before the season started what was going to happen after the season so it was pretty important to retire that nickname with a championship and we were fortunate enough that we had a group of players that did a great job of doing that.”
In 2017 the team followed up with a repeat championship as the Swift Current 57’s.
“The following year with the rebranding and the name of the 57’s, to be able to have another group of guys that came in and bought in to what we were doing and started that rebrand with a championship as well.”
The league has changed a lot since Carnahan arrived in Swift Current two decades ago.
“I like to tell the guys that my first year playing here as a player I think we had 24 games the entire season. Now we have 56 games and the league has really grown, not only in games, but expanded as far as franchises and exposure and just the number of people from different universities and colleges up here.”
The even-keeled coach was able to thrive in Swift Current as the league evolved from the WMBL to its current incarnation as the Western Canada Baseball League, which featured 12 teams in 2019 and will also include the Sylvan Lake Gulls in 2021.
“The biggest thing is not getting stuck in your own ways. You have to keep growing as a coach and as an individual. You’ve got to embrace the challenges and new opportunities that change gives you,” he said.
Carnahan and his wife Lauren, a Swift Current native, have raised their daughter, Gracie, and sons AJ and Cameron in Swift Current.
“I will continue teaching here at the Comp. To be able to spend more time with my family is a big one. A lot of it is you see the time in the summer just with the games and stuff, but it’s the recruiting, it’s 12 months. It’s non-stop for 12 months. Even to get some of that time in the winter and fall to get to spend with the family is important, to have the opportunity to be involved with Minor Ball and help out that way as well.”