Originally published in the West Central Crossroads (February 7, 2014)
Just because there’s snow on the diamond and a chilling wind blowing across the field, doesn’t mean head coach Jeff Amos and the Badlands Baseball Academy have gone into hibernation.
In fact, Amos admits the winter season is as busy, if not busier than the summer season for himself and the Academy.
The Academy has been busy in past weeks with one of its biggest annual fundraisers, player personnel movement and preparations for its annual trip to Las Vegas.
Fourth-annual Baseball at Dusk fundraiser continues its success
The Badlands Baseball Academy host its fourth annual Baseball at Dusk fundraiser Jan. 30 at the Legion Hall in Oyen.
Emceed by Red Deer Rebels play-by-play man Cam Moon — whose son Levi attends the Academy — the sold-out event was a smashing success and though the final tallies are still coming in, Amos estimates the Academy was able to raise upwards of $30,000 for the second consecutive year.
“This is, for us, one of our favourite nights of the year,” Amos said to the crowd in attendance at the fundraiser. “It’s a chance for the guys to get dress pants on and dress shoes on. It’s a chance to see all the people that support us all year long.”
According to Amos, the Academy must raise $80,000 to $100,000 annually to help fund its regular expenses, such as maintenance of the field and field house, billet support, baseball trips and more. With that in mind, the Baseball at Dusk fundraiser is regularly a critical contributor to the continued viability and success of the Academy, contributing approximately 30 per cent of the funds required to keep things running smoothly.
The annual fundraiser brought with it a variety of high-end sports memorabilia that was auctioned off in both silent- and live-auction format.
The highest selling live-auction item was a four-day stay for 14 people at a luxury condo unit in Kimberley, B.C. that went for $2,500. Other notable live-auction items included an Edwin Encarnacion autographed baseball bat ($1,600), four Calgary Flames club tickets ($1,450) and an autographed Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers sweater ($1,400).
As a part of the festivities, $500 scholarships were awarded to three academically excelling Badgers. Jean Kimber, principal at South Central High School made the presentations to Justin Logan (Grade 12), Dylan Flasch (Grade 11) and Kaden Doerksen (Grade 10), who were all awarded scholarships for their academic achievements.
“A lot of players who come from larger schools and come to our school, after a while, they’re just so grateful,” Kimber said. “Their teachers, their community takes such good care of them. So if you have given us one of your boys, if you are a parent, you can trust that between the baseball academy, the school and the billet families, we have nothing but the best interest of your boys at heart.
“We think they’re in really good hands.”
Dale Henwood, president of the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary, former Canadian Olympic hockey coach and inductee into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, was the keynote speaker for the evening. Henwood, who is involved in Canadian Olympic Committee athletic development endeavours, touched on his predictions and prognostications heading into the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games while tying in advice for elite amateur athletes.
“I work on a daily basis with young athletes and I know academies like this are critical to the development of young athletes, but also…our future leaders and leading citizens of this province,” Henwood said during his keynote. “You’re making an investment in the future and I think that’s just going to make our province and this area in particular, much better, whether they go on to be baseball players or whether they’re not-for-profit leaders or business leaders or otherwise involved in the community.
“I think anytime you can combine athletic excellence with education, that is often difficult, and I think academies allow the pursuit of both those endeavours. Many times in Canada we force young athletes to make a decision — either your sport or academics. But I think more and more we’re seeing academies come up where you can combine both of those. Again, it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Town of Oyen.”
On behalf of the Badlands Baseball Academy, head coach Jeff Amos wished to thank all who attended the fourth annual Baseball at Dusk fundraiser for their continued support of academy baseball in Oyen.
Badgers part with Hisey, McKay; welcome Pineau
Amos has dealt with some player personnel shake-ups since returning from the Christmas break.
Forrest Hisey and Michael McKay did not return to the Academy following the winter break.
While Amos knew McKay was returning home to Miramichi, N.B. due to family circumstance, the absence of Hisey was a surprise.
“This kind of thing is going to happen from time to time,” Amos said. “Sometimes it’s just not a fit for everyone and that’s the way it is. I don’t think it’s a knock on the boys, on the program or on the town (of Oyen) or anything. It’s just sometimes it doesn’t work.”
While the door remains open for McKay to return at any time should things work out for him in other areas of life, it seems as though ties have been cut with Hisey.
Amos noted the team, a close one prior to the departure of Hisey, has become even more tight-knit since the native of Ardrossan, Alta. departed. The coach said Hisey never quite gelled with the group and, prior to Christmas, there were indications that something was amiss.
Amos wished to express his best wishes for McKay, but did not want to further comment on the situation with Hisey.
To fill the pitching void left by Hisey, Amos welcomed Grade 11 player Joel Pineau to the Badgers Jan. 29.
“We’re really happy to have (Joel) and I think he’s really excited to be here,” Amos said.
Pineau, who was being scouted as a potential newcomer for fall 2014, was offered the opportunity to join the Badgers early following the unexpected circumstance. After he was able to juggle his schooling situation, Pineau joined the Academy and according to Amos, has fit in well in the early days of his tenure in Oyen.
Las Vegas on tap
Amos and the Badgers take their talents south of the border Feb. 14 when their travel to Las Vegas for the second time in two years for little baseball vacation.
Now that’s not to say the time in Sin City won’t be strenuous. Baseball vacation equates to time outdoors on the diamond taking on tough competition — not a vacation away from baseball.
The team flies south Feb. 14 and will hit the diamond Feb. 15 to 17, taking on teams from Langley, B.C., Las Vegas, Utah and Chicago amongst others at the Red, White & Blue Premier. The schedule for the tournament has yet to be released.
Amos expects the competition to be tougher than what the boys have faced through their regular fall play in Alberta and B.C. Further complicating things is the fact many of teams at the tournament in Las Vegas have the luxury of spending the majority of their year actively competing against other clubs. That isn’t a luxury afforded to any prairie baseball academies as players are forced into a certain hibernation, with the only option being technical field-house work through frigid winter months.
Apart from tournament play, the team is schedule to get in an additional exhibition game Feb. 20. From there, the ball diamond experience ends as the team will tour the University of Nevada — Las Vegas (UNLV) athletic facilities Feb. 19 before taking in a college baseball game Feb. 21.
Many parents accompany the players on this trip, so while there is certainly a baseball-business aspect to it all, there’s a nice family side to it all as well. Amos said a team barbecue with all the parents is a mainstay on the trip and provides a great bonding opportunity for the team and families.
Rhett Feser and Niklas Fischer were the last two Grade 12 graduating players to finalize their college commitments for next season, but both wrapped up those decisions just prior to Christmas.
Fischer will be attending the University of Calgary in the fall while Feser will head east to Niagara County Community College.