“It is pretty much status quo with some neat and exciting things happening,” said Les McTavish, head coach of the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets.
A Toronto Blue Jays strength and conditioning coach is in his second year of helping out the academy.
“We are the only program in North America who is funded by MLB. Funded meaning they pay the salary for the Blue Jays’ strength coach to live in Vauxhall. That is really exciting for our academy along with community members. He is working with over a dozen community members where they can pay him a fee being their personal trainer. It saves up money time driving into Taber and Lethbridge,” said McTavish.
Last year was the most successful year the academy had in terms of wins and losses, and all graduating players went on to play college baseball.
“Most importantly, we had six players play for the Canadian Junior National Team last year and we had another player drafted professionally,” said McTavish.
“This year we already had six guys sign, five at the Division I level, which is the most we ever had.”
Halfway through the recruiting process for the fall of 2014, the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball just committed to a player out of Bermuda.
“He visited in August. There is a gentlemen in Medicine Hat who lives in Bermuda who saw him play and paid for this kid to come visit Vauxhall. We are opening up a whole other side of the world which is exciting,” said McTavish.
“Bermuda is in the British Commonwealth so he comes with very similar academics and very similar traditions and lifestyle. Baseball stops in Bermuda at the age of 12 where they have world-class soccer players. They want to try and revitalize the whole country on the baseball side and I’m trying to help with that holding a camp over there. It is an island where a lot of the world financial institutions are based out of there, so it could lead somewhere networking and financial wise.”
McTavish encouraged council to check out the academy’s housing and training facilities, which also features a Mennonite chef on staff.
“It’s Type ‘A’ as can be where it’s always clean and it’s always tidy, being hard on the boys with chores and the kids have responded. Having a Mennonite chef on staff is bridging gaps with that community,” said McTavish.
The Jets field a 22 player roster, being unable to go past that number with only 22 beds available in the residence apart from local area kids who may be part of the program.
“We started a practice squad last year. It means it can be a local player from the area or someone who wants to move in. They can be part of the program, but they can’t play any games. We charge them a small nominal fee where they practice every day and they get a small amount of gear,” said McTavish.
“We have a Fujita boy from Taber, we have the Melnychuk boy from Vauxhall, and have a boy from Foremost, who moved to Vauxhall just to be on the practice squad. We took it even a step further where we’ve started up a junior high program. One day a week, kids in Grade 7, 8, or 9, instead of going to phys ed class, they can come to our indoor facility or the (Jets) field and practice some baseball.”