Page 45 - 04-June-2024
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 “The talent has got significantly better over the years,” says Knoll. “With baseball, we’re shifting towards how hockey is doing it, where they have a lot of academy teams. We have a lot of high-school academy baseball teams, and that’s where players are getting serious development. It costs a serious chunk of change, but the guys they are producing are unbelievable.”
“I think the quality of baseball in Alberta has gone up a lot, and it’s still getting better every year,” says Andrew. “Five years ago versus now, baseball has really grown a lot, which is good to see. There’s a lot of talented players coming up.”
“Even from the time that I saw Andrew play at bantam, and then watching my teams play bantam, you could see how the game’s growing,” says Michael. “There’s so many different places around Alberta that you can go and get better. There are so many good options now. I can’t wait to see what Alberta baseball becomes.”
Right now in Alberta, there is lots of conflict between the traditional rep baseball programs and the newer academy teams. Baseball Alberta does not allow academies to compete in its leagues, so the academies make their own barnstorming schedules, and often take their top players to tournaments in the United States. (My own son is part of this; he plays at AHP Academy in the fall and winter, and for a Baseball Alberta Elite League team, Edmonton Padres, in the summer. He also attends the baseball academy at St. Francis Xavier.)
The academies are often run by coaches who have played at high levels, such as the NCAA or even pro ball. The days of dad-and-mom coaches are coming to an end, at least at the top levels of the developmental ladder.
“The kids are getting a much higher level of coaching than they were even five years ago,” says Knoll.
“The resources are starting to come to it,” says Andrew. “There’s a lot of good coaches out there, a lot
of good players, it’s just pushing everyone to be better... Especially in Canada, when kids are trying to go south to play baseball, getting coaching from someone who has been there and done that, to guide you and show you what it’s like, and has some connections and knowledge, versus the coach that just played some baseball and is just a dad helping out. It’s a big difference.”
The Park
For the pitchers, Re/Max Field is a good friend. Not only is that huge fence in centre field almost impossible for a hitter to clear, the whole park is expansive. A home-run park, it is not.
Knoll says he gave up one homer all of last season, and that came in a road game in Victoria, which has some
of the smallest dimensions in the WCL. He checked, and the ball that went over the fence in the British Columbia capital would have been an easy fly out in Edmonton.
There’s a long list of players who played in WCL
who ended up playing the in Major Leagues, including Cleveland Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan, and pitcher Shane Bieber, who won a Cy Young Award in 2020.
Steve Hogle, General Manager RiverHawks
So, the players understand the pressure — and opportunity — playing for the Riverhawks will bring.
“It’ll be fun to come back from another country and do it where I’m from,” says Andrew. “Especially being able to have our parents come out and watch, to play with my brother, it will be a lot of fun.”
Michael is going to throw in WCL before he pitches at the NCAA level. So he’s in the unusual position that the first NCAA-level hitters he’ll face will come as a member of the Riverhawks, not with Missouri State.
“[College baseball] is something I’m really excited for, but I know it’s going to be a big step,” says Michael.
“It’s obviously a very high level of baseball, and it’s some- thing I’ve gotten a taste of when my teams go on college trips. I see that it’s going to be tough (to pitch in the NCAA). The Riverhawks is a great situation cause it will help me get prepared for that.” ED.

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