Simply put, Dwayne Lalor is thrilled for another chance to coach on the national stage.
The teacher at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School will be the baseball coach for Team Alberta from July 29 to Aug. 4 for the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg.
“It’ll be exciting. Getting here quicker than we think,” Lalor said with a chuckle and a quick check of his watch for the countdown to the tournament.
The veteran coach has been in the dugout for national tournaments before, but not with the age group he’ll coach this time around. Usually it is the junior age group, but this time he’ll manage a younger team and that comes with a unique set of challenges.
“It’ll be a pretty good tournament. You get everybody’s best 16-17 year olds. I think we’ll be competitive but I don’t know for sure,” he said. “We like our team. They work hard and it’ll be do we play well that week of competition. When the bright lights come on, how do we react? If we can maintain our composure and play like we’ve shown here in Alberta then we’ll compete fine.”
Lalor currently coaches the Red Deer Midget AAA Braves and will be joined at the games by one of his own players, shortstop/ pitcher Cooper Jones of Ponoka.
“He’s a strong player, he’s gotten better every year. He’s grown, he’s about six-foot-two now. His arm strength and everything has improved. He’s a good, solid player. Nice to see what he does,” Lalor said.
Branden Woods of Red Deer, who plays Midget AAA for the Okotoks Dawgs Academy, also cracked the Team Alberta squad.
Filling out the roster has been two years in the making. It started with identification camps last year followed by 40 players invited to a camp in September. After another identification camp this year, the final tryout included a seven-game showcase in Yakima, Washington where Lalor said he was really able to see who will shine in Winnipeg.
He said the ability under pressure and endurance the players showed during that time was a good indication of what they’ll do in at the summer games.
“Took them out of their comfort zone. This is the environment you’ll be in at the games, let’s see how we do. We played unknown teams. Some guys really shined and other guys it was a struggle,” Lalor said. “You have to be able to play at your top level everyday or we get beat. We don’t just lose, we get beat.”
Not only will the baseball experience be one they won’t soon forget, Lalor noted that even being around other talented athletes from different disciplines will give great perspective for the baseball group.
“Coaching at the Canada Games is always fun. You’re at a big multi-sport games with a variety of different sports and the baseball players get to see what other teams do and other athletes around the province and the country do to train and be prepared,” Lalor said.
“We could be rooming beside a decathlete and kayaker. The guys get an eye opener – ‘maybe I could train a little harder or be a little more disciplined and improve my game.”
The tournament will also serve as a showcase for players looking to make the Canadian Junior National Team next year.
Team Alberta will play Team B.C. in their first game on July 29.