The first pitch may still be months away, but the Sylvan Lake Gulls keep building ties to the local community.
With the first act already behind them by hiring coach Jason Chatwood, who grew up in the area, the team has moved quickly to make even more ties to central Alberta.
This week, they signed two Red Deer products for their inaugural Western Canadian Baseball League season in 2021.
Pitcher Jared Arnold and outfielder Zach Olson, both from Red Deer were announced as the latest signings for the Gulls.
“We’re definitely happy with where we’re at and it’s pretty nice and special to have a couple of local guys sign this early that we’re really happy with and excited about what they’re going to bring to our team,” Chatwood said.
Arnold, a freshman at Colby Community College, a junior college in Kansas joins the Gulls after playing for Chatwood at the St. Joseph’s Baseball Academy in Red Deer.
Arnold said he jumped at the chance to play for his old coach again this summer.
“It’s definitely a blessing because Chatwood is a great coach and with him being my high school coach he asked me right away if I wanted to be on the team, because he wants some local talent on the team,” Arnold said.
“It’s also great knowing the fact that when I was younger I always wanted to play in the (WCBL) because I knew it was the best league in Alberta but I wasn’t sure where I would play because there wasn’t a team close to me.
“Now, there is a team just outside my hometown and I’ll get to spend more time with my family that I don’t get to spend a lot of time with throughout the year so it’s fantastic.”
Arnold posted a 3.48 ERA in eight appearances as a freshman at Colby, with 12 strikeouts over 10 and a third innings. Chatwood said the lanky right-hander possesses a near 90 mile an hour fastball and will a huge piece for the Gulls pitching staff next year.
“That one’s pretty special, just with him being part of the academy and getting to see him develop as a player and a person,” Chatwood said.
Olson, an outfielder who also plays at Colby and spent parts of the 2019 season with the Red Deer Riggers, is excited to play close to home.
“It’s extremely special for me to be apart of the Gulls inaugural season, and being just a few minutes outside of where I’m from and where my family is, is just a bonus,” he said.
Chatwood noted Olson is a legit power hitter that will provide some pop in the middle of the Gulls’ lineup. He hit .326 last season in 14 games at Colby, with six home runs and 17 RBI in 58 plate appearances.
“He’s a big-time power bat that has a chance to produce a lot of RBIs. Whenever he steps in the box there’s a chance something big is going to happen,” Chatwood said.
The Gulls also added a third Colby player, Brayden Cust, who is from just up the road in Sherwood Park. Chatwood said Gulls’ fans will love to watch Cust play. Cust hit .468 in 62 plate appearances last year, adding seven home runs and 8 RBI, while only striking out nine times.
“It’s only an hour and a bit up the road– he’s a high-end centre fielder and he’s got some big-time (NCAA) Division I schools talking to him right now. So for us to get him, it’s huge,” Chatwood said.