Grayson Borchers joined the Red Deer Riggers at the perfect time.
Riggers manager Jaret Chatwood had expected to share duties behind the plate with Borchers, but a broken hand changed all that.
“That was the plan but plans change and he’s stepped right in and made the position his … he’s been a big help,” said Chatwood, who broke his hand in the weight room.
In the past, the Riggers have struggled to find a natural catcher, especially a home-grown one.
“It’s extremely important to have a guy come in, who is local, played with the Academy (St. Joe’s Academy) is playing with the PBA (Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge) and is back playing with us,” said Chatwood. “In fact, it’s nice to see the kids come back, who will be around for a long time with some of the events we have coming up (such as next year’s Canadian Senior AAA Championship).”
Grayson was born in Whitecourt but moved to Red Deer at a young age and came up through the Red Deer minor system. He joined the St. Joe’s Academy in Grade 10 and gives it credit for his development.
“I don’t think I’d be where I am today without it,” he said. “I feel it made me a better player and a better person. Jason (head coach Chatwood ) and Scott (manager Murray) did a great job working with me and talking about the mental side of the game, baseball and life.”
Borchers has always been a catcher.
“I got stuck in there in my first year and been with it ever since,” he said with a laugh.
But he loves it.
“I love being part of every pitch … deciding what’s going on and being in a trustworthy spot. It’s a mind war with the hitter.
“And I love getting beaten up,” he added smiling.
He believes his strength is his defensive game and needs to get more reps offensively.
“I feel I work well with the pitchers and am trustworthy back there. I just need to work on my hitting to get a good approach.”
“He’s really good behind the plate. He receives the ball well and does a great job of blocking the ball in the dirt. Our pitchers have a lot of confidence in him, knowing they can through the ball in the dirt and he won’t let it get to the backstop.
“But he’s also still young and will get even better calling the game … that’s just experience.
“As for his offence this league (Sunburst Baseball league) has a lot of good pitchers and it’s his first time seeing them. Some of these guys have played some high-level ball and know how to pitch. It’s just a matter of timing and getting his reps in.”
Grayson spent the winter season in Lethbridge with the PBA Junior Varsity team.
”We played in the Canadian College Baseball Conference and I got a lot of playing time, which is a benefit,” he said. “I had a two-day break after school before joining the Riggers, so I was able to step right in.”
He plans on being with the PBA for a couple more years while going to Lethbridge College where he took general studies.
Eventually, he’d love to get a scholarship to the States to finish his collegiate career.
“That’s the plan, but we’ll have to see how it goes,” he said.
He believes his time with the Riggers will help him grow in that direction.
“It’s a matter of c0ntinuing to work on my game and be a complete player,” he said. “I’m learning a lot … learning some tricks that will make me a better player next year.”
Grayson is one of a number of young players on this year’s edition of the Riggers.
“It’s been a blast … exciting as we’re a younger team,” Borchers said.
“We have a nice mix of older and younger guys,” added Chatwood. “Everyone gets along and work well together.”
Two of the new faces this year fit into the veteran category in Corbyn Shields and Jay Kirkham, who came in from the Innisfail Trappers, who folded this season.
“They jumped right in and didn’t miss a beat,” said Chatwood.
The Riggers next home action is June 24 against St. Albert in Sylvan Lake. They will host their annual tournament July 15-17 at Great Chief Park.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org