There will be a recognizable face leading the St. Joseph Ball Academy next fall.
Jason Chatwood, shortstop/coach/president of the Red Deer Riggers and physical education teacher at H.J. Cody High School in Sylvan Lake was announced as the lead teacher of the baseball and softball academy last week.
“Just a chance to work with these kids every day. A new challenge. Obviously, it was hard to leave my current position. An opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Chatwood said.
Chatwood, 30, grew up patrolling the baseball fields in Innisfail and Red Deer before playing collegiality for the Gonzaga University Bulldogs.
After a four-year career at Gonzaga playing NCAA Division 1 baseball, Chatwood came back home 2010 and has been part of the baseball community with the Red Deer Riggers as well as a teacher at H.J. Cody.
From playing in provincial championships as a young player to winning bronze at senior nationals with the Riggers last season, Chatwood has a wide range of baseball experience and connections.
He said as a young player growing up in the area, much of the learning and seeking out of the next opportunity was on the player’s shoulders. He hopes he can help grow the academy and pass on all the baseball lessons he’s learned along his journey.
“There’s a ton of potential to play at the next level. If that was a goal for a kid, we would do the best that we could to help them reach that goal,” Chatwood said.
“Also, if the goal is just for skill development and be a better player, then we’ll do the best we can with that goal as well. It’s a wide range, you don’t need to be a certain level to apply or be in the program.”
Chatwood, along with program director Scott Murray, said that the baseball and softball academy is going to give players a reason to stay and play locally. Along with that, a big perk in Chatwood’s mind is allowing players to continue their pursuits in other sports if they choose.
As well as the baseball and softball being the primary focus during the day so kids can play other sports, there will also be a junior high program at St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School that will serve as a feeder system.
“It’s something Central Alberta really needs and can really benefit from. I think there are lots of positives. It’s not going to take away from kids other extracurricular activities,” Chatwood said.
“The skill development and being able to work with these kids and go through the fundamentals and advance, it’s going to be super beneficial. It’s something in high school I wish I had the opportunity to go through.”
The program will also host an information night for prospective athletes at St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School on March 26, at 7 p.m.