Rees DeRuyter was in a good position graduating from the Red Deer Carstar Braves U18AAA baseball program.
The talented left-handed pitcher from Innisfail had offers from PBA in Lethbridge and Spokane Community College.
He decided to commit to Spokane for the 2020-21 season, but never made it.
“With Covid it didn’t work out, so I decided to commit to Lethbridge (for next season),” explained DeRuyter, who is spending the summer with the Red Deer Riggers in the Sunburst Baseball League.
“PBA first contacted me during my final year of midget, but I wanted to go to Spokane. But still, PBA plays in a good league and I’m excited for the season to start.”
Rees, who will take Business Administration in Lethbridge, feels PBA could be a good stepping stone toward a US scholarship.
“Eventually I’d like to go to the States. Spent a year or two (with PBA) and hopefully get a Div. I scholarship,” he said. “We’ll have to see what happens.”
DeRuyter grew up in Innisfail, playing a number of sports, including hockey, basketball, golf and badminton. However, by age 15 he decided that baseball was his first love.
“That was what I wanted to do and focused on that.”
He played his final season of minor ball with the Braves and helped them post a 2-2 record in the Western Canadian championships, which they hosted. He also spent his Grade 12 year at St. Joseph High School in Red Deer attending their baseball academy.
“I knew Rees from the academy, plus I also played ball at Minot State with his older brother, so we’ve kept in touch over the years,” said Riggers manager Jaret Chatwood.
Rees played a number of positions through minor baseball but pitching was his preference.
“I realized left-handed pitchers are hard to come by,” he said with a smile.
They are, especially with DeRuyter’s control.
‘When I was younger I was a smaller guy and needed to have good control to get people out,” he explained. “As I grew (now six-foot-three, 195-pounds) and got bigger and stronger I could afford to miss a bit but still have to have the good control.”
His control has impressed Chatwood.
“He has a really good arm and good control. He can pin-point all his off-speed pitches, which makes his fastball seem all that faster. He’s been impressive and will only continue to get better the more he plays.”
He throws mainly a two-seam baseball and cutter, while chipping in with a curve and a change-up.
”My two-seamer sinks a lot and guys either hit it into the ground or it breaks their bats while my cutter can go either way. I use my curve to get swings and misses.”
He’s pitched twice this season for the Riggers, allowing three runs in eight innings and posting a 3.38 ERA.
“It’s a good league and good for me as if I make a mistake they make you pay for it. Just look at tonight. (Tuesday, when Tony Olson of the Edmonton Cubs slammed a long solo home run).”
He also believes he’ll learn a lot just being around the veterans on the Riggers.
‘There’s a lot to learn as the veterans all played college ball. It’s good for me to keep my ears open and I’ll learn a lot.”
The Riggers plan on hosting the 2023 Canadian championships, which Rees is looking forward to.
“That’s something I’d love to take part in.”
DeRuyter is one of the few pitchers on the Riggers who played some last summer.
“I played a bit with the Innisfail Trappers senior team and threw three or four times … not much, but even that helped a bit.”
So far this season he’s worked four innings in both his outings.
“That’s about where it should be,” he said. “It gives me a chance to build up my arm and not push it and get injured. As we go on I’ll be able to throw later into a game.”
The Riggers return to action at Great Chief Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against the St. Albert Tigers.
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