There was a point a little over a year ago when Ben Franz thought he may not worry about receiving a scholarship to play baseball at the university level.
“It wasn’t until high school that I thought about getting a scholarship, but about a year ago I thought maybe I’d just get my degree, graduate and go from there,” explained the native of Red Deer.
But once he got back on the field with the St. Joseph’s Softball/Baseball Academy last fall all that changed.
“When I got into Grade 12 I decided to try to find a team and if the opportunity to get a scholarship came up to go for it.”
It just so happened that the Calgary Dinos were interested in the versatile 17-year-old.
“I talked with their coach in the early part of the school year and after thinking about it I decided to apply (in education) and was accepted. I thought about other schools, but once they got back to me I ran with it.”
Franz is the type of player teams are interested in as he can play every position on the field.
“I’ll play anywhere they want, although this year I’ve mainly been used at shortstop and pitcher,” he explained.
St. Joe’s Academy head coach Jason Chatwood feels Ben’s versatility is a major benefit.
“You get a guy who has the ability to play everywhere is one thing that does make him a sought-after player.”
Ben will spend the summer with the Red Deer U18AAA Braves before joining the Dinos in late August.
“I’m looking forward to the summer, just getting a chance to get out and play, but I’m really excited, about the fall.
“I’d like to be going right now.”
The Dinos play in the Canadian College Baseball Conference with teams from Alberta and B.C.
“They have a good program, which is continuing to improve,” said Chatwood. “I feel they’re a good match for Ben in terms of baseball and what he wants to take in school.”
What position Franz will play is still up in the air.
“In the fall we’ll play non-conference games and the coach said I could move around and play where I’m most comfortable. Then next spring they’ll find where I best fit in for the conference games.
“To me, it doesn’t matter. I’ll move around as it gives me more of a chance to play.”
The five-foot-11, 145-pound Franz feels he could pitch as well.
“I need to continue to get bigger and stronger but I feel I have the stuff to pitch at that level.”
Ben feels his strength is as a “contact hitter.”
“I can put the ball in play, but even here I need to get bigger and stronger.
“What I need to continue to work on is defence, although I work at it and do take a lot of pride in my defence.”
He believes the ability to play with the academy has been a huge benefit.
“Oh for sure. I would never have spent the time in the gym and weight room without it. Also getting a chance to hit, throw the ball and just work on my game every day is so beneficial.”
Franz got into baseball when he was “four or five” about the same time as he started hockey. He played hockey up until high school then concentrated on baseball. He did play volleyball and basketball at St. Joe’s, which he feels could benefit him once he gets his teaching degree.
“I hope to teach in high school and possibly coach volleyball or basketball. I wouldn’t mind coming back to Red Deer and working with the academy … we’ll just have to see what happens.”
As for next summer, Franz will have a number of options, including the Innisfail Merchants Junior team, the Red Deer Riggers and possibly even the Sylvan Lake Gulls.
“I’m not sure, that’s down the road. A lot of the guys who play for the Dinos play on a senior team in Calgary and I may lean toward that,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Eventually Ben could end up with the Riggers.
“Once he gets a little stronger I could see him fitting in with the Riggers,” said Chatwood, who played and coached the Riggers for several years.
“That’s one of the benefits of the academy. It gives the guys, who have the potential, to play with the Gulls or Riggers while at university and after.”
The next big thing for Ben is his high school graduation. He’s hoping it’s a family affair.
“Not sure, but talk is we may have 50 per cent of mus graduating one day and 50 the next,” he said. “There’s also talk we can have a couple guests like my parents but also could have more which means I could have my grandparents. I hope so as it’s big for me, but just as big for them to be part of it.”
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