During his 2017 season with the Red Deer Carstar Braves midget AAA baseball team Zach Olson put together an impressive statistical resume.
The Red Deer native finished among the top 10 in 10 categories. The one missing was home runs.
That changed this year as he joined the Edmonton Cardinals 18U travelling team.
“I have seven or eight this year,” said the six-foot-four, 210-pound Olson while attending the Red Deer Riggers tournament with the Cardinals.
“I have to give props to my coaches this year … they’ve been fantastic,” he said. “One played in the States and was an All-American hitter while the other is a pitcher who knows how hitting works. They’ve helped me along this year.”
But the 19-year-old isn’t one to look for the long ball.
“I like to drive the ball up the middle,” he said. “If you start swinging for the fences you pull off the ball, so I look up the middle and to the opposite field.”
That was the case during his final season with the Braves when he batted .453 with 34 RBIs, 38 runs scored, 53 hits, including 36 singles, 11 doubles and five triples. He also stole 11 bases and had an on-base-percentage of .524.
Little wonder he was recruited for the Cardinals.
He’s one of three 19-year-old overage players with the team which played an exhibition schedule in Canada and the Western USA.
“We’re purely a travel team, playing exhibition games and in tournaments,” explained Olson. “We have one tournament left (this weekend) in Portland.”
It’s been a great experience for the Notre Dame High School grad.
“We have players 15 to 19 years of age and we’re all working together and learning,” he said. “It’s a big learning curve for everybody.”
As one of the older players Zach is a team leader, bringing a team first attitude with him.
“I’ve always believed in team first, not me first,” he stressed. “If the team is going well I’m going well. If we’re not then I’m not.”
Olson had that attitude as he came up through the Red Deer Minor Baseball Association, mainly under the coaching of Dwayne Lalor.
“I had Dwayne as my coach for all but one year and he helped make me the player I am today.”
Olson played a number of positions in minor ball.
“I like shortstop, but I’ve played most positions in the infield and outfield and pitched a bit,” said Olson, who is playing mainly first base with the Cards.
“Playing several positions helped, just for the experience. You can take what you learn in the infield to the outfield and take what you learned out there to the infield. It gives you a lot more options moving forward.”
Olson knows exactly what he’ll be doing, at least in the near future. He’ll join the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge in the fall and attend Lethbridge College.
“I can go there for two years and still have three years left if I go to the States. That’s something I’m striving for,” he explained. “But we’ll see what happens.”
As for next summer one option is the Red Deer Riggers, who have shown definitely interest in Olson.
“That’s a possibility … I’ll have to see what the coaches (in Lethbridge) have to say. But the Riggers are a good team and there’s good competition. Plus I’ll need to find a seasonal job to help pay for college.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at email@example.com