The Red Deer 18U AAA Braves are a motivated bunch.
Even with seven first-year players, the group has their sights clearly set on winning a national title in 2020.
While that goal is still several months away, the team is well on their way in that pursuit.
In that chase for glory, the Braves will have a new voice in the dugout.
Veteran, Alta. native Brant Stickel, who coached the Red Deer 15U AAA Braves last season, has taken over as manager for the 18U group this season.
He’s looking forward to coaching at this level and can’t believe how tight-knit and motivated his group is.
“I’ve been away from that age group for five or six years, so it’s a little bit different for me because they’re so self-sufficient and they all have a plan,” said the new coach, who noted that the team already organized a wing night on their own and also got together for a fundraiser to help out the Mustard Seed, in which they raised more than $4,500.
“It’s amazing to see what the (St. Joseph Ball) Academy has done to these kids and the previous coaching. It makes my life really easy. You make some fine-tuning adjustments, but other than that it’s been really good so far.”
One of those Academy talents is Gavin Galenza is a highly touted pitching prospect at just 15 years old and throws close to 80 miles per hour.
In addition, Myles Pallister, Levi Hammond, Carter Claerhout, Adam Turgeon and Anthony Chatwood are all back this season.
The 15U AAA team that Stickel coached last year also had a strong year, finishing with a 24-6-4 record and falling to the Okotoks Dawgs in the provincial final. He’s got several of those players ready to go for this season. Kyle Belich, Heath Hachkowski and Grayson Leuck played for Stickel in 2019.
“I had such a good group of kids last year. They understand how I’m going to run things and having those guys come back really helps me because they’ve discussed and told the other players how it’s going to go,” the coach said.
Stickel is a well-known name in the baseball world through his own merits, having spent some time in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in the minor leagues for three seasons. While that experience taught him the hard work necessary to make it to the next level, his time with the University of Calgary Dinos under the coaching of A.J. Fystro, was where he picked the beginnings of a coaching philosophy– most of which is to be as aggressive as possible.
” He was like a bulldog. He was super aggressive, base running and bunting. We’re a hit-and-run team and we’re a good pitching team. We’re going to do things the modern way,” Stickel said.
“We’re going to have openers and we’re going shift, A.J. was shifting before any of these guys shifted. I just try and do it the same way he did it.”
Stickel noted although there is enthusiasm for the season to start, the past week has been a bit tough in particular for the group finding unique ways to train in order to get ready. With the regular season typically starting in late April, the team has even resorted to google hangouts to get team workouts in.
“Us as a group we have such a good work ethic that they’ve been instilled with. That I can see and that’s what I had to have,” he said.
Stickel also added that the team still hopes to begin the regular season as planned and is following the advice of both Baseball Alberta and Baseball Canada as far as when the group can get together again.