It was like a trip down memory lane for some members of the Red Deer U18 AAA1 CarStar Braves on Saturday.
At St. Joseph High School the team held the 19th annual Day with the CarStar Braves Baseball Clinic, an event many of the players took part in as a child.
Braves player Matthew Murray remembers going as a four-year-old who hadn’t played much baseball before.
“They taught me a lot about ball and I remember looking up to them like I think they’re in the pros. It was just an awesome experience for me and you get to have hot dogs at the end which is always nice,” he said.
He also remembers learning a lot of the fundamentals he still uses to this day and has worked on over the years. Now he has returned to the event as a coach for the children involved and hopes he can help someone like the players did for him as a youngling.
“I remember thinking they were all that good and now I would love to be like the kid that they look up to in the game so It’s a pretty fun experience for me,” Murray said.
Murray added he believes they have a good shot at winning provincials with the end goal to go to nationals as a team.
“I’ve been in Red Deer a long time and this is probably like the best-looking team we’ve had in a long time,” he said.
Head coach of the U18 AAA1 Braves Josh Zanolli said the event is a great way to give back, keep the program moving forward, and give the kids something to look forward to.
“In this group here we have 17 players and nine of them are going to play college baseball next year. From all around this area not just Red Deer now we got some kids from Olds, we got kids from Innisfail, Sylvan Lake so they’re kind of just bringing in more kids from the central Alberta region and I just think It’s a really good thing for the program,” Zanolli said.
“It’s great for our players to connect with the young kids and get a chance to give back to the association.”
Throughout the morning the participants went through six stations working on fundamentals for base running, infielding, batting, pitching, catching, and outfielding. This is followed by lunch and mini-games in the afternoon. The event had age groups from 5 years old to 15 years old.
The Braves are sitting at 14-4 on the season thus far, good enough for third place in the Baseball Alberta Elite League U18 AAA Tier 1 standings. Zanolli said they have a solid team with numerous Grade 12s and plenty of pitching depth.
“We got a ton of skill and have a lot of fun. It’s a really good vibe with the group It’s just a really fun group to be involved with,” he added.
There have been many players who have stood out in his mind including Grade 10 players including Nathan Flewelling and Jake Brooks. Zanolli said Grade 12 catcher Gavin Galenza, Matthew Murray, and Jaxon Zanolli will be playing for Team Alberta this summer.
“We should be involved to try and win provincials so I don’t know how we get there in the end but we should be there,” he said.