The St, Joe’s Baseball Academy is known for developing some of the top young catchers in the province.
Last year two of their young stars – Gavin Galenza and Kyle Belich – moved on to play college ball in the States. This year it was Nathan Flewelling’s turn.
And to make Flewelling’s commitment to NCAA Division I Gonzaga even more impressive is that he’s only in Grade 11.
“It’s nice to get it over with and if everything works out I will be attending there,” said the 16-year-old Innisfail native.
St. Joe’s head coach Jason Chatwood, who played at Gonzaga, did most of the leg work in getting Nathan’s name in front of the Gonzaga coaching staff.
“I was talking with them about him so they were keeping tabs on him,” said Chatwood. “It worked out he could attend one of their high school camps last fall. Previously all they saw were videos on him so getting a chance to see him with their own eyes worked out and they found a way for him to commit.”
The signing is just another step forward for the six-foot-one, 185-pound Flewelling, who decided in Grade 7 to concentrate on baseball.
“From an early age I played other sports until I was 13 or 14 then decided to concentrate on baseball,” he said.
In Grade 7 he, along with his family, made a big commitment as he decided to attend St. Thomas Junior High in Red Deer so he could attend the middle school portion of St. Joe’s Academy.
“It was a big family decision,” he said, “and looking back I would have never dreamed it would work out this well.”
Nathan also decided at an early age to try his hand at catching.
“I always liked being in the action and being in on every play. I was bored standing around so I decided to try my luck at the hardest position,” he said with a laugh.
Attending St. Joe’s program has been everything he hoped.
“It’s been very important and I would never be where I am now without what they’ve given me,” he said. “They work with the mechanical side and what it takes to be a good teammate and work hard every day.”
Nathan also had the opportunity to work alongside Galenza and Belich who are attending Colby College and Big Bend College respectively.
“They were great mentors,” he said. “They taught me a lot about playing the position.”
Chatwood worked with the catchers and gives Galenza and Belich credit for aiding in Flewelling’s development.
“It was a big thing for him being around Gavin and Kyle all year and being with them on the Red Deer (U18 AAA Braves) team. He got a chance to learn from them. He also was on the Alberta Summer Games team which as a great learning experience at a high level.”
“It was,” stressed Nathan. ”I got a chance to play quite a bit as well. It’s the biggest experience I’ve had so far.”
Chatwood believes Nathan has all the tools to play at a high level.
“He’s a very offensive catcher with the ability to be a big-time hitter and the fact he hits left-handed is an asset as well. He also has a very very good arm and for his age is very physical. They see a lot of potential in what he’ll look like in two years as he continues to grow and gain strength.”
Chatwood will continue to work with him on the game-calling side of the game.
“Now the big thing is for him to continue to develop his game mentally as once you get to the higher level the pace of play and speed is a lot higher.
“We’ll work on that part of his game before he gets there so he understands and knows the game. It’s like being a quarterback.
‘Calling the game is something I will continue to work on for sure,” he said.
Besides his time with the Academy Nathan will spend the summer playing with the Braves and with any Team Alberta opportunities that may come around.
“And also golf some,” he said with a laugh. “I enjoy it. It helps hand-eye and gets you out for a walk.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com