Rode

St. Joe’s Baseball/Softball Academy in Red Deer continuing to grow

When St. Joseph High School decided to run a baseball and softball academy they went about it the right way.

They hired Scott Murray as their director and then picked up Jason Chatwood as teacher-head coach. Both had vast knowldge of the sport as they graduated from the Red Deer Minor Baseball Association, played senior baseball with the Red Deer Riggers and college ball in the U.S.

They were both considered excellent teachers and coaches in both sports.

Murray played a key role in building the foundation of the program.

“The program started in the fall of 2018 and I was hired the previous February and began ordering equipment and meeting with the public,” explained Murray. “Jason was hired in April and we ran open houses and worked with the administration.”

Scott also spent a few days in Edmonton, shadowing the program at St. Francis Xavier High School, which had been running for 10 years.

“I saw how they ran their program and how it was embedded in their school and how it was associated with their middle school, which is similar to ours.

“Ours is a bit different but the structure is similar and that’s how we got started.”

There was interest in the program from the beginning. They had 14 enrolled in the baseball program and seven in softball. Today they have 39 and 17 respectively. Plus they have 65 kids in the feeder system with St. Thomas.

“Our middle school program has been very popular,” said Murray. “We run a program for both baseball and softball during the third block (first in the afternoon) for Grades 6 and 7 on Monday and Wednesday and Grades 8 and 9 on Tuesday and Thursday.”

The boys and girls involved in the high school academy have to be enrolled at St. Joe’s and receive credits.

“It’s embedded in our time table, which is different than other schools, it just wouldn’t work,” explained Murray. “It was a decision by the Catholic Division that they wanted it in our school.”

But that hasn’t stopped players from outside Red Deer from joining the program, in both baseball and softball.

“We have a number of kids from central Alberta who have transferred into the school. We have a boy from Calgary and one in from Grande Prairie,” said Murray. “It’s certainly a leap of faith for them, but it’s worked out well as a lot of the kids have friends who are already involved.”

The program has already benefited a number of players who have accepted scholarships to the States in both baseball and softball.

“This year we had three girls who have committed to the States. Hopefully other players see that and see the benefits of our program.”

One of the big selling points of the program is the field house where they have a drop down batting cage, plus this year an inflatable cage.

“It’s nice to have a second cage as we can have more hitting combined with fitness, defence and pitching,” said Murray.

It’s not all inside either. During the fall they play a number of games at Great Chief Park against other academies, or run practices or intrasquad games.

“This year because of the pandemic we didn’t play other academies but used all three fields at Great Chief as we have enough players for 4 baseball teams and close to two softball. We were short a bit for softball but used the Grade 9 girls so it went well,” added Murray.

The academy runs during the school year although they aren’t as busy in the spring when minor baseball begins.

“We don’t interfere with the local programs, but still run classes,” continued Murray.

Like everything else, Covid-19 has affected the program with the schools being shut down until at least Jan. 11.

“We use the time to hold 15-minute (virtual) one-on-ones,” said Murray. “It’s not the best but we can put together a plan for what they can work on and analysis their swing.”

The academy has a solid coaching staff anchored by Chatwood, Murray and Terry Hunter.

“We have a pitching coach (Taylor Burns) out of Edmonton this year, as well as Aqil Samuel (from the newly formed Sylvan Lake Gulls) and (long-time player-coach and RDMBA president) Dwayne Lalor.”

Heather Chatwood also helps with the Grade 6 and 7s.

The academy costs $3,000 for the high school students and $750 for those in middle school.

“The middle school cost covers classes twice a week for the entire year. It’s reasonable and it’s a nice way for the kids to get started and they may want to move on and join the high school program. It’s a good feeder system.

“As for the high school kids the cost covers coaching, apparel, training equipment, travel costs and game costs, so it’s reasonable as well.”

The academy also runs a showcase event each year where coaches from the U.S. colleges, and even the pros, are on hand to watch the kids work out.

“We’re hoping to run it again in May or June, if the borders are open,” said Murray. “It gives the coaches a chance to see and work with the kids and see how they fit into their programs.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

A firetruck sits in front of a home on Harvey Close in Red Deer Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to Red Deer fire

Red Deer firefighters responded to a blaze in the north part of… Continue reading

(Courtesy photo)
Red Deer rental prices drop slightly

Renting an apartment in Red Deer became slightly cheaper last month. Rentals.ca… Continue reading

Rylee Trippel was last seen Friday. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP looking for missing teen

Police are looking for a teen who was last seen in the… Continue reading

The Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Adopt a Family program raised $60,000 in 2020. (Photo courtesy Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Facebook)
Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Adopt a Family program raised $60K in 2020

The executive director of the Red Deer Outreach Centre says she is… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

RCMP say missing teen Hope Tivendale has been found. (File photo by Advocate staff)
No foul play suspected after burned body of homeless person found in North Vancouver

VANCOUVER — A burned body, believed to be of a homeless person,… Continue reading

The central zone experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases Thursday, rising from 454 to 508 active cases over the past 24 hours, with 10 people in hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Spartan Bioscience says Health Canada has approved its rapid COVID-19 test

TORONTO — An Ottawa company says it’s received approval from Health Canada… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole defends decision to back, then oust, Sloan

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he was once willing to… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault pauses as he speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Non-essential travel ban would violate Constitution but courts might allow it: expert

MONTREAL — Fear that Quebecers will catch a new variant of COVID-19… Continue reading

A woman walks outside the Roberta Place Long Term Care home in Barrie, Ont. on Monday, January 18, 2021. The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in Canada has underscored the need for increased public funding for home care, advocates say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
COVID-19 deaths in long-term care reveal need for home supports: advocates

VANCOUVER — The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in… Continue reading

A Chinese flag is illuminated by sunshine in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, September 22, 2016. China is threatening retaliation against Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned a new security law giving Beijing more control over Hong Kong.. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Diplomats contact Canadian held for over 2 years in China

BEIJING — Canadian officials have met online with former diplomat Michael Kovrig,… Continue reading

Marc Gold (centre) stands with senators André Pratte (left) and Peter Harder before being sworn in during a ceremony in the Senate on Parliament Hill, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Senator urges study of vexing barriers to using secret information in court cases

OTTAWA — A Senate committee should examine the hurdles that make it… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Winnipeg ticket holder wins Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — A ticket holder from Winnipeg won Friday night’s whopping $60… Continue reading

Most Read