A group of players from the St. Joseph’s Baseball Academy participated in a showcase for scouts last weekend at the Dome Sports in Red Deer. (Contributed Photo)

St. Joseph Falcons Ball Academy players draw interest from collegiate scouts

In its second season, the St. Joes Falcons Ball Academy has round the corner in a big way.

The Academy got in almost two dozen games this fall between the softball and baseball program before they held a showcase over the last two weekends. That gave scouts from colleges and universities plenty of opportunities to see what local products had to offer.

“It’s super exciting. I think it shows that there are so many talented kids in our area of the province. It helps them look at options. As far Grade 12s, a lot of them will have an opportunity to go play at the level they decide, whatever school is a fit for them,” said Ball Academy coach Jason Chatwood.

“For them, it’s exciting to feel that interest and a sense of want, not just from one school but some of these kids have multiple schools talking to them.”

Chatwood said in addition to interest for Grade 12 players ready to graduate, scouts also were excited to follow the progress of some Grade 11s and 10s in the program.

Pitcher Reece DeRuyter is one of those players looking to lock down a scholarship next season and drew interest from scouts at the showcase.

“It was cool. Seven different schools came down and we just showed off what we had,” he said.

“It was fun because it was competitive between everybody. Everybody is trying to get a spot on a college roster and everyone was there trying to work their hardest.”

The Grade 12 student had always hoped to play baseball at the next level but attending the academy at St. Joes has helped him realize how attainable that dream is.

“To play college past high school has always been something that I always knew was possible, but I didn’t know it was this achievable. Getting closer and closer, jumping up on me,” he added.

Hannah Murray is another grade 12 in the program that drew the eye of scouts last week. Murray played last season in Edmonton and joined the Academy this year.

“The everyday portion of it helps. Every day we’re getting our reps in. We’re working hard and working on our hitting, our fielding,” Said Murray, who will play for her hometown Red Deer Rage this summer.

“Just from the beginning of the year to now, I can see my swing improving and my fielding mechanics improving.”

Murray had scouts interested at the showcase. She plans on visiting a college in North Idaho, has been in talks with Minot State University and has lots to go over before making a decision on her next step.

“It’s been pretty great. Got some schools interested and I owe it all to the academy, otherwise, I don’t think I would have had that. The exposure has been amazing,” she said.

Cleary Simpson, a middle infielder who played for the Red Deer Midget AAA Braves is in his first season at the Academy.

Simpson has made a verbal commitment to Colby Community College in Kansas, which plays in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I. That’s also where fellow Red Deer product Jared Arnold is pitching this season.

“It was always my goal, but in the past years I got a little bit better so it became more of a reality,” he said.

As a player, Simpson said its night and day from before joining the Academy to now.

“My hitting has gotten a lot better, just my approach and tweaking a few things. Defence too, just the approach,” he said.

Throughout the winter, the players will continue to put in work with the program will continuing their other various athletic pursuits. All that work will have them ready for winter tryouts for summer teams.

“It helps push them in the winter, too. They take advantage of these winter months. They have goals set and they have certain things they want to accomplish. In the weight room and conditioning piece, it allows them to push a little bit more,” Chatwood said.

“The kids are creating a culture here that they show up and they push each other. They care about each other and they want everyone to get better. For us, as a coaching staff seeing the kids push each other, it makes our job that much easier.”

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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