Wednesday, 11 May 2011 14:05

$32,000 grant for diamond in the rough

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Submitted by Dawn Sugimoto
Palliser Regional Schools
The weather hasn’t been suited for ball yet this spring, but that certainly hasn’t idled the 17 students enrolled in the first ever season of the Kate Andrews Baseball Academy.


While stuck indoors, they’ve been learning the intricacies of the game with an eye to becoming coaches to younger players, they just completed their Level 1 turf certificate that’s part of what they’ll need to know to run a recreational facility and they’re working toward Level 2 certification as umpires to learn the game from an officiating perspective.

Despite the snow, they’ve even managed a handful of sessions outdoors where skill drills and hands-on field maintenance were all part of their basic training.

It’s all part of the new Baseball Academy program, in which students can earn up to three credits per semester while delving deeply into the game they love.

Academy Director Kalen Hastings, a former Kate Andrews Pride baseball player and now coach of the high-school team, says the academy takes a holistic approach to understanding the game by building upon three pillars: physical skill development and theory; umpiring; and work experience in the technical requirements of building, maintaining and even designing a ball diamond.

That third pillar just received a $32,000 boost, thanks to a Community Initiatives Program grant. Derived from lottery funds, the money will be matched by other grants the school has accessed and in-kind donations, including the sweat equity being provided by the students.

Already, the Coaldale Quads complex, a recreational facility used by all age groups for slow pitch, baseball and soccer, has benefited from a new grass infield and underground sprinklers thanks to the the support of students and parents, Hastings says.

He says dugouts were constructed before the recent snowstorms, and new bleachers and a wood outfield fence are in the plans. Yankee Stadium may have been the “House that Ruth Built,” but the Coaldale baseball diamond is going to be, quite literally, built by academy players, in what’s truly an example of school-community collaboration.

“The catalyst was the high school program that started this year,” Hastings says, about the efforts to transform this diamond in the rough. He says the field has been quite a challenge for players and coaches, who had to contend with gopher holes and the off-kilter measurements between bases.

Then Hastings and his former coach and teacher Dennis King approached KAHS Principal Danny Roberts with the idea for the Academy, a force that would give students an opportunity to explore baseball and provide the spark to reinvigorate the facility.

In this first year, there are 15 KAHS students and two from Picture Butte High School in the Academy. They often meet in off-school hours and weekends, learning skills from players from the Prairie Baseball Academy and Lethbridge Bulls. Players competing at a high level are often working one-on-one with the academy students, Hasting says.

Along the way, the program will build capacity in the community as students are expected to volunteer coach at least 10 hours with local little league teams and umpire at least five games as well.

“At its core, this is character development. It’s responsibility,” says Hastings. “A player may have a great level of physical skill but they need to learn how to steward that talent.”

Students do not pay any special fees to be part of the academy program. The credits they earn are a mix of Career and Technology courses and off-campus education. Anyone interested in joining the academy next year, should contact the school at 403-345-3383.


Read 1225 times Last modified on Monday, 04 June 2012 15:09

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