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Wednesday, 06 August 2014 14:53

Former Indians’ pitcher/Bulls' assistant coach blessed by baseball

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As the old baseball adage goes ... “baseball has been very, very good” to Nova Scotia native Alex Tufts.

Former Swift Current Indians had the opportunity to enjoy playing baseball in the United States at Canisius College (Buffalo, N.Y.) and in Iowa, has played ball professionally in Australia and Switzerland, was part of the inaugural class at the Vauxhall Baseball Academy which has been producing some major league baseball prospects and through it all, has remained healthy both physically and intellectually.
With his education and life experience, the native of Nova Scotia is off to Brock University in Ontario this fall where he plans on pursuing his Masters in Philosophy.
“I’ve had some awesome experiences,” says Tufts, currently the pitching and first base coach with the Lethbridge Bulls. “I’ve got to coach youth, got to travel ... I’ve been extremely lucky through my career, always good to go. Some guys who have average talent like myself, who had to grind it out every game, aren’t so lucky.”
Tufts went to Melbourne Australia immediately at the conclusion of the 2012 WMBL season with Swift Current after getting a recommendation from Indians’ coach Joe Carnahan to play Down Under. He and a few of Swift Current’s players went there.
While on the Aussie circuit he met up with an old teammate from Lethbridge, Jack Thompson. They hung out and Thompson had contacts in Switzerland where they went and coached younger players there while playing in a senior men’s league on the weekends.
He came back to his home in Nova Scotia when he got contacted by current Bulls’ head coach and this year’s WMBL coach of the year Ryan MacDonald about joining the staff. 
It was an opportunity to come back, to not only where he first started his WMBL career, but where he attended some grade school.
A graduate of the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge and the Vauxhall High School Baseball Academy, Tufts found himself with a chance to give back to the area in which he says he grew up both on and off the field.
In Vauxhall, when he came back this year, he helped the high school as a special needs teaching assistant.
Back then, Tufts was part of the inaugural Vauxhall Baseball Academy. He says despite the fact it was the first year for the school and it went througha few minor growing pains, he felt honoured to be part of it.
“It was a big change at the time (from Nova Scotia). I’m glad I did it though,” explains Tufts. “It’s definitely different now. They have great facilities and I’m happy they have that now (after the school’s renovations). Going there opened a lot of connections for me.
“With it being a small town for a young guy like me at the time, and you being in the spotlight, there’s some pressure. You have to learn to take pride in yourself, value integrity and take care of business on and off the field,” explains Tufts. “When you’re 16 or 17 years old, it helps you grow up fast.”
Prior to the beginning of the 2014 Western Major Baseball League playoffs, Tufts was looking forward to the opportunity to see what his Lethbridge Bulls team could do. Unfortunately for him, they were bounced out of the WMBLplayoffs by Okotoks Aug. 5.It has been another learning experience.
Spending one’s life being concerned about one’s own well being and knowing how one feels, it’s different to try and figure out someone else. It has been a decent transition however.
“As player, you’re just thinking mostly baseball. Now as a coach and student, you’re looking into the future where as a player you’re just living in the now,” explains Tufts.
“You’re checking to see if their arms are sore and just making sure they’re OK; it’s fine tuning guys mostly. You’re not re-inventing the wheel with them.
“I miss going out in the mornings. You can’t re-create that (players’ competitiveness with coaching.)”
After having spent two seasons with the Swift Current Indians, many people forget he actually started his WMBL career with the Bulls in 2010 season.
Tufts had a decent season in 2010 with Lethbridge having pitched 46 innings in nine regular season games. The righty finished with a 2-0 record and 1.56 ERA.
Regardless, Tufts found his way to Swift Current where he had 1-1 record in 2011 (5.03 ERA) and in 2012 a 3-3 record with an ERA of 4.50.
Besides his on-field prowess, Tufts is also a creative writer. He wrote a weekly column for Prairie Post in 2012 called The Ramblings of a WMBL Lifer as well as writing for the Canadian Baseball Network. He says both were enjoyable.
“There’s so much you’re observing and you kind of develop this pent-up energy (to write),” explains Tufts who says he reads philosophy-centric books whenever he gets a spare moment.
“It was a great outlet for me. I miss it.”
Whether Tufts will come back next year, he says it’s too hard to say. He said the great run the Bulls have been on have made it hard for him to leave and he would love to come back.
(Check out Tufts on Twitter at @Tuftsa)

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Ryan Dahlman

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