Take me out to the good old ball game! The sport of baseball has been a favourite pastime and popular sport from the 1920s to today. In 1939 though, baseball was put on somewhat of a hiatus, as many players traded their uniforms for soldier attire and went overseas to war. In 1956 in Vauxhall, the Jets Stadium was built by the Vauxhall Jets and in 1974, the Southern Alberta Junior Baseball League was formed.
Moving forward to 2019 and to the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball or the Home of the Jets, the academy is just finishing up its 13th season. A season is basically a school year — from September through June.
“We play a fall season and then a spring season competitively, but we train all winter, as well. It’s a better part of 10 months,” noted Head Coach Les McTavish.
McTavish said the academy accepts 22 players from across the country and they move to small town Alberta to train and to play baseball. “They go to school and they play baseball and try to be involved in the community, as much as possible — but school and baseball become their life,” he added.
Vauxhall High School, McTavish said, is very challenging and when the baseball component is added, the goal is to give the players a college baseball-like experience with the academics, but at a high school level. “It’s a melting pot. They live together, they go to school together and they play baseball together.”
As for the overall success of the academy’s program and its players, McTavish said it’s because of all the great people involved from the baseball department to support staff to school staff. “It takes a village to raise a child.”
“There’s a ton of great people involved that sacrifice a lot of time, effort and energy to give our student athletes the best possible experience they can and you’ve got to nurture that a bit too. They’re 15 years old and moving across the country and it’s a challenge,” he noted.
McTavish said many people outside of the baseball world don’t realize how talented players have to be to be drafted in the Major League draft, but players from the academy have often made the grade. “There isn’t a ton of people from Canada, let alone from southern Alberta. It’s a reward,” he said.
A few Vauxhall Academy Jets standouts include Thomas Little from Lethbridge, Adam Macko from Stony Plain and Josh Burgmann from Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Little was drafted in the 33rd round, 990th overall by the Philadelphia Phillies. He is a two-year standout for the Jets. Little has signed a Letter of Intent to NJCAA Division 2 National Champs Oklahoma Enid Jets.
“Thomas Little — it’s an oxymoron — he’s six-foot and eight inches and his last name is Little,” McTavish joked. “He has a bright future. He’s got a lot of upside.”
Macko was drafted in the 7th round, 216th overall by the Seattle Mariners. He is a three-year standout for the Jets, also participating in the 2019 P15 New Balance International Series for the World Team, as well as the Area Code Games. Macko signed a Letter of Intent to Purdue University.
“Adam Macko is an exceptionally talented player and he has a bright future,” McTavish said.
Burgmann, a Jets alumni from 2014-2016, was drafted in the 2019 MLB first-year player draft out of the University of Washington Huskies. The former Jet was drafted in the 5th round, 162nd overall by the Chicago Cubs. He was a standout for the Jets for 3 years and has had a very successful career at the University of Washington Huskies.
“He went on to play college and then he got drafted. He was drafted out of high school, but chose to go to college. He’s on to bigger and better things with the Cubs,” he said.
According to the head coach, when there’s two professional draft picks and many of the players moving on to college baseball, and then add on top of that the team’s best win/loss percentage in 13 years — it all adds up to a successful season. “In spring, we went 35-5-2,” he said.
“We certainly had a successful year. We wish all the success to the seniors and we’re excited about welcoming the new guys next fall,” he added.
Some of the Jets drafted in previous seasons include Cody Phipps signed to the Houston Astros in 2007, Steven Inch signed to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 and Logan Seifrit signed to the Seattle Mariners in 2012.