When you think of winter sports in Saskatchewan there are two that come to the fore front of thought, hockey and curling.
However, over the past six year, the Going Yard Baseball Academy has provided a training facility for local players to learn and grow year round.
Over that time they’ve gone from a warehouse in Saskatoon’s North Industrial neighbourhood, to a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
“If I turn around and look now, and look at this space compared to what we were working with back then, it’s night and day,” coach Matt Kosteniuk said.
“We went from 12,000 square feet back at the old Going Yard. At the time it was great, it was what we needed. But here we are today in a 100,000-square-foot facility, with two full-sized infields. It feels like we’re in the southern United States right now.”
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“It was an awesome feeling,” Sask Five Giants third baseman Jaret Rowan added. “We all walked in here, we all had our phones out; we were all like ‘ this is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to us. We have everything we could possibly need here, and more.”
Going Yard offers programs available to players in age groups as young as U8 all the way up to U18.
But it’s their senior academy programs that really helps players to reach their potential and the next level of competition, thanks to a coaching staff who all played locally before enjoying collegiate careers in the United States.
“Having grown up in Saskatoon, born and raised, and having played my minor baseball here, I’m incredibly passionate about where these guys come from, where the potential for them to go is,” coach Jordan Draeger said.
“I just like to open up and make everyone aware that collegiate baseball is an avenue (they can pursue). We have such good athletes in Saskatchewan, (and we want to help) push them in that direction.”
Academy players are on the field four times a week, from Monday through Thursday, while they also get full use of the Ignite Athletics facility for physical conditioning.
“We get to be in here every day, working, bettering ourselves every single day,” Rowan said. “I don’t know, I just think that it’s going to take Saskatchewan, and Saskatoon mainly; like these guys to the next level.”
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The academy players do spend five days a week at the facility, However, their fifth day, Friday, is spent in classroom.
The program provides a teacher to help them out with school work, a mental performance consultant to help break down in game and life situations, as well as Going Yard coaches who have education degrees that help prepare these players for the jump to the college grind of becoming full-time student athletes.
“It just helps so much, just having a plan with those things,” pitching coach Marshall Dean explained. “Making sure you’re mentally prepared, making sure that you have a plan when things do go sideways. As far as when I played, I wish I had that stuff.”
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