* Vauxhall coach Les McTavish during a bullpen session with LHP Ben Dartnell, who is now pitching at Eastern Michigan. ….
By Kamal Hylton
Les McTavish and Team Alberta are looking to make some noise at Tournament 12.
McTavish, a coach on the Albertan team, hopes to take away some of the limelight traditionally held by British Columbia and Ontario at the tournament, a showcase that brings together Canada’s top baseball prospects for scouts and professional teams.
“We’re looking to make a statement at this tournament.” said McTavish on Tuesday workout day. “As a province I think Alberta is definitely going in the right direction, there are several academies throughout the province and they’re all run by really good people.”
McTavish is in a position to know. He’s the director of operations and coach at Vauxhall Academy of Baseball, a school that caters to elite baseball players.
“In 2005 is when the concept came up that took a small school in Southern Alberta and the school was dying,” said McTavish. “So in order to keep the enrolment up they came up with using baseball, hired me to run it.
“We tried to keep it as high performance as we could and it has been successful ever since.”
Vauxhall has produced several players that have been drafted by Major League Baseball teams.
Players such as pitcher Logan Seifert, who was selected in the 33rd round of the 2012 draft by the Seattle Mariners. Third baseman Adam Nelubowich was selected a year later by the Houston Astros in the 12th round. Most recently, pitcher Ben Onyshko was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 16th round.
Vauxhall Academy has 17 players representing four different teams at Tournament 12 this year, including five for Alberta. Getting exposure in a tournament of this stature is critical to not only the players but the program as well.
“It’s really important for our group, there are a lot of schools, professional scouts and obviously the Toronto Blue Jays,” said McTavish. “We’re just excited, we want all our guys to do well, but it’s not just about Vauxhall.
“When you come to tournaments like this it’s about Alberta and getting exposure for all the kids.”
One of the kids getting exposure for Team Alberta is catcher Sean Robbins, a self-described intense player and one that coach McTavish feels is “your typical catcher” who is defence first.
Robbins has only been with Vauxhall Academy for a less than two months, but has already learned key intangibles that will take him to the next level.
“In the month and a half that I’ve been there I have a better approach to the game and have a better understanding of how to play and respect it,” said Robbins.
Given his self-described intensity, Robbins’s role model is an easy choice.
“I’ve always admired Yadier Molina (of the St. Louis Cardinals),” Robbins said. “His intensity, his arm, his footwork and the way he led his team to a world championship.”
Team Alberta began play Wednesday with two games, losing 6-2 to Ontario Black and scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. ET game against Prairies Purple.