Yankees’ Thomson visits iCase academy

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valcke

 * Tom Valcke,left,  who runs the iCASE academy in Stratford welcomed, New York Yankees coach and off-season resident of Stratford Rob Thomson on Saturday. Thomson has five World Series rings. …. 

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By Andrew Hendriks
STRATFORD – The International Canadian Academy of Sports Excellence opened it’s doors to the public on Saturday, showcasing not only their state of the art indoor facility, but also an impressive cast of student-athletes, the academies accomplished instructional personnel as well as an array of sport-specific programming geared towards helping produce the next crop of exciting young baseball prospects.

Headlined by field manager, Tom Valcke, former President/CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St Marys, Ontario, iCASE, in partnership with the Avon Maitland District School Board and Stratford Northwestern Secondary School, is in a class of it’s own.

In addition to an array of guests visiting the indoor facility located on 818 Erie St in Stratford on Saturday, New York Yankees bench coach, and Corunna, Ont. native, Rob Thomson was on hand.

Answering a barrage of questions regarding Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and all things pinstripes, Thomson, a five time World Series champion in his own right, was happy to help build awareness for a program for what he calls an asset to the baseball community.

“Anytime you can have this type of facility, when kids can come in during the winter, get out of the cold and hit, throw or take ground balls, it’s going to make them a better player in the summer,” said Thomson during Saturday’s event. “Facilities like this one and Centre Field Sports in London, along with all of the certified coaches … That’s why we’re getting better players coming out of Canada every year.”

Aimed at providing a college prep program for students looking to gain a competitive edge over their competition, iCASE offers those enrolled in the academy a unique opportunity to expand their off-season training program while continuing to earn credits towards an Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

“Aside from providing a quality baseball program, iCASE is also teaches kids how to get engaged with the colleges,” said Valcke. “In addition to playing against a number of college teams, we also take our athletes through the NCCA clearinghouse and the SAT because otherwise, they often just don’t know the path and tend to find out things too late.

Open to students between the grades of nine and 12, the two semester schedule runs between September-January and then again from February to June, providing it’s athletes with an opportunity to hone their skills over the course of an entire school year prior to returning home for the summer to compete in local programs.

Incorporating such training techniques as mechanical video analysis and state-of-the-art athletic conditioning, the academy also offers enrollment in a variety of competitive tournaments, exposure to both USA colleges and professional scouts as well as a March break bus trip to Florida that sets iCASE athletes up against some of America’s finest high school baseball programs in a week long exhibition style schedule.

Having served as a long time Supervisor of Canadian Scouting for the Major League Scouting Bureau, Valcke knows what it takes to make it to the next level in this game, and with iCASE, he hopes to help ease the transition from sandlot all-star, to a bona fide college and or professional prospect.

“The fact that we train everyday in a time of year where they’ve never trained before helps catch them up to their counterparts south of the border,” said Valcke. “We play high quality competition, often times, we stack our athletes up against teams that are better than us just to exposure to that kind of talent.”

Last fall, the iCASE Huskies went 9-10 on the semester, and despite posting a losing record, Valcke couldn’t have been happier with the results.

“Every team we play is more advanced than us” said Valcke. “Six of those games are against college teams, and despite playing tougher competition, we swing wood every single game while every team, including the college programs, swing aluminum. Even though it costs us some runs and a few wins, we know the kids can become better hitters swinging with wood.”

For additional information on iCASEand their spring schedule.

     Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

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