- BC Games
West Vancouver's new baseball academy a big hit with students
This year, Will McAffer’s back-to-school supplies list got longer. Along with pens and binders, he’ll also be required to bring a helmet, glove, bat, indoor and outdoor turf shoes and water bottle when he arrives for his first day of school.
That’s because he’s one of 20 boys, from grades 8 to 11, who’ll be participating in the West Vancouver School District’s new baseball academy.
The thought of leaving school after lunch every day to hit the baseball diamond has McAffer, 15, really excited about the first day of school for a change.
An early adopter when it comes to offering students sport-specific academies, WVSD already offers specialized study in hockey, tennis, golf and soccer.
Diane Nelson, the principal of sports academies for the WVSD, says the idea of the baseball academy has been tossed around for a while, but there’s always been a glaring problem: Vancouver’s extra-long rainy season.
But with a new partner in Inside Performance, a recently opened indoor development centre in North Vancouver that boasts more than 4,000-square-feet of turf and skilled staff, there will be no rain delays for the new program.
Located at Rockridge and Sentinel, the baseball academy works like this: Students attend regular classes in the morning and hone their baseball skills in the afternoon — from bunting and base-running to using a proper two-seam fastball. The student ballplayers also attend classroom sessions focused on sports and lifestyle, with topics that include sports psychology, sports nutrition and team building, among others.
Indoor sessions take place at Inside Performance, while outdoor sessions are at Parkgate Park in the Seymour-area, and Nelson says the roster is nearly full.
With the steady success of Canadians in Major League Baseball — Langley’s Brett Lawrie, the elaborately tattooed third baseman of the Toronto Blue Jays, the most recent to make headlines— it’s no wonder the baseball academy is drawing interest from young players across the Lower Mainland who are interested in extending their baseball seasons and receiving top coaching.
The program, which costs around $500 per month, already has players from Point Grey, Vancouver and Richmond signed up.
But this isn’t just a program for players with big league dreams, says Nelson, noting all the school district’s sporting academies are open to student athletes of all abilities and players are grouped together based on skill level.
Of course, there have been many notably talented grads from the academies, including recent top NHL draft picks Griffin Reinhart and Morgan Rielly.
McAffer is a serious ballplayer whose club team is the North Shore Twins.
With dreams of one day landing a baseball scholarship, possibly in the U.S., the 15-year-old hopes to develop as a player, hone his mechanics and add a little muscle to his frame while at the academy. He’s excited about reuniting with the academy’s top skipper Brooks McNiven, a coach he played for at the B.C. Summer Games.
A former MLB draft pick who pitched for Canada at the 2008 Olympics, McNiven will be assisted by coaches Ken Mackenzie and Graeme Lehman, Stephan Grisbrook of Inside Performance and other guest coaches.
“They get outstanding coaching,” says Nelson. “You’ll get all kinds of pros who come into town and stop in and give the kids a session or two.”
As part of the program the young players will also visit a chiropractic doctor to learn about injury prevention and take yoga classes every second week, both to help improve their flexibility and to reduce stress.
Pitcher/first baseman Braedan Fitzpatrick, 16, a teammate of McAffer’s on the Twins, also has aspirations of earning a U.S. baseball scholarship — and this new academy may help give him an edge.
“Just the opportunity to play every day and get more reps,” he says.
“I’m really excited for the academy — leave at lunch every day to play ball is just crazy,” says McAffer.
For more information about WVSD’s baseball academy email firstname.lastname@example.org.