Two local baseball players were in Arizona January 17-20 to take part in the 2014 16U Perfect Game MLK Championship baseball tournament which was held at several high school fields as well as Camelback Ranch Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Both Yorkton’s Tyson Black and Rama’s Kholton Shewchuk made the trip down south with the Inside Pitch Academy Prospects, a team based in Regina and made up of the top 16U baseball players in the province, to showcase their talents to scouts from all 30 MLB teams as well as NCAA Division one, two and three schools.
The tournament, held mainly for player exposure, was a chance that neither of them would have had, had they simply stayed in Saskatchewan to pursue their baseball dreams. “It was a great opportunity,” stated Black before a training session at Yorkdale School on Sunday. “Playing in front of all those scouts definitely makes you nervous, but it’s also a good chance to show them how you can play.”
Shewchuk also enjoyed the experience of playing in front of the scouts. However one of his favourite moments was playing at Camelback Ranch Stadium, a major league quality field that is the Spring Training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. “We played on an MLB quality field for two of our games which was pretty cool,” said the 6’1”, 220-pound first baseman. “To play on that field, it’s not like the fields we would be playing on back home. It was a really good experience.”
The experience went deeper than just playing in front of scouts, however. The two Saskatchewan products were also able to see how strong their baseball peers from the United States were and compare themselves to the cream of the American crop.
Something Black feels will benefit himself, as well as Shewchuk, in the long run. “It was pretty interesting to see the difference in talent in the US and see how it compared to the talent here.”
While that gap between the American and Saskatchewan talent was somewhat like the Grand Canyon as recent as 10 years ago, it is clear that, currently, it has shrunk down to the size of the Qu’Appelle Valley as proven by the IP Prospects’ seventh place finish in the 28 team tournament (according to Inside Pitch’s Facebook group). The reason for that is a combination of the Inside Pitch program as well as the RBI indoor baseball facility in Regina opening doors for Saskatchewan players like Black and Shewchuk and providing them with the opportunity to gain knowledge that was previously unattainable.
The knowledge that both Black and Shewchuk gained while participating in that tournament is something that they will never lose, however proud parent and Yorkton Midget Cardinals head coach Tony Black believes that what the two players learned in Arizona will rub off on their local teammates. “There’s a lot of knowledge and experience that they’ll bring back to Yorkton just from watching and being exposed to that type of baseball,” said Tony Black. “I think it’ll rub off on the rest of their teammates in Yorkton.
“I think the kids here will realize that they are able to make these kinds of dreams possible. They just have to work for it and I think they’ll realize it’s possible because they have friends and teammates at that level.”