By JOE McFARLAND
You get to see a lot of countryside on the drive between Gillette, Wyoming and Williston, North Dakota.
And while some might shudder at the idea of being cooped up in a vehicle for six hours on a bus, Dayne Fredland is more than used to it.
As a young teenager, the Grande Prairie native spent nearly every weekend in his family’s car with his mom and dad, Laurie and Kevin. It was a seven-hour venture to chase the game he loves.
“I would leave school on the Friday and drive down to Okotoks, play two games on the Saturday and a game on Sunday,” Fredland told Alberta Dugout Stories. “We would drive home on Sunday night so I could get back to school on Monday.”
By that point in his life, he was going to the Dawgs Academy and after two years of that extremely long commute, he moved south to finish up his high school. But he will always be grateful for his parents.
“I can’t thank them enough for that and all the miles they put on the road for me,” he paused. “Just all the times I would pass out on the passenger seat and they would just keep going. It’s unbelievable.”
Fredland is now in his sophomore season with the Williston State Tetons and, not surprisingly, we were able to chat while he was on the road back home. But there wouldn’t be any sleeping on that trip, as his club was coming off back-to-back walk-off wins against Dawson Community College.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
If one thing becomes vehemently clear in talking with the well-spoken 19-year-old, it’s that family, both on and off the field, mean the world to Fredland. And it might be because one seemingly led to the other.
“From day one basically, whenever I could sit up, my grandpa just started rolling baseballs to me to let me feel the baseball,” he recalled.
Fredland says his grandfather Mel played senior men’s baseball “forever,” adding that’s what really pushed him to the sport. The support he received from his parents was also, obviously, integral.
“They never really forced me to go towards any sport whatsoever,” Fredland said. “They just let me do whatever as long as I liked it and I was enjoying it. So I think once I found baseball, that was my pure passion and it really helped me connect with my family.”
It didn’t hurt that his parents loved it as well. Fredland’s father coached him in the early years in Grande Prairie and that opportunity opened a door for him as a 13-year-old to play in a showcase tournament in Okotoks. That’s when he met Dawgs Academy officials, setting the wheels in motion for the long commute and the eventual move. But it was all worth it.
“They (Dawgs Academy coaches) really take your talents to the next level and really work on polishing certain things,” the 5-foot-10, 175-pound catcher said. “It really helped me excel in playing baseball and just life in general.”
Those life lessons include growing his baseball family. As he’s wound his way down the baseball road, Fredland’s connections allowed him to move on from Okotoks to Williston State, where his first roommate was another former Dawgs Academy product, Riley Rowland. Now, there are five Albertans on the Tetons roster (Fredland, Braden Bendfeld, Ethan Jarvis, Parker Maxwell and Ben Tighe), plus a number of other province-mates they play against the community college ranks.
“It’s essentially a family within a family and I was super-excited to have all these guys with me the entire time and then meeting these guys here, it’s made things so much easier,” Fredland smiled. “We’re one big family and I love every minute of it.”
LEARNING FROM A PRO
The catching fraternity is a tight one. Not only do catchers have a unique vantage point and control over the game, but the preparation and smarts it takes to execute on a day-to-day basis isn’t lost on Fredland.
It is in his blood, as his grandfather was also a catcher.
“That’s what he loved to do and that’s what I wanted to do,” Fredland said. “I’m glad I’ve been able to do it for as long as I have.”
While he learned a lot of the basics at home, it was his tenure in Okotoks that helped take his work at the position to the next level. And it was while working with former Dawgs backstop and current Boston Red Sox prospect Jordan Procyshen that Fredland really opened his eyes.
READ MORE: Catching Up With Jordan Procyshen
“He taught us a lot of things, just about how much hard work pays off, especially being from where we’re from,” he pointed out. “Just the amount of hard work he puts in and the amount of time he puts into his craft and kind of perfected it all has stuck out to me.”
That learning hasn’t stopped, either. Fredland calls Procyshen a role model for him, particularly when it comes to taking pride in what he’s doing and how he conducts himself.
“Having him a phone call or a text message away has been awesome,” Fredland continued. “Especially if I’m struggling with something and he helps. He’s always there to answer my questions.”
TALKING ABOUT THE FUTURE
Fredland and his Alberta teammates will get a little taste of home in about a week. That’s when a contingent from Dawgs Academy will be heading to Williston for four games in two days (April 21-22).
And before you know it, the college spring season will be over, paving the way for the Western Major Baseball League schedule to roll into high gear in the summer.
Fredland is keeping his options open, but is looking at the potential of coming back to his home away from home.
“I think I’m going to do the same thing I did last year,” he thought. “I’m going to come back and coach with the Dawgs as a graduate. Working with all the coaches that coached me throughout the years.”
He believes it gives him a unique perspective on the game, as it helps him get into the mindset of a coach even when he’s playing. Fredland thinks coaching could be in his future one day. But his playing days are far from over, as he announced his commitment to continue his post-secondary schooling at Mayville State University.
“After touring and talking to the coaches and seeing their past and how successful they have been, I really just wanted to be a part of that for both my baseball career and my education,” Fredland said.
The size of the community was also a factor. Admittedly a small-town kid, Fredland said he was kind of “thrown for a loop” living in Okotoks, being so close to Calgary. He’s really like living in Williston (population: 26,426) as it’s more like Grande Prairie (population: 63,166). He’s going even smaller in Mayville (population: 1,830).
But before he hits the open road for his next baseball adventure, you can be sure Fredland will be coming back home.
“I can’t thank my grandpa enough for pushing me, just rolling balls to me during the day and watching baseball with me at night,” Fredland smiled. “Even when I come home now, we will just sit on the couch and we can watch baseball for hours together.”