Standing in the shadow of Foothills Stadium in Calgary is Absolute Baseball Academy.
And while the aging stadium – which was home to the Triple-A Calgary Cannons and the independent league Vipers – serves as a reminder of the great history of baseball in Cowtown, the academy signals a hopeful future for the game in Alberta’s largest city.
Academy director Cam McLachlan, who is also a coach with the Junior Dinos program, made time for us and told us what is happening with baseball at 2221 Crowchild Trail N.W. in Calgary. Here’s what he shared with us in our ongoing “1 Thru 9” look at the province’s baseball academies:
1. What year was the academy established?
Our facility first opened its doors in 2008 as a public facility that hosted many camps and clinics for youth ball players. In 2013, we had our first year as a full off-season academy.
After four years of just doing a fall/winter academy we decided to add summer teams for Peewee, Bantam and Midget age groups. We do run those separate from our off-season academy, so it is not required that players play year round.
2. What is the age range of the students you work with?
We work with kids who are between nine and 18 years old for our off-season academy, and then 12- to 18-year-old players for the summer teams.
3. What are the academic requirements of Absolute Baseball Academy?
We do not have any specific academic requirements for our players, but we do perform grade checks regularly throughout the year and offer free tutoring to our members if there are any areas of concern.
4. Tell us about your annual travel schedule, tournaments you participate in and big events on your calendar?
We typically run our fall ball program locally to keep costs low for families. We will take our midget teams to a tournament out in Kelowna during the fall though to compete against some out-of-province programs.
Once the summer seasons begin we always do one tournament in B.C. each spring, and then compete in the Baseball Alberta AAA leagues. This coming year we are also planning a spring training trip down to Arizona with all six of our summer teams to do a week of games and practices.
5. What amenities and facilities do you have to offer students?
We have two indoor facilities located in the heart of Calgary. One of them is a 1,600-square-foot, fully turfed dome that features seven batting cages, a pitching lane, a wide open infield area, and a weight room.
The other is also a 1,600 square-foot, turfed dome that is just a big open soccer field that we can utilize for a tonne of long toss and fielding-type work. As that is a public facility, all of our program members also receive full-time memberships to the facility and are able to use it whenever they wish outside of practice times.
6. What can you tell us about your coaches and support staff?
Our coaching staff consists of former professional and college players and coaches. We currently have 15 coaches that are on staff with the academy. We also have a great partnership with the University of Calgary Dinos baseball team that provides us with some of their players to help coach, mentor and tutor our players.
7. What notable alumni have graduated from the academy and are any of them still involved with your programs and events?
We currently have several alumni currently playing college baseball including all eight of our graduating seniors from this past season. During their summer breaks we have numerous alumni come back and help coach our summer teams, as well as camps we run here at the facility.
8. How much are tuition fees for students? Do you offer scholarships to help offset these costs?
The fees for our off-season program – which runs from September to March – are between $2,000 and $2,750 for Peewee players; between $2,500 and $3,100 for Bantam players; and $2,750 to $3,100 per Midget player.
Our summer program runs from March to August. Fees for Peewee players are $2,100, Bantam players are $2,250, and Midget athletes are $2,750.
We don’t currently offer any official scholarships to offset program costs, but we do regularly work with families and offer discounts. Typically, we will set up kind of a work/study program with them, and have the players help out with some camps and clinics we host here at the facility.
9. What defines success for those who attend Absolute Baseball Academy?
Our academy is 100% dedicated to player development. We don’t make any cuts for our fall/winter program and we open our doors to players of all skill levels. We want players to enjoy coming to the facility throughout the winter months and to the field in the summer, and we hope they all leave with a positive experience.
We look to help guide young players through their elementary, middle, and high school years and prepare them for their post-secondary lives. We hope to move as many players as possible on to play baseball at the next level, but at the very least we want to help give them the work ethic that will help them throughout the rest of their lives.