While many baseball academies have been up and running for several years in Alberta – some for decades – a program in Edmonton is just stepping into the batter’s box for the first time.
Vimy Ridge Baseball Academy started up a few years ago and players will embark on their inaugural season this year.
To find out what’s going on at the school, we spoke with program director Drew Boyer (who is also the head coach of the Midget AAA Edmonton Cardinals squad) as part of our ongoing “1 Thru 9” series, which sees us pose nine questions to academy directors across the province.
Here’s what Boyer told us about Vimy Ridge Baseball Academy:
1. What year did you open your doors?
Vimy Ridge Baseball Academy opened its doors during the 2016-17 school year.
2. What is the age range of the students you cater to?
Our program is offered to student-athletes in both junior high and high school (Grades 7 to 12).
3. What is the academic focus of the academy?
We require each student to make their academics a priority. Every person is different in their learning development, so what we want to see is that our students are making a conscious effort to improve their work habits and reach their full potential.
Our students follow our CORE values: Citizenship, Opportunity, Respect, and Enthusiasm. Ultimately, we want to make sure that each and every one of our students not only graduates, but puts themselves in the best position possible to make post-secondary education an option, whether that includes baseball or not.
4. Tell us about your annual schedule, tournaments you participate in, and big events on your calendar?
Our inaugural schedule will take place in the fall of 2019. It will consist primarily of exhibition games against other local academies and fall club teams. A spring trip to the U.S. is currently in the works and we will have more info on that at a later date.
5. What amenities and facilities do you have to offer students?
Our school recently went through a huge redevelopment over the past few years. This includes two newly renovated gymnasiums, a training centre with it’s own batting cage, and a brand new state-of-the-art fitness centre.
We have two indoor training facilities which we use that are both off-campus. Turf Training Centre – a 43,000 square-foot, all-turf training facility – which we use primarily for fielding and throwing. The other is The Batting Cages, which we use for hitting.
6. What can you tell us about your coaches and support staff?
We have a tremendous support staff that help make this academy run on a daily basis. Our staff includes:
- Drew Boyer – Program Director (Millet, AB); Head Coach, Edmonton Cardinals Bantam AAA
- Zach Yuzda – Instructor (Fort Saskatchewan, AB); Head Coach, Sherwood Park Bantam AAA
- Nate Selinger – Instructor (Sherwood Park, AB); Coach, Sherwood Park Athletics Pee Wee AAA
- Jamie Wilson – Pitching Coach (Edmonton, AB); Technical Director, South Jasper Place
Both Zach and Nate are two great young coaches who have been amazing in working with our students on a daily basis. Both of them still play collegiately here in Edmonton, so for them being able to balance their school with their own baseball schedule and still make the time to work with the academy has been tremendous.
As a full-time teacher, Jamie helps us out part-time when he can and is extremely knowledgeable. Jamie played and coached internationally, representing New Zealand at the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifiers, while coaching New Zealand’s U-15 at the 2014 Oceania Championships.
7. Take us through a typical day for your students.
A typical day for our students starts at 8:30 am for their first class. They have a total of three classes before lunch. Immediately following lunch, our students will board the bus and arrive at their training facility at roughly 1 pm. After a two-hour practice, our students get back on the bus and arrive back at the school for 3:15 pm. Once they arrive back at the school, our older group heads to the fitness centre to begin their fitness training which goes until roughly 4:30 pm.
I think it’s great that our students here at Vimy get the opportunity attend a school that allows them to really experience what it’s like to be a collegiate student-athlete with regards to their schedule.
8. How much are tuition fees for students? Do you offer options to help offset these costs?
Tuition for the year is $3,000. To help with the cost, we allow parents or guardians to make payments in monthly or quarterly installments. This helps us cover costs, such as administrative expenses, salaries, equipment, busing, clothing, promotions, and facilities.
9. What defines success for a graduate or academy attendee?
Our motto is: “Creating better athletes on the field and better people off the field.”
To us, success is determined by what the student-athlete takes away from being in our academy. Not all of our students in the program are looking to play baseball at the collegiate level, and that’s okay.
All we expect is that each student shows a strong work ethic on the field, in the classroom, and a commitment to improving themselves in everyday life. As long as they do that, they’ll give themselves every opportunity to be successful.