1 Thru 9: St. Francis Xavier

If you’re around baseball long enough in the Edmonton area, you will eventually hear about St. FX, or just FX.

That’s the abbreviated form of St. Francis Xavier Baseball Academy, a program that guides student athletes as they pursue their academic and sporting dreams.

Brad Wolansky, the director of the academy, brought his extensive baseball experience to Alberta’s capital with the aim of coaching aspiring major leaguers.

He made time for us and our latest installment of “1 Thru 9,” which examines the baseball academies in Alberta. Here’s what he told us about St. FX:

1. When did the baseball academy get started?

The St. Francis Xavier Baseball Academy was established in 2005, with the aim of helping develop elite talent.

2. What is the age range of the students you work with?

We work with students in Grades 7 to 12, so they are between the ages of 12 to 18 years old.

3. What are the academic requirements at St. FX?

Our academy is attached to the student’s secondary education, where the baseball academy replaces their physical education courses. We also include a sports medicine course as part of our curriculum.

While we do not require students to maintain a certain grade average, we do monitor each student’s grades throughout the year to make sure they are keeping up with their academic responsibilities.

4. What is the schedule like and what events are highlights on the calendar?

Our fall schedule features weekend games that are played against various academies in Alberta, including Oyen, St. Albert, and Red Deer, as well as a yearly weekend trip to Lethbridge to play games against the Prairie Baseball Academy.

Special events also include a week-long bus trip to British Columbia to visit the various colleges and universities in that province, including Thompson Rivers University (TRU), Douglas College, University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), University of British Columbia (UBC), and Victoria Island University (VIU).

5. What facilities and amenities do the students have access to at St. FX?

Our facilities include St. Francis Xavier Sports Centre, which is a 15,000 square foot, indoor training facility, complete with a drop down batting cage, fitness equipment, and a 200-metre track above the playing surface.

There is also St. Francis Xavier Fitness Centre, which houses a full-size weight room that athletes have access to for all their strength training needs. A full-time strength and conditioning coach is on site to provide athletes with the necessary workout routines throughout the school year.

Callingwood Field is an outdoor practice facility that is located close to the school. It provides a senior diamond, bullpens and batting cage.

Meanwhile, Home Run Sports is another indoor hitting facility we use. It has two batting cages that feature the HitTrax system, which provides swing data and metrics.

6. What can you tell us about your coaching staff?

I’m the program director and a coach at FX. I grew up playing minor baseball in St. Albert, where I developed with the St. Albert Cardinals. I moved on to play collegiately at Peru State College in Nebraska for four years, where I graduated with a degree in physical education and a minor in coaching.

After spending one year as a student assistant coach at Peru State College I returned back to the Edmonton area. I continue to be a player/coach for the St. Albert Tigers (Men’s AAA) and I’m the head coach of the St. Albert Cardinals Blue Midget AAA team, as well. I also spent 13 years working at Baseball Alberta as a program & communications coordinator.

Brad Wolansky … photo courtesy St. Francis Xavier Academy

Sheldon McDonald is the pitching coach. Sheldon was born and raised in Spruce Grove, where he grew up playing baseball in the Spruce Grove White Sox organization.

He represented Team Alberta at numerous tournaments, including the Western Canadian Summer Games, Canada Summer Games, and the Canada Cup. Sheldon was also selected to the Canadian Junior National Team (JNT) in 2005 and 2006, winning a bronze medal in the 2006 World Junior Baseball Championships in Cuba.

Out of high school he earned an NCAA Division 1 scholarship to attend Northeastern University in Boston. Sheldon pitched for two seasons at Northeastern and was named to the Colonial Athletic Association All-Conference team as a relief pitcher in 2008. In 2009 he transferred to the University of British Columbia (UBC) to graduate and finish his college playing eligibility. While playing at UBC he participated twice with the Canadian Collegiate team playing in the World University games in the Czech Republic and Japan.

Sheldon was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 33rd round at the 2011 Major League Baseball (MLB) entry draft. He played 3 seasons in the Cubs minor league system, winning the championship in the Florida State League in 2013. He was named as a member of the Canadian Senior National team in 2012 that competed in the World Baseball Classic Qualifying tournament in Germany.

From 2014 through 2016, he played for the Quebec Capitales in the CanAm independent baseball league. Sheldon returned to Spruce Grove in the summer of 2017 to help coach the Midget AAA Parkland Twins to their first provincial championship in 10 years.

7. Are there any alumni of note who have come through St. Francis Xavier Baseball Academy?

St. Francis Xavier has had four players drafted by MLB teams since 2009. Those players include Burke Seifrit (2009, Toronto Blue Jays), Cory Scammell (2011, Seattle Mariners), Logan Seifrit (2012, Seattle Mariners), and Tanner Kirwer (2017, Toronto Blue Jays).

There have also been five players who have been part of Baseball Canada’s JNT – Cory Scammell (2010/2011); Logan Seifrit (2010/2011/2012); Kobe Hyland (2014/2015); Robbie Holmes (2016); and Matthew Coutney (2017).

8. How much are tuition costs at the academy?

Tuition fees cost $3,000 per student. That helps to cover staffing, transportation, gear, equipment, awards, prizes, advertising and venue expenses.

9. What defines success for students at St. Francis Xavier?

A successful St. Francis Xavier Academy graduate is a person who has developed the necessary life skills to be a student athlete.

Whether they go on to play baseball at the next level or not, we want them to graduate high school with certain values. Those values include work ethic, time management, self motivation, accountability, integrity, teamwork and cooperation. These are all principles that we try to instill in each student as we believe it will benefit them not only on the baseball field, but in their adult life.


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