By JOE McFARLAND
In the blink of an eye, the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) season has come to an end.
It feels like just yesterday that the seven teams were gearing up for the early-spring grind. Over the weekend, the University of Fraser Valley (UFV) Cascades claimed their first title with a win over the Okanagan College Coyotes.
Before the weekend, we caught up with CCBC all-star Ty Wagar of the Edmonton Collegiate Trappers. Wagar led the club with a .347 batting average and continued his hot play in Kamloops, hitting .462 in three games.
Wagar saw the ups and downs as the program worked its way into the league and feels fortunate to have been given the opportunity to set the wheels in motion for future Capital Region athletes to play post-secondary baseball.
Here is our Q&A with the Lacombe native from Episode #29 of Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.
Q: How has the first official season with the new Edmonton Collegiate Baseball Club (ECBC)?
A: It’s been awesome, man! It’s kind of been everything we’ve expected and a little bit more. We didn’t know a whole lot about what to expect, just being a new team. But we came out, we were able to compete virtually with every team and also, being an Alberta team, the weather held up for the most part. The only games we seemed to lose were road games, so we got all of our home games in and that’s a real positive, too.
Q: I don’t want to call it a feeling out process but as the new team, you had a bunch of new bodies and different personalities. What was that process like, trying to wade through the waters and learn each other’s preferences and all those kinds of things throughout the course of the season?
A: To be honest, it wasn’t too bad. We obviously had that probationary team last year, so we had quite a few guys coming back from that. But we have a real tight-knit team. There was no discrimination between first years and fourth years or anything like that. We get along really well together and I think that really helped us on the field, too. We’re not just a bunch of ball players but we’re also a family and going through everything together really helped us.
— Alana Wagar (@wagette44) May 8, 2019
Q: What was it like having a coach like Ethan Elias at play for your and having his experience and abilities to work with?
A: Oh man, it was huge. Ethan has been great. He’s obviously played professional ball and you’re not going to find too many guys who know more about the game than him. He’s a huge pitching guy and has been critical to our pitchers. We’re fortunate enough to have a guy named Michael Suchy as well, who also played pro ball and he has the infield and the outfield. So I feel we have every every aspect of the game locked down where we can lean on those guys. The amount of improvement some guys have made this year has been unbelievable and that’s a credit to those two, as well as Nathan Coffin, who’s been big to us as a volunteer guy. He works with our catchers. Yeah, those three have been amazing to us.
— Alana Wagar (@wagette44) May 9, 2019
Q: What kinds of things did you pass along to the younger guys and what kinds of advice did you pass along to them as you went through the process and tried to teach them about different things, like not taking anything for granted or making sure you enjoy the good stuff when it does happen?
A: Yeah, a little bit like you said. Don’t take anything for granted, but a big thing our coaches preach is attitude and effort. You know, those are the two things you can control. Baseball is such a funny game. There are a lot of things that you’re not going to be able to control. But if you put in a good attitude and good effort every day, that’s all you can control. There’s going to be ups and downs but you gotta ride the roller coaster. Don’t get too up when they’re like that and that’s the biggest thing. Don’t get too down either. You just have to stay kind of stay level headed and grind your way through it.
— Innisfail Merchants (@MerchantsAAA) May 9, 2019
Q: What does it mean to you to be a part of the building blocks for something that could potentially become one of the stalwarts of the Canadian College Baseball Conference? You look at what Prairie Baseball Academy and the University of Calgary have done and there’s this attitude of setting things up for the future.
A: Yeah, it’s so cool to be one of the first guys to to be in this program and I’d love to see it grow. I’d love to see it keep growing and eventually be a PBA one day or something. Just to have that attached to you. You know, you’re one of the first guys and really got this thing going. Yeah, it’s special.
Q: What are you most proud of as you look back on your time helping to be a part of the basis for this squad?
A: Honestly, just all of the … I don’t wanna say the negatives, but all the hurdles we had to overcome that first year. Things didn’t go as planned and we ended up folding. Then we grinded our way through, which was essentially two more probationary years, which I’m sure anyone you can ask isn’t an ideal situation just playing exhibition games. But then finally getting into this league and not just being a team that’s in it for fun – finally being a team that can compete every year. And honestly, I’ve made so many lifelong friends and guys have turned into family. It’s just been a real special ride.
Q: Does it make it that much sweeter being able to say we eclipsed the expectations of a first-year team?
A: Yeah, absolutely. It makes it all the more special …. I think as we look back further on we’ll realize it’s really amazing what we’ve done this year and how well we’ve competed.
— Edmonton Collegiate Trappers (@ECBC15) May 9, 2019
Q: One of the things that you got applauded for this season is your batting average. On a personal level, what would you say was key to your success?
A: Yeah, it was cool. Honestly, just our coaches being there every day, giving you a mindset to work with and being there hours before practice to work with. Our players, man, we have such a good group. We battle with each other and make each other better every single day. You know, it’s crazy to see how many guys improved. We had a guy named Anthony Owen, who hit .333. A guy named Zach Yuzda who hit .310. All these guys have just improved so much over the year – it’s been special.
Q: On a personal level, I know you’re studying education at the University of Alberta and you’re also an assistant coach from what I understand. What got you into the coaching side of the game?
A: I’ve always been interested in coaching. This isn’t really out there but I’ve dealt with a couple injuries throughout out this year that kind of shortened my playing season. Ethan Elias, our head coach, actually got the head coach of Sherwood Midget AAA and I’ve been pretty close with him. And yeah, when he asked me to come out and help, I couldn’t say no. Being a kid who’s from Lacombe, Alberta, it didn’t mean much about the travel. I stayed up here this summer and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.
Q: What kinds of things do you hope to pass along to those younger kids that you have learned over your baseball career?
A: Honestly, attitude and effort again, which you’ve heard. That’s from Ethan but, you know, there are a lot of ups and downs in baseball. The biggest thing that I’ve tried to form my game around is a mindset and I think whether it’s your approach at the plate or how to stay up or positive or whatever, I can really pass that kind of message along with the mental aspect of the game. Taylor Burns really instilled that in me. He’s another huge influence in my life. I think that’ll be huge as well as the knowledge that I can pass on with infielding and pitching.
The Trappers finish their inaugural regular season with a record of 8-16 good for 5th in the league! Team Leader in BA was @ty_wagar at .347. Leader in RBI was @YUZDA5 w/12
Leader in ERA was Erik Pankiw 2.86
Leader in IP was Brett Higgins w/ 45
Leader in W was Chase Harris w/ 3
— Edmonton Collegiate Trappers (@ECBC15) May 6, 2019
Q: It’s so funny when you look at baseball as a whole. It’s a game of failure, especially when you’re at the plate. You almost have to go in with and reinforce that positive mindset a little bit more than you would most other sports, I would assume.
A: Yeah, exactly. You know, it’s not very often you can succeed three out of ten times and be considered one the top performers in your game. And that right there shows how frustrating at times the game can be but you can still be successful.
Q: Take us back to the very beginning. I love hearing and telling these stories about guys and how they find their way to baseball. What was it made you turn to this game versus going the usual route of hockey or football?
A: It started when I was really young in Lacombe. It’s not actually a huge baseball town but we had a good core of kids my age who kind of moved up and played throughout with each other. Playing catch with my dad in the front yard, I honestly just fell in love with baseball from the start. I played hockey, as well, all the way up until midget. When I had a choice, I chose baseball. I mean it’s always been kind of my love and I’ve made a lot of good friendships. I was talking to Prospects Academy for my overage year and I knew that was something that I really wanted to do over hockey.
Q: Who do you look to for inspiration, whether it be on the field or off the field? I get the sense, just in the short time that we’ve been able to chat, you’re a pretty positive outlook kind of guy.
A: Yeah! My parents have been amazing. I’ve been out of the house now for four years but honestly, talking to them every single day keeps you level-headed. They give you a great perspective on life and I honestly can’t thank them enough for everything. On the baseball side of it, obviously our coaches Ethan and Suchy. Taylor Burns, who was my academy coach. I’ve relied on him for a lot, whether it’s injuries or my training programs now. He’s just someone to talk to. Those are the main guys. They’ve been huge in helping me develop as a player but also as a person.
Q: What kinds of things do you hope to accomplish over the summer and looking ahead even to the fall?
A: So this is actually my last year of college ball, unfortunately. I guess life moves on. I have a teaching practicum next year. The big thing for me for this summer is I’m just going to try and get healthy with my arm. I’ve been going through some injuries, like I said. But try and get healthy, maybe play a little bit of Senior AAA ball with the Tigers there in St. Albert and just keep having fun. Keep hanging out with those relationships you’ve made through baseball.
Q: If you’ve had one piece of advice that stands out above everything else over the course of your life in baseball or life, what would you love to pass along to anyone listening or any young kid who’s looking to get into baseball?
A: This one comes a little bit for my grandpa. Just enjoy the ride, man. It goes by a lot quicker than you think and that especially stands out to me now, going into my last weekend of what could be college baseball. So just enjoy the ride, it goes a lot quicker and as bad as it may be going on the field, there’s still no place I’d rather be.