By JOE McFARLAND
It is every baseball player’s dream.
Stepping into the batter’s box in the bottom of the final inning with your team down and you have a chance to end it all with one swing of the bat.
So far this college season, Alberta’s baseball products have been at the forefront of the walk-offs. Back in March, Prospects Academy product Matt Bondarchuk hit a walk-off single for the University of Nebraska Omaha. Then on April 27, Dawgs Academy grad Matt Lloyd turned the trick for Indiana University with a three-run home run against Minnesota.
Down two… two strikes… WALK. IT. OFF.@IndianaBase's Matt Lloyd completes the Hoosiers' comeback with this 3-run bomb into right field, giving No. 25 Indiana a 7-6 win over Minnesota!#BTNStandout x @AutoOwnersIns pic.twitter.com/XJno24Wz5T
— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) April 27, 2019
One week before Lloyd’s heroics, another Alberta-born slugger went yard to win it for his club. Camrose native Dylan Borman came up with the bases juiced for the University of Arkansas-Monticello (UAM) against Arksansas Tech. The score was tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 7th and Borman deposited the first pitch from reliever Patrick Miner over the outfield fence.
The ensuing scene, which was all caught on video and posted to social media, spoke volumes as the club also clinched the Great American Conference regular season title with Borman’s blast.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound infielder was a recent guest on Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast, where we talked about the home run but also about his baseball past and what’s to come this summer as he plans to suit up for the Lethbridge Bulls.
Q: Let’s talk about, first and foremost, that walk-off grand slam home run. Walk us through that at-bat and the pressure cooker that you walked yourself into and managed to slam your way out of.
A: Yeah, it was a short at-bat. It was first pitch. We were battling all day with Arkansas Tech and came into the seventh inning. The first guy got out and then we just grinded out at-bats. Our guys did a great job walking, getting hits. And then I got up to bat and they changed pitchers. They actually brought in their third baseman and it actually happened before in Ouachita earlier in the year. They did the same thing. First pitch, I walked it off with just a single that time, though. Coach Harvey came up to me before the at-bat and he said, “Isn’t baseball great to get an opportunity like this.” I was like, “Oh yeah! Coach, it’s awesome.” He said if he throws a flat fastball just be on time with it and don’t miss it. And sure enough, the first pitch was belt high, out-over and I just put a good swing on it. Dead center and I don’t really remember rounding the bases but the team was waiting for me at home plate and it was such a surreal experience. It was awesome.
— UAM Sports (@UAMsports) April 20, 2019
Q: That has to be quite the thrill ride to make your way around the bases knowing that you’re going to be greeted by your teammates. Not only that but you managed to get it all on video and it ends up on social media before you know it so you can actually relive it all day after day if you wanted to.
A: Yeah. I don’t know how many times I re-watched the video and I was acting like a fool in between first and second I guess. But I was just excited. So yeah, actually our trainer Yohei (Shimozaki), he likes taking pictures and he just decided to video that I’m just glad he got it on camera. That was awesome!
Q: It’s amazing what you managed to do in adjusting quickly to a new pitcher and doing it on the first pitch because I know some hitters will want to see what they might get first and take a couple pitches. Yet, you seemed pretty confident in your approach.
A: Yeah! I’m a big first-pitch swinger. My coach hates it sometimes but he gets over it … but yeah, I was just looking for a fastball and I saw it out of the hand and I said, “Alright let’s see if I can do it,” and just managed to get the barrel on it and the wind did the rest.
Q: Were you hoping for it to clear the fence or did you have a feeling that it was going to go over as soon as you hit it or were you just hoping to drive it as hard as you could?
A: Well, the wind was blowing out pretty hard that day but when I hit it, it was kind of a low-ish line drive for it to be a home run. But I just took three or four hard steps out of the box and saw it keep on going and it eventually hit off the corner of our batters eye and went out. It was just super exciting to see that. I had no idea it was going to be out when I first did it but watching it go was pretty cool.
— UAM Sports (@UAMsports) May 4, 2019
Q: Explain to us that feeling as you round third and you see all your teammates clamouring around home plate ready to jump all over you.
A: Oh, it’s hard to explain. Just so much excitement. I think a few people were pounding the ground and then I just saw all the water bottles and remember thinking, “I might be getting soaked.” But it was awesome. Just rounding third, coach is there. He was smiling, big smile and I was yelling and screaming and threw my helmet up. That was the first walk-off home run I’ve ever hit, so to be against them was pretty cool, too. I don’t know how high I threw my helmet. Just stepping on the plate, I almost actually missed it because my guys were jumping on me before I even crossed it. Touched that and just celebrated for a good five minutes after that. But yeah, I don’t know how to explain the feeling, it was just so awesome.
Q: It’s an amazing video to watch, for sure. Scott Gillespie tweeted at us afterwards and pointed out that it got you guys a playoff date as well. What’s it like thinking back at what turned into a pretty big moment for not just yourself but the team as well?
A: Yeah, for sure. After the game, we got to the dugout and the diamond cleaned up and coach met up with us and told us that we actually clinched the first seed in the tournament and the regular season championship. So that was another celebration. Everybody was pretty excited and it was just awesome to celebrate with the team. For me, to hit that homerun to send the team to the championship and first place was just unreal. Couldn’t believe it.
Q: Very cool. Talk a little bit about your upbringing. For those who don’t know, you’re a Camrose boy but you’re pretty well-traveled here in Alberta, aren’t you?
A: Yes! I started out because of my dad. He’s always been a big part of my baseball career. He always coached me coming up. I played in Camrose, all the way up to bantam and then in bantam I think I was 13 or 14 when I quit hockey and decided baseball was the way to go and I never looked back. Went to Sherwood Park and made the Triple-A Green team I think it was at the time. Green and gold they had and just played there. Mom and dad, God bless them, they spent a lot of hours on the road with me and played there for a couple of years.
And then I met with Terry Letkeman for a fall ball team and he said come down to Red Deer and try out. I did that and played for him for three years. I played my overage year in Red Deer, too. From there, all over from the north to the south and then I took two years off after high school. Chance Wheatley, who coaches at Prairie Baseball Academy now, told me that I could probably play at PBA and succeed. So I called up coach (Todd) Hubka and the rest is history.
— UAM Sports (@UAMsports) May 5, 2018
Q: It’s pretty cool that you’ve been able to make all these different travels and been able to keep having success along the way. What’s been the key for you?
A: Oh, that’s a good question. I’m a pretty easy going guy so nothing really bothers me. But just the ability to let a bad at bat go or an error in the field go and just hunker down and get the next one … I just trust the process I guess and work hard every day.
Q: You have a few familiar faces on the team in Arkansas including Kaleb Warden, who is a fellow Lethbridge Bulls player, as well as the aforementioned Gillespie. That has had to make the transition to post-secondary baseball a little easier for you.
A: The teammates are awesome. You couldn’t ask for better ones. I made some life-long friendships. Yeah, Kaleb Warden, met him last year and found out he was coming to Canada. He’s just a great guy and great ball player. With Gillespie, I played with him at PBA. He’s real good guy and I’ve known him for a long time. It’s just awesome to play with people you know and come to the diamond every day and see familiar faces. It’s pretty sweet!
Q: Does that make the transition a little easier when you’re going from small-town Alberta – or even mid-sized town Alberta – out to somewhere unfamiliar to you through most of your adult life?
A: Yeah, for sure. Like, I had no idea where Monticello, Arkansas was let alone knew what it was. So when I signed here and I heard (Jared) Libke was playing and Travis Steinke, Evan Comeau, all the PBA guys Mitchell Dornblunt played here, I was like, “Oh, so I guess people know about it,” and that kind of made it easier that people have come and gone and stuff like that.
And I knew Libke when I first came down here. (Dawson) Moser played with the Lethbridge Bulls the summer before I came down here and welcomed me. It was never hard fitting in here. The guys are awesome and welcoming, the coaches are awesome. The southern hospitality thing is very true if anybody’s wondering and it’s awesome.
Q: I was curious about that because you are used to moving around a little bit here in Alberta. Did you ever have that moment of feeling homesick or anything like that? Or was it a pretty easy transition because you had done a lot of moving in your past?
A: I mean, it was hard at first but Lethbridge is five hours away from my hometown so I didn’t really get to see my parents that often when I was playing at PBA so that made it easier, for sure. But yeah, I didn’t really get homesick but I sure do miss my family because I don’t get to see them often. When I do get to see them, I cherish every moment of them and even the annoying ones (laughs). And actually my mom and dad both got to come down here and watch me play some games, watch the Weevils win some games and that’s been cool. They get to experience southeast Arkansas and all the fried food.
The Lethbridge Bulls have re-signed 3B Dylan Borman out of the University of Arkansas at Monticello!
Last season, Borman batted .282, while hitting seven home runs, driving in 35 RBI in 44 games.
— Lethbridge Bulls (@lethbridgebulls) April 24, 2019
Q: That’s fantastic. Not only did you get to give them some of that food but you also get to come back home for some home cooking. It was recently announced that you are coming back to Lethbridge Bulls for the summer season.
A: Oh I love it. It’s awesome. I love Lethbridge and love the Bulls organization. They’re great and I get to play with Kaleb Warden for another year so that’s pretty cool. He’s had quite a successful senior season so that’s cool. I’m excited to go back and hopefully help the Bulls win a championship up there.
Q: When it comes to life or baseball, who serves as inspiration for you?
A: Oh boy. A lot of people. I look up to a bunch of people. My dad especially. He’s pretty high up there. He’s always motivating me and telling me that it’s OK when I strike out four times in a game or what have you. My mom, too. She’s always there to support me, always there to congratulate me. Just the family. My brother, my sister, all the friends I’ve made. I look up to a lot of people as they always help me, they’re always there for me. I don’t have one specific inspiration. Just all the support and love that my family gives is just all I need.
Q: Final question for you: when you look ahead to the end of this year, what do you hope you accomplish?
A: Oh, I mean the end goal is definitely to try to make it to that World Series in Cary, North Carolina. But we have to take it one step at a time and definitely play some good baseball here in the next few weeks and try to accomplish that goal.