They say there is no place like home. Ashton Roy has quickly turned Alberta into his new home.
After excelling at nearly every level of baseball around his hometown of Garson, Ontario, Roy moved to Alberta in 2015 to join Dawgs Academy in Okotoks.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pound infielder has also found a home in the Western Canadian Baseball League. In 2017, he hit .333 with four home runs and 31 runs batted in for the Brooks Bombers.
The next year, a change of scenery didn’t affect his play, as he swatted .261 with another three home runs and 29 RBIs for the Lethbridge Bulls.
He’s back in the Windy City again this summer and is off to a torrid pace. Roy is among the league leaders in batting average (.353) through the first 24 games and has already hit four dingers and drove in 22 runs.
In our latest edition of 7th Inning Stretch, we ask the infielder about his start, his love of Alberta and which “Major League” character he channels in the clubhouse.
1. Tell me about your decision to come play for the Bulls again. Why was that important to you this summer?
I had a terrific summer last year playing for coach (Jesse) Sawyer and love the town of Lethbridge – great fan support and great atmosphere every game.
We didn’t do as well as we should have last year, so I am really happy that the coaches and (team president and general manager) Mr. Kvame wanted me back. It really wasn’t a tough decision and I’m very excited about the team.
2. You are originally from Ontario. What brought you out to Alberta?
I grew up playing hockey in northern Ontario and the baseball wasn’t that great, but one of my coaches was Jean-Gilles Larocque at the Baseball Academy in Sudbury. When he knew that I was serious about playing baseball he called Allen Cox with the Okotoks Dawgs Academy. I was in grade 11 and Mr. Cox invited me out to see their facilities. I thought I had gone to Disneyland for baseball.
So, I packed up two big hockey bags with all my clothes and ball stuff and moved to Okotoks. Without my parent’s support over these years, I’m not sure I would still be playing ball. As much as I love my home in Ontario, I only end up home for about three weeks at Christmas and I really consider Alberta my second home.
3. You’ve got ties to the Brooks Bombers and the Okotoks Dawgs (via the Academy). How did you end up in Lethbridge and why did you want to return there this summer?
I had a great summer in Brooks in 2017 and was actually planning on going back. However, they decided that they wanted to completely overturn the roster and I was not offered a spot to return. Fortunately for me, when we played against Lethbridge I always seemed to get some hits and coach Sawyer was nice enough to pick me up. This is a fantastic league and I tell guys that I know if you can get onto a team in the WCBL, you will have a great experience no matter where you play.
4. You’ve already had a three-home run game (which included a grand slam) this season, which equaled your long ball output from last summer. What was that experience like?
Sometimes you can do nothing wrong and every swing is crushed, same as golf. That night I had a good groove going and coach Sawyer left me in the game to give me the chance to hit more than two homers.
Before that night, I had never hit more than one in a game, so it was very special to hit three and almost a fourth one. I’m not even sure that I fouled a pitch off. It just seemed that every swing was hit hard. The best part of the night was seeing my teammates cheering me on and climbing out of the dugout. Makes the game special when you can share it with your buddies.
5. You’re known more as a contact guy than a power hitter – or at very least a high on-base percentage player. Should we expect more power from you or are you still striving to get on base more than anything?
I always have a problem when it comes to power. My approach is to always focus on making solid contact. When I do that I rarely miss the ball and will put almost everything in play. I’m still learning this game and every time I think I have it figured out is when I go on a 1-for-12 stretch. Ask almost any hitter and they will probably say something similar. It’s no joke that hitting a baseball and being consistent is probably the hardest thing to do in sports. I spend a lot of time in the cage hitting the ball oppo (to left-center) to try to stay level with my swing.
6. What piece of equipment are you more likely to be finicky about – your bat or your glove?
I love my bats! If you were to come into the clubhouse at Spitz Stadium you would find about eight to 10 different pieces of lumber I carry around in my stall, and that’s not including a few more laying around in my truck. I usually stick with my Sam Bats or Maruccis for in games, but I have an assortment of all kinds. I’m picky with it, honestly. If you’re a pitcher or just somebody I don’t know well I have a tough time letting people touch them let alone even swing them in batting practice.
7. What’s your favourite baseball movie to watch on the bus, or your preferred travel activity?
Has to be Major League with “Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn. Sometimes, I can be a little like Pedro Cerrano with all the superstitions and how he treats his bats.
My go-to activity is the chatter and joking and just hanging out. All during the school year, every one of us works hard in class and study hall, lifts weights, practices and plays games. There is always pressure to make sure your grades are solid AND you are playing well enough to stay in the lineup. Summer ball is a time to focus on baseball and having fun with your friends. We are all playing in this league trying to win a championship, but for two months it’s just baseball … memories and laughs that I will have for my lifetime.