By JOE McFARLAND
Donovan Wallace is going to need to clear some space on his mantle with all of the awards and honours he picked up in 2019.
It all started for the teenager with a gold medal at the Tier II 18U Norwest League Provincial Championship with Northern Lights Academy in Grande Prairie.
His squad followed that up with silver medals at the Tier I Championship and the Western Canada Championship.
The utility man not only posted a 2.20 earned run average (ERA), with 50 strikeouts in 35 innings of work over the season. The 17-year-old also contributed offensively with a .316 batting average and 12 runs batted in (RBI) while playing a few games in the outfield.
Wallace put the cap on the summer by being named the Baseball Alberta 18U Triple-A Player of the Year.
We caught up with him for a recent episode of Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast, as he was settling in for more studies this fall at Okanagan College.
Q: Take us back to this past weekend and winning that award through Baseball Alberta. What did it mean to you to be recognized in that way?
A: Well, it just felt good. I was obviously having a good season already and it was just an extra boost of confidence at the end. It felt nice to be recognized.
Q: What was the first thing that went through your mind?
A: I don’t know. I was just happy. All I could do was smile and be proud. I walked up there to shake Mike’s hand (Mike Soroka) and get a picture – it was good. I thanked my coaches and everyone who helped me along the way.
Q: What sticks out to you from this last season that really allowed you to be propelled into the spotlight like you have?
A: I don’t know. It was just the energy the team brought this year. It was a good group of guys. We were tight and we all liked each other, all helped each other, and it just helped me be happy and work hard … and get some success, obviously.
@CityofGP Northern Lights host Edmonton Padres in Tier II Norwest AAA Midget League action this weekend at Carl Linden, diamond No. 5. @Anderson_DHT spoke with Manager Cashtyn DeLeeuw and pitcher Donovan Wallace. Check it out #gpab #countyofgp https://t.co/4dGX1NYP7q
— Daily Herald Tribune (@GPHeraldTribune) June 6, 2019
Q: Take us back to the very beginning. How did you get into baseball in the first place?
A: I played tee-ball when I was really young. Then I stepped away from baseball to play hockey through most of my childhood. Then I came back to baseball in about peewee and that’s when I met the core group of guys and we actually went on to win the Peewee Double-A provincials that year. Then we went onto Westerns from there … then throughout bantam and midget I’ve been playing with the core group of seven guys, and we’ve been sticking around together, having fun, stuff like that. And the rest is history, I guess.
Q: One of the things that was brought to my attention is that you’re a two-way player, both a good hitter and good pitcher. Talk us through being that kind of player.
A: In my first two years in midget, I was mainly just a pitcher. Then over the offseason last year I started working hard in the cage, and got a new hitting coach who really helped me out. I just really improved and worked myself into a spot in the outfield and in the batting order and it just went off from there.
Q: What’s the best part of going through the program at Northern Lights?
A: It’s just nice in how small it is. The coaches really work one-on-one with you and you really feel a part of it. Especially how everyone’s a face of the organization and it’s not 100 people, it’s only 20 guys trying out. Everyone knows us in the town. It’s awesome.
Congrats to our freshman Donovan Wallace being selected as @BaseballAlberta U18 AAA player of the year! We are excited for what is ahead. @KelownaNow @OkanaganCollege @CanadianCBN @CDNBaseballNet @CCBaseballConf pic.twitter.com/prGEOogdr8
— OC Coyotes Baseball (@YotesBaseball) November 19, 2019
Q: Now, you get to go to another fairly small town, as you go to Okanagan College for the upcoming season. Walk us through the decision to go there in your effort to continue the dream of baseball.
A: Well, originally I was going to go down to the States. I had a couple of offers down there but the Canadian lifestyle seemed to be the best for me. I just decided to stay close to home as it felt good and I saw it as an opportunity to keep playing and stay close to home. I have a couple of buddies here and it’s good.
Q: What kinds of things are you hoping to improve upon as you go about the next steps of your journey?
A: I’m just looking to improve on my pitching. I stopped hitting, obviously, now that I’m in college. I’m just working on new pitches, velocity, just having fun.
— Baseball Alberta (@BaseballAlberta) November 16, 2019
Q: Speaking of pitchers, the guest speaker at the Baseball Alberta event last weekend was Mike Soroka. Did you take anything away from what he said to you and the crowd?
A: Yeah, I did actually. It was awesome hearing about his life and his journey. The biggest thing I took away was his hard work and his mentality. How hard he worked in the gym, his mentality that he wanted to keep moving forward everyday and stuff like that. That will definitely help me in the future, for sure.
Q: We always talk about hockey and football as being the big sports here and yet here’s one of the best young talents in baseball coming from our own backyard. Does it give you something to aspire towards?
A: Yeah, obviously he’s going to bring eyes to Alberta now and everyone’s going to be asking who this kid is from Alberta and they’ll be looking here for future prospects. It’s also nice to have a guy break the ice, kind of, for future players.
Our Players of the Year (18U Age Category)
18U 'A' : Andre Proctor Ramirez
18U 'AA' : Josh Paulgaard
18U 'AAA' : Donovan Wallace pic.twitter.com/swwwrGMzgu
— Baseball Alberta (@BaseballAlberta) November 18, 2019
Q: Whether it’s in baseball or life in general, who inspires you?
A: In life, I would say everyone, especially my grandpa. He’s been teaching me lessons since I was a little kid. He played ball when he was young. And my dad. It’s easy for me to see other people’s success and it makes me want to be the same and be as good as they are.
Q: Finally, when you look ahead to next year, what would you like to accomplish?
A: Personally, I just want to have fun next year. Keep working hard and see myself develop to get better every day. Stuff like that. It’s all I can ask for.