It can’t be easy to single out one player as being any better than the others when a team goes 35-0 during a summer.
But it’s pretty hard to argue just how good of a season Conor Pote had with the Dawgs Academy Black squad.
The third baseman/pitcher hit .347 with 12 home runs and 51 runs batted in for the provincial champions. On the mound, he was just as dominant, posting a 7-1 record with an ERA of 1.85, allowing just ten hits in 45 innings while striking out 98 batters.
READ MORE: 7th Inning Stretch with Conor Pote
For his efforts (which included a trip to Toronto for the annual Tournament 12), the towering right hander was named the Baseball Alberta 15U ‘AAA’ Player of the Year at its annual general meeting and conference in November.
Not only does he credit his father (former Major League pitcher and current Dawgs Academy coach Lou Pote) for getting him into baseball, but he also credits his teammates for all of the success and accolades.
We caught up with Pote for a recent episode of Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast to talk about the award, this past season and what he hopes to accomplish in 2020.
Q: Let’s take a look back at the weekend where you won the Baseball Alberta 15U Player of the Year. What did that mean to you?
A: It was a great feeling to be recognized as one of the best players in Alberta. I think that puts the cherry on the cake with us winning provincials, too. It was a great end to a great season.
Q: What was the first thing you thought when you heard your name called?
A: I was so excited just to go up there and get a picture taken with Mike Soroka, one of my idols and a former participant in Alberta baseball. It just felt great to have someone that came from where we are in Alberta, Canada make it to the big leagues. It gave me some hope that anyone can do it, I guess.
Congratulations to Dawgs Academy player, Conor Pote, on being named Baseball Alberta 15U Player of the Year
The Dawgs Coaching Staff and Front Office is incredibly proud of your hard work and dedication. You have represented your family and the program with pride & integrity pic.twitter.com/DvnAu9G7Gj
— Okotoks Dawgs Academy (@DawgsAcademy) November 22, 2019
Q: Let’s talk about the opportunity to meet Mike and hear his story. What did you take away from that conversation and as you heard him speak?
A: Well, I think I really connected with him because he talked about a lot of things I’ve gone through, like when you’re growing and getting growing pains and all that. He said you just have to remember it might feel like you’re losing your athletic ability but it’s just your body going through changes and you’re going to get sore. You just have to wait and trust it. I mean, he’s 6-foot-5, around 230 pounds, so I’m sure his growing pains must have sucked.
Q: It’s interesting because you have the pedigree with your dad in your back pocket. Is it different hearing the same kinds of advice from someone other than your dad?
A: Yeah, I think it really connects because Mike’s seven years older than me. He’s only 22 so it’s just crazy to think after hearing my dad, who I’d like to think is older now. Just hearing a 22-year-old kid and he’s such a great speaker. He’s so smart. He’s just great and it’s just amazing to hear what he says because he talks like he’s been in the league for 15 years. You can see that when he pitches. He has so much knowledge already, especially being a young kid and the things he has to tell you. It’s unbelievable.
2022 Conor Pote, a projectable young RHP from @DawgsAcademy, has his fastball in the 85-87 range.
— PBR Ontario (@PBR_Ontario) September 21, 2019
Q: Is that something you’re trying to bring to your mindset as well is that you have to be a student of the game and that you don’t have to be the most overpowering but you have to be smarter than the next batter?
A: Oh yeah, for sure. Raw talent can only take you so far. Hard work and being knowledgeable of the game, knowing the right plays, executing the right pitch instead of just trying to blow a fastball by them is really important. That raw potential can only take you so far, so if you have another edge on the intellectual side about knowing what pitch to throw in a certain count, I think it gives you an advantage.
Q: Looking back on the year that you had, single out one highlight or the most exciting aspect of the 2019 season.
A: People always ask me what the best part of the season was and they’re always surprised I don’t tell them it’s the provincial final. But it was against the North Shore Twins from Vancouver in the Langley tournament. There had been some stuff that went on the game before. They were saying some things that were disrespectful against one of our players, Jose Nunez, and we played them in a night game under the lights … went into extras, it was just unreal. It was the best game our team played by far, sticking up for our teammate Jose, who is the heart-and-soul of our team and had an amazing game overall. It really brought us together as a family and we saw what we could do.
Q: One thing I’ve heard about this team is that you have been able to grow up together and have really grasped that identity as a team. How special was that group in your eyes?
A: I think we’re the best bantam Dawgs team that Alberta has ever seen. I think we will have a lot of big names that you look five years from now and will be amazed we were all part of the same team. I just think that we had something no one had and that was that we had played against each other on our different teams. Some of us coming from Sherwood Park, St. Albert, the Junior Dinos, the Cubs.
We had all had competition against each other and I made sure before we got on the team that I got in contact with everyone and talked to them about it because I kind of had an idea what our team was going to look like from fall ball and winter. We were with each other all year, way longer than other teams are because we practiced in the winter and all that. There’s just something about us. To be honest, I don’t know what it is. There’s just that “it” factor. You can’t really name it but it’s just there and it sets us apart.
Q: Now you get to look ahead to 2020. What’s on your radar and what do you want to accomplish?
A: My biggest goal right now is to make the Junior National Team roster. And then looking into the summer, it would be just having a good overall summer. That’s about my only goal that I have. As long as I play well and my team wins, that’s all I look forward to in the baseball season.
— PBR Alberta (@PBR_Alberta) August 8, 2019
Q: I know the personal accolades have rolled in. But is it tough to differentiate between the personal stuff and the team stuff when you have different goals in mind like that?
A: I think a little bit but if I hadn’t played on that team, I don’t think I’d have been named Bantam Player of the Year. I think that team made me into the player I was all year. They drove me to be better, trying to put myself out there. Being surrounded by good players can only make you better and that team was full of good players. Amazing players actually. They just made me better. It was almost like a friendly little competition to see who could get more hits in a game and sometimes, we’d even try to see if we could have home run derbies during games on smaller fields. It really pushed me to become who I am and who I played as this year.
Q: Anyone over at Dawgs Academy that you feel was instrumental in what you were able to accomplish this year?
A: Definitely the coaches. But as far as players go, I’d have to say my friends Jose Nunez and Luke Wilson. Those are just two and the whole team helped me. But those two really helped me, they were always there. If I had a bad game they would always be talking to me, telling me it would be alright and next weekend, we’ll get to play four more games and to not sweat it. Jose is the heart and soul of our team. You can always expect a positive attitude from him. And Luke is just that guy. He’s that guy you can go to whenever and that’s really what we needed him for and that’s what I needed him for. He’s always cheering me up and telling me it’s going to be okay and not worry about anything. Those two definitely played a role in me being named player of the year this year.
Our Players of the Year (15U Age Category)
15U 'A' : Charmayne Gervais
15U 'AA' : Austin London
15U 'AAA' : Connor Pote pic.twitter.com/7SsaJkUOyf
— Baseball Alberta (@BaseballAlberta) November 18, 2019
Q: What does it mean to you to have some accolades not only yourself but around your team and to be thought of in the way that you have been over the last year?
A: It’s great. I know there’s a lot of kids on the Dawgs team alone that could have gotten player of the year. I’m extremely blessed and fortunate by God that I got picked. I really can’t put it on myself, I have to thank them. They made me into how I played this year. They made me who I am. I can’t really describe it any way else.