Alberta’s All-Decade Squad

By JOE McFARLAND

‘Tis the season for year-end and decade-end lists.

With 2019 coming to an end, it gives us an opportunity to take a look back at the 2010s through the lens of baseball in our province.

From amazing high school and college performances to athletes making Baseball Canada’s national teams to a few professional baseball appearances, Alberta was represented very well on the provincial, national and international stages.

For our “All-Decade Team,” we have broken it down by position (including a designated hitter) and five spots in the pitching rotation. At the end, you will also be able to see our selections for a “taxi squad” and three coaches who could be recognized for what they have done with this roster.

Catcher – Jordan Procyshen (Calgary)
Dawgs Academy and Okotoks Dawgs product Jordan Procyshen got used to the idea of traveling fairly early in his young career. After making the Baseball Canada Junior National Team’s spring training roster, the then-18-year-old continued with the club to the Dominican Summer League camp as well as the Cuba Summer Series and the World Junior Qualification Camp. His catching skills were enough to net the attention of the Boston Red Sox, who selected Procyshen in the 14th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. He spent the next five seasons in their system, getting as far up as Double-A with the Portland Sea Dogs. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound backstop signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers ahead of the 2019 campaign, and split the season between the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in Advanced-A and the Tulsa Drillers in Double-A. He re-joined Baseball Canada this past summer for the Pan Am Games, picking up a silver medal.

1st Base – Emerson Frostad (Calgary through Vancouver)
While listed as being from Vancouver, Emerson Frostad grew up in Alberta’s foothills and graduated from the Calgary Dawgs program before they moved to Okotoks. Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 13th round of the 2003 MLB Draft, the Lewis-Clark State College grad inched along in the minors for about a decade, getting as far up as Triple-A with Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League for 88 games over four seasons. His crowning moment came in 2011 when he and fellow Calgarian Jim Henderson were part of the gold medal-winning Canadian squad at the Pan Am Games. While he played more games as a third baseman and catcher, Frostad saw time at many other positions and we felt he would be a good fit at first.

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2nd Base – Nicole Luchanski (Edmonton)
Nicole Luchanski’s name is synonymous with women’s baseball in our country and her accolades speak for themselves. Part of Baseball Canada’s National Team for 13 years, the 5-foot-3, 125-pound infielder won seven Baseball Alberta awards between 2005 and 2017 and also picked up the Women’s National Team MVP honour twice. She won Women’s Baseball World Cup medals (two silver and three bronze) and a silver medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games. Regarded as one of the most decorated athletes in women’s baseball, Luchanski retired from the game on her 29th birthday in 2018.

3rd Base – Nolan Bumstead (Calgary)
The 2014 Baseball Canada Junior National Team was a good one with future MLB rising stars Mike Soroka and Josh Naylor turning heads. Another player who garnered attention was Calgary’s Nolan Bumstead. The Vauxhall Academy of Baseball product played both third base and pitched, doing the latter for his country before heading to college with Cal State Northridge. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound focused on the hot corner in college, collecting almost every award imaginable, including being named to the Big West Conference All-Academic Team, the CoSIDA Academic All-District 8 Team and the CoSIDA Academic All-America Team. He finished his college career (2015-2018) with a .281 average, 13 home runs and 97 runs batted in over 209 games.

Shortstop – Skyler Stromsmoe (Bow Island)
Another member of that gold medal-winning Canadian contingent at the 2011 Pan Am Games, Skyler Stromsmoe also won a bronze that year at the Baseball World Cup. The scrappy utility-man burst onto the professional baseball scene in the San Francisco Giants organization in 2007 with their Arizona League squad. He spent his entire career with the Giants, bouncing through its minor league system, topping out with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats for 101 games over three seasons (2009, 2012, 2015). While he’s listed as being from Bow Island, he actually grew up on the family farm near Etzikom.

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Outfield – Matt Lloyd (Okotoks)
It was a long road to the pros for Matt Lloyd. Also a part of that 2014 Baseball Canada Junior National Team, Lloyd made his way from Dawgs Academy and the hometown Okotoks Dawgs programs to Iowa Western Community College and Indiana University, where he tore it up at the plate as well as on the mound. But it wasn’t until his senior season at IU where he finally turned enough heads to be chosen by the Cincinnati Reds in the 15th round of the MLB Draft. The two-time Baseball Alberta award winner split the summer between the Billings Mustangs and the Dayton Dragons.

Outfield – Tanner Kirwer (Sherwood Park)
The 2014 Baseball Alberta 18U ‘AAA’ Player of the Year always had a good eye at the plate. Constantly hitting over .300 at every level, he shined bright at the Tournament-12 in 2013, hitting .429 before posting a .521 average with the Sherwood Park Dukes in 2014. Kirwer continued that trend with the Niagara University Purple Eagles over the next few years, earning an All-MAAC Second Team spot in 2016. The Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the 20th round of the 2017 MLB Draft and over the last three seasons, the speedster has racked up 52 stolen bases in 142 games, including 113 contests in Single-A. He split 2019 between the GCL Blue Jays and Lansing Lugnuts.

Outfield – Kelsey Lalor (Red Deer)
With Luchanski’s retirement, Kelsey Lalor became the longest-serving Albertan on the Baseball Canada Women’s National Team in 2019. At the age of 21, she just finished her sixth season with the national program and already has a boatload of accomplishments to her name. The four-time Baseball Alberta award winner went viral in 2018 with a highlight reel catch in left field during the Women’s Baseball World Cup. She’s also a dual-sport star, as she played basketball at the University of Saskatchewan. This past summer, Lalor committed to Boise State University where she will play softball.

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Utility/Designated Hitter – Erik Sabrowski (Edmonton)
“The Big E” in hockey was Eric Lindros. “The Big E” in baseball is Erik Sabrowski. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Edmonton Oilers fan has been dominant at every level of the game, starting with Prospects Academy in his hometown. Sabrowski eventually found himself at Cloud County Community College, where his 2018 campaign was too much to ignore. On the mound, he set a school record with 117 strikeouts in 66 innings while leading his team with 11 home runs and 58 runs batted in on his way to being named to the First Team All-Conference team and the All-Conference Pitcher of the Year. It’s no surprise a National League team picked him in the MLB Draft, which is what San Diego did in the 14th round in 2018. He was sidelined in 2019 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

Pitcher – Mike Soroka (Calgary)
What more needs to be said about a young man who is just starting his Major League Baseball career? The 22-year-old phenom burst onto the scene with Baseball Canada on that aforementioned 2014 Junior National Team and, working under the tutelage of former big leaguer Chris Reitsma, the PBF Redbirds star was drafted in the first round of the 2015 Draft by the Atlanta Braves. Since then he skyrocketed through Danville, Rome, Mississippi, Gwinnett and then stayed with the Braves in 2019. He completed his All-Star season with a 13-4 record and a 2.68 ERA, finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting and sixth in NL Cy Young voting. And you know you have hit the big time when a parody song is written about you.

Pitcher – Jim Henderson (Calgary)
Another original member of the Calgary Dawgs program, Jim Henderson has had a travel-filled journey in professional baseball that started with being drafted by the Montreal Expos in 2003. He finally made it to the big leagues in 2011 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers and later with the New York Mets. When all was said and done, he made 155 relief appearances over four MLB seasons, posting a 10-11 record along with 31 saves and a 3.61 earned run average. Henderson was also a member of the gold medal-winning 2011 Pan Am Games team, which was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame a year later. Henderson spent last season as the pitching coach of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Pitcher – Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton)
His time in Alberta was limited, but Rob Zastryzny was born in the provincial capital. A year later, his family moved to Corpus Christi, Texas. He later used that dual citizenship to his advantage as he pitched for Canada at the World Baseball-Softball Confederation’s Premier12. Prior to wearing the maple leaf, the southpaw was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2nd round of the 2013 MLB Draft, spending the next six seasons bouncing from level to level. He did pitch in 18 games for the Cubs, posting a 2-0 record and a 4.41 ERA. Ahead of the 2019 campaign, he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and split the year between the Double-A Tulsa Drillers and Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.

Pitcher – Heidi Northcott (Rocky Mountain House)
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in the Northcott residence. Harold Northcott pitched for the Canadian national men’s team in the 1980s and his daughter Heidi followed suit, putting together an impressive resume of her own. The 2013 Baseball Alberta Women’s Open Player of the Year started playing for the Women’s National Team in 2009 with her last appearance coming in 2016. Northcott was a staple of the pitching staff, earning a win in relief at the 2012 World Cup and then having the unique distinction of pitching in a no-hitter. She and Cindy Saavedra combined for the gem against the Netherlands in the 2014 IBAF World Cup.

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Pitcher – Shane Dawson (Drayton Valley)
An alumnus of the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge, Shane Dawson’s goal of playing professional baseball was realized thanks to a team many Canadian kids dream about. The Toronto Blue Jays selected Dawson with their 17th round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. He racked up some impressive numbers over six minor league campaigns, including a 36-29 record and two saves along with a 4.04 ERA. Dawson was released by the Blue Jays after the 2017 season and he spent the following year with the Winnipeg Goldeyes. He moved back to Alberta after that summer and helped start up the Strive Baseball Program in Calgary, hosting a few clinics with former teammates from his days with the Bluebirds.

If we were to open up a “taxi squad” for the decade, we could see former Chicago Cubs draft pick Ethan Elias (Edmonton), former Calgary Vipers slugger Drew Miller (Calgary) and Seattle Mariners pick Logan Seifrit (Edmonton) making the list.

And while we’re at it, we could see a coaching staff including Reitsma, former Montreal Expos pitcher Mike Johnson (Edmonton) and current Dawgs Academy coach Tyler Hollick (Calgary) getting the team ready for competition.

 

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