If baseball doesn’t work out for Ty Wevers, motivational speaking might be a good backup plan.
After giving up on hockey as he entered his teenage years, the Lethbridge native set his sights on baseball with an initial goal of making it to the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball.
Not only did that work out for the 6-foot-2, 205-pound catcher, but his hard work continued to pay off when he announced in May he would be heading to Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kansas.
READ MORE: Heads in the Cloud
When it comes to his game on the field, his coach at Vauxhall has been impressed with how far Wevers has come.
“Ty shows raw power at the plate and his offensive game has a chance to be very good,” Les McTavish said via text message. “And he is a big, strong horse behind the plate who does a very good job receiving and working with a pitching staff.”
However, it’s his off-field attitude that shines through.
“Ty has tremendous leadership qualities,” McTavish continued. “The best part about him is that he makes others around him better. He’s the definition of a student-athlete.”
That spirit was captured earlier this fall when we chatted with Wevers for an episode of Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. We talked about his decision to go to Cloud, his experience at Vauxhall, and the importance of mindset both on and off the field.
Q: How excited are you for this opportunity heading to a school that is pretty well known to Alberta baseball fans: Cloud County?
A: Yeah, the opportunity is pretty special. Anytime you can go play secondary baseball is always something to not take for granted. The opportunity to play at Cloud County Community College with Eric Gilliland here, taking the head job and leading the team, it’s pretty special. And it’s a great group of guys so far for the first three weeks of being here …. The culture is amazing here from short time I’ve been here and there’s nothing I can really say bad about it.
Q: What went into making that decision when you did?
A: I think what it ultimately came down to in the decision-making process is it was a very, very long-awaited and thoughtful process just because of limited games. Our spring got cut short in March because of the virus. It’s messed up so many things for so many people. I think the biggest thing for me was just to get situated somewhere where there were coaches that instilled and understood the situation you were in.
The JUCO lifestyle allowed for me to get more reps and get more opportunities to show my skillset for future colleges down the road. I think the two-year atmosphere in the JUCO lifestyle was better than getting situated in a four-year program right away. I believe, for my skillset and assets in baseball, I would have been better off having two years of lots and lots of development and more reps then going into the four-year environment where the baseball is a little more high-class and high-key.
Q: Like I said, this school is pretty well-known for Alberta baseball players like Erik Sabrowski. Did you lean on anyone from here to get an inside scoop on what they had to offer?
A: Ummm, no. Playing at Vauxhall, I made very, very good connections with Jim Kotkas and Les McTavish. I just looked for insight from them and took their word for it. Les is good friends with Eric Gilliland and he had lots of good things to say about the program. And as things dispersed over time, it winded down to me making the decision on accepting Cloud’s offer and the rest is history.
Q: What are you looking forward to most at Cloud?
A: I’m looking forward to getting after it and playing. It’s been a long time since we’ve had high-paced baseball. It’s been a little over four months here and I’m just excited to get after it with the guys here. To build something greater than yourself and keep the culture going and keep the reputation that Vauxhall has on its players to send guys to places like this and other places, I think that’s important to me as well. I want to keep the reputation of how well Les McTavish, Jim Kotkas and Joel Blake prepare their guys for future success at the collegiate level.
Q: You alluded to it there, but how challenging has it been to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic while also trying to stay in shape for when you do get that chance to play a game?
A: It’s been very mentally straining. You get into routines and things seem like they’re going on the right track and they seem like they’re going to be normal and then all of a sudden, they get taken away from you. I think the biggest thing for me was just always staying true to knowing what you can do and staying true to the process and keep being consistent with your routines and everything you do, just like you’re in the season normally. That’s all you can do. Then the next biggest thing is taking advantage of the time that others are going to take off. Lots of people aren’t mentally tough enough to survive in environments like this and if you can take advantage of something that others aren’t, that’s how you get the edge as an athlete.
Q: I know you’ve been down there for the last few weeks, what has the atmosphere been like for you and what’s it been like to get to know teammates and find out what the next while will bring you?
A: It’s been really good! Obviously, that jump from high school to the collegiate level is a huge jump. I think the biggest thing is that more is expected of you here. There’s a lot more independence, which is nice for your well-being but there’s a lot more responsibility and a culture you need to follow. I think the culture here has been great. Yeah, I’m a first-time freshman but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a leader and that’s what the sophomores instill in you and everyone on the team. Thirty people strong on the team are all leaders and that’s the biggest thing is, from high school to the collegiate level. In high school, you have two or three captains who lead the team and some guys hide in the shadows. In college, it shows everybody and that’s how you win games at this level.
Q: Let’s talk about how you got into baseball in the first place. What drew you to the sport?
A: I was a hockey kid growing up. I played it from when I was really young up until I was about 13 years old. I picked up baseball when I was 11 or 12. I never made a Triple-A team in my life. For the first few years, I was playing Double-A. I just thought to myself that I think I can do something with this. So I just kept going. I kept swinging in the backyard with my dad and grandpa. I would train and train and train and I finally made a Triple-A team once and that just sparked it for me. I was like, “Wow, I can do something with this.”
I’m an Alberta kid, grew up in Lethbridge and Vauxhall is only an hour and a bit away. I always knew that was there. Coach McTavish is a Lethbridge resident as well and I grew up with his kids, playing and such. I always knew that was something and always looked up to that. That was always a goal of mine was to play for Vauxhall someday. And the two years that I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to play there, that got things going and going and going. That’s what has allowed me to excel and be mentally strong at the collegiate level.
Q: What was it like to be able to accomplish some of those goals, even the simple ones like getting to Vauxhall?
A: It was tough. For me, yeah, I’m not really the most talented athlete out there. I think above all, work ethic, dedication, motivation and staying true to yourself as a player and not proving anything to anybody is really what got me there. There’s a lot of people who are blessed with talent from a young age and there’s a lot of people who don’t have it right away. That’s ultimately what shows you as an athlete to excel at the next level and I believe Vauxhall did that to me and I believe Cloud County will do the same as well.
Q: It sounds like you relish in that idea of outworking someone to achieve your biggest goals. Where does that come from?
A: That’s from my dad. He’s always been a go-getter kind of guy. He’s always instilled that in me, right from a young age. And obviously, Coach Todd Hubka in Lethbridge, he coached me at a young age and he always instilled that in me as well. Ever since, that’s been my approach from high school to college.
Q: Tell us a bit about your experience at Vauxhall and what it was like to excel and get to the point where you were able to sign on the dotted line with a JUCO school.
A: Vauxhall was a very, very good opportunity and it’s something, as a high school student and athlete, you don’t understand how those opportunities … you have to be so thankful for them. Because you don’t look at the big picture when you first arrive there. You look at the big picture when you’re done there. When you reflect back on that process and everything that academy gave me, you really start to appreciate it more than when you’re actually living it. You wish you could go back and do things differently because you could have been so much more because you realize what all they gave you.
I think that’s a thing that people don’t understand as much as when you’re given an opportunity like that. You don’t think of anything like that in the first year or even in the middle of the second year. You’re just living it. Once you’ve been through it, it can really start to creep into the back of your mind that it was amazing. That’s what got me to where I’m at now. Taking those lessons that you learned into the college life and buying into the process that college has and not taking those moments for granted, I think that’s what will take you to the next level. And that’s playing professional baseball.
Q: It sounds like that might be your message for any kid taking their first steps into Vauxhall Academy.
A: Yes, absolutely. If I was a senior reflecting back and if I were to talk to the Grade 11s and 12s coming into Vauxhall, I would just tell them that they don’t realize how good they have it. It’s something that is taken for granted. And it’s something that sets you up beyond your years. Not just athletically and on the field, it’s the off-field stuff. It’s taking the time to interact with the community, it’s taking time to interact with the senior citizens at the seniors homes, it’s taking time to interact with your billet families. It’s all that stuff that makes you realize that everything you do off the field translates on the field and that’s the biggest lesson that I learned there.
Q: When you look back on your career to this point, what are you most proud of?
A: I’m most proud of the connections and the friendships. Mainly the friendships that you take with you beyond baseball. It’s not just baseball. Yeah, I’m proud of myself for taking great lengths and new steps in baseball. That’s not all it is. It’s the friendships you take with you, the people you meet and the people you learn from. And it’s the people you interact with like your teachers and principals and the people who are there for you.
I think that’s the biggest thing that’s made me into who I am today. Being able to interact, for instance, with my billet family in Vauxhall who had a bunch of grandkids who I made connections with. I think that also allows you, as a baseball player, to let your mind go away from the game a bit, which can help you fight through tough times like a bad game. It allows you the opportunity to clear your head and come back to the game you love and keep that process going and excel at the game you love.
Q: Looking ahead, what do you have as goals heading into the next few months here?
A: I’m looking to maintain a 3.7 GPA or higher in college classes and getting on top of school work because school and education is first and foremost. I’m looking to obtain an exercise and human kinesiology degree and hopefully move on in baseball. I want to play baseball as long as I can and make it professionally.
Q: I always ask this as my final question: what does the game of baseball mean to you?
A: The game of baseball means to me…there’s so much that goes into it. That’s a tough question. The game of baseball gives me life. The game of baseball has brought me to the man I am today. If I didn’t have baseball, I wouldn’t have made those connections. I wouldn’t have made those personal connections and friendships. I wouldn’t have been able to decipher between having a chip on your shoulder and letting back. The game of baseball has taught me so much more to life than there is to just play it. It’s the off-the-field stuff, like I said, that matters. It’s the interactions with your coaches, it’s picking up your teammates, it’s doing the work when no one’s watching. That’s what baseball has taught me, to first and foremost, be a better man. Second of all, it’s shaped me into the baseball player I am today and instilling and respecting the game. That’s what baseball has taught me.