Bear Apparent

By JOE McFARLAND

Michael Yusypchuk has already accomplished a lot in his young baseball journey.

Heโ€™s already won numerous awards, including the 2021 Baseball Alberta 15U โ€˜AAAโ€™ Player of the Year. He threw a no-hitter in the semi-finals of the 2022 Canada Summer Games, heโ€™s moving from the St. Albert Minor Baseball Association to Okotoks to attend Dawgs Academy, and heโ€™s committed to the Missouri State University Bears when high school is complete.

But even at the age of 16, the Edmonton product realizes he isnโ€™t done yet.

โ€œItโ€™s a matter of just not being satisfied with what you have, but still trying to set a really high ceiling and working to get there,โ€ Yusypchuk told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.

He hopes that ceiling is professional baseball, and as a projected top-five Canadian selection in the 2024 Major League Baseball Draft by the Canadian Baseball Network, heโ€™s well on his way to realizing his dream.

BROTHERLY LOVE

Yusypchuk says his insatiable appetite to achieve greatness was something instilled in him and his brother, Andrew, by his parents.

You have to be better every day, is something they instilled in the two boys as they went along their respective athletic journeys.

Growing up, Andrew was a role model for Michael, so when the elder brother left to join Dawgs Academy, the younger sibling took notes.

After seeing Andrew perform well, attend the Tournament-12 showcase in Toronto, and commit to Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Michael knew where he needed to go.

โ€œI canโ€™t wait to just learn and get better very day in order to get better at my craft,โ€ he said.

โ€œI know they have some unbelievable coaches who helped him get to the next level and I canโ€™t wait to get that experience.โ€

REST FOR THE WICKED

It will be hard for Yusypchuk to top the experience of pitching at the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ontario.

With notable alumni like Russell Martin, Stubby Clapp and Mike Soroka, the annual event pits the best young talent from each of the provinces.

Yusypchuk was handed the ball for Albertaโ€™s opener against Prince Edward Island on August 7, putting together a solid six-inning performance in an 8-3 victory.

With an abundance of arms, Alberta was able to save him until the semi-final against B.C. five days later.

โ€œI had a lot of rest and couldnโ€™t wait to go in,โ€ Yusypchuk said. โ€œI knew it was a big game and I was a little bit nervous but really excited.โ€

He and his coaches prepared like normal, and Yusypchuk admits nothing really felt different heading into the outing.

A PLACE IN HISTORY

As the innings passed by, the zero under the hits column on the giant outfield scoreboard started to get brighter.

โ€œIt was probably the fourth or fifth inning when I looked back and saw it,โ€ Yusypchuk said.

โ€œI just thought that I canโ€™t focus on that because I know eventually they will get a hit and then I just need to move on and go to the next batter.โ€

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound hurler kept on dealing. His teammates didnโ€™t buy into any of the jinx beliefs, simply urging him on as he ended the game with seven strikeouts. He was just a walk away from a perfect game in the 4-0 victory.

Yusypchuk calls it a โ€œblurโ€ in the moments directly after the final out was recorded (a fly ball to right field), but once things settled down, he was finally able to soak in the accomplishment.

โ€œItโ€™s awesome, especially with the Alberta logo on my chest,โ€ he said.

โ€œTo do it at the Canada Games, it was such an awesome event and an unbelievable week, itโ€™s something Iโ€™ll remember for the rest of my life.โ€

Not only did Yusypchuk become the third pitcher in Games history to throw a no-hitter, joining Ontarioโ€™s David Steffler in 1997 and Manitobaโ€™s Ben Onyshko in 2013, but he also helped cement Albertaโ€™s first appearance in the gold medal game since 2014.

While the outcome wasnโ€™t what he and his teammates had hoped for โ€“ an 11-1 loss to Ontario โ€“ it was still an experience heโ€™s grateful to be a part of.

โ€œThere are so many guys who would have loved to have been there and to put it all on the line,โ€ Yusypchuk said.

โ€œIt was so much fun and representing Alberta was the best part of it.โ€

STAYING IN THE MOMENT

Yusypchuk hopes itโ€™s not the last time he gets to wear the colours of his province or country.

While he does look to one day suit up for Baseball Canadaโ€™s Junior National Team, heโ€™s trying not to focus too much on the milestones, accolades or teams he could potentially play for.

โ€œI just want to work hard and do everything I can to set myself up for success and give myself the best opportunity to compete,โ€ said Yusypchuk, who also plays in the infield.

Even as he heads to Okotoks and gets himself prepared for college at Missouri State, he’s mindful that he is also potentially representing young baseball players in his home province, hoping to make a name for themselves as well.

Itโ€™s why Yusypchuk isn’t shy about sharing his story and advice as he goes along his own journey.

โ€œJust try to stay in the moment and have fun with it,โ€ he opined.

โ€œBaseball, at the end of the day, is a fun sport and whenever you have fun, I find at least, itโ€™s more memorable and you end up performing better.โ€

If that is his recipe for success, Michael Yusypchuk has many more accomplishments to come.

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