Few athletes have their names all over the Baseball Alberta awards like Gavin Galenza.
In 2015, he was named the 11U ‘AA’ Player of the Year, and followed that up with the 13U ‘AA’ honours in 2016 and the 13U ‘AAA’ title in 2017.
After a few years without a recognition to his name, the Camrose product was back at it in 2022 by picking up the 18U ‘AAA’ Player of the Year.
He claimed that title by torching Baseball Alberta Elite League pitching with a .505 batting average while playing for the Red Deer CarStar Braves.
He followed that up with a great performance with the silver medal-winning Team Alberta at the Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ontario.
Looking back on it, Galenza is proud of the season he put together.
“The biggest thing this year was being myself,” he told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.
“Finding the right approach at the plate, not trying to do too much and not getting too big, while focusing on hitting the ball to all fields and keeping it simple.”
The 18-year-old is hoping to continue his success as he will be suiting up with the Colby Community College Trojans this spring.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
While he’s had plenty of awards and accolades to his name, Galenza admits the last couple of years have maybe been the most difficult.
Originally from Camrose, he made the decision in Grade 10 to chase his baseball dreams by heading to Red Deer and St. Joseph’s Baseball Academy, headed up by Jason Chatwood.
It might not have been a major move geographically, but it was a taxing move emotionally. Galenza gives his coach a lot of credit for getting him settled in.
Chatwood also gave him opportunities like playing in a few games for the Sylvan Lake Gulls in both 2021 and 2022, and also helped make the connection to Colby, which is where the skipper began his college journey as well.
“I couldn’t be where I am today without them,” said the 5-foot-8, 190-pound backstop.
“Jason is a great coach, and he’s really helped me out with my development and pushed me through this past year.”
Red Deer became his home away from home, and with each passing day, the young catcher started feeling more comfortable on- and off-field.
Those days turned into a couple of years and Galenza put an exclamation point on his final year with the program and with the Braves.
Not only did he lead the new Baseball Alberta Elite League in batting average, but he held the pace with an .808 slugging percentage as the Braves made it to the league championship, falling to the St. Albert Minor Baseball Association Cardinals.
The Braves continued their season by playing in the Western Championships, then Galenza and a few of his teammates were named to Team Alberta for the Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ontario.
After breezing through the round robin with four wins, Alberta beat B.C. 4-0 on a Michael Yusypchuk no-hitter to set the stage for a final against Ontario.
While falling 11-1, Galenza still looks back fondly on the experience of winning a silver medal.
“That experience was life-changing,” he said.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that – being able to represent my province at that high of a level is awesome.”
Galenza says Alberta was thought of as an underdog during the tournament, but they were determined to show everyone what kind of talent was on the roster.
While the final didn’t end the way they had hoped, he was proud of how they battled until the final pitch.
It also proved to him that he could hang with some of the best talent in the country.
A SIMILAR JOURNEY
Galenza’s career path doesn’t just mirror that of his coach, but it’s also starting to follow the same route as a fellow Central Albertan.
Matt Coutney won the 18U ‘AAA’ Player of the Year Award from Baseball Alberta twice (2016-2017) before embarking on a college career that took him to Colby and Old Dominion University. Coutney was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels last summer.
Galenza remembers taking batting practice with Coutney right after the Wetaskiwin product won the second of his two awards.
“That was a really great experience for me as it opened up my eyes to seeing what my future could bring,” said Galenza, who has continued working with the Angels’ prospect after he was named a coach at St. Joe’s during his offseasons.
“He’s just a great guy and you can tell he wants to give back to the community and is really open to helping out.”
Galenza won’t be alone when he heads to his first practice with Colby.
He has several fellow Albertans joining him including Blake Harsulla, Anthony Chatwood, Kohle Huber and Owen Harriott on the roster as well as a handful of other Canadians.
Colby has had a history of bringing players south, and Galenza is hoping that familiarity will help bring some success, both as a team and personally.
“My goal is to just play my game,” the freshman said. “I want to stay consistent throughout the year and hopefully get our team as far as it can go into the playoffs and see what we can do.”
Chatwood, meanwhile, is excited to see how the young catcher does under Colby head coach Ryan Carter, as he says Galenza “has the ability to rise to the occasion” and loves the big moments.
“He is an athletic catcher that moved very well, and is a plus hitter that can hit the ball to multiple fields and doesn’t strike out much,” he told Alberta Dugout Stories. “Gav works well with his pitchers and guys really like throwing to him, which is very important.”
Having seen the efforts of Coutney and others first-hand, Galenza is looking forward to doing the same in giving back to the baseball community back home whenever he can.
Despite all of his success and awards, he says baseball isn’t an easy sport and he hopes young athletes are ready for everything that will get thrown at them.
“The people that become more successful are the people who push through their struggles,” Galenza said.
“I always thought it’d be really easy for me and then it kind of hit me as I got a little older and it’s helped push myself even further now.”
He is taking it day-by-day, with hopes of adding even more hardware to his collection in the years ahead.