In his last hurrah with the Lethbridge Bulls, corner infielder Torrin Vaselenak is pushing his game to new levels.
The veteran of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) – who first suited up for the Bulls in 2019 – has now played over 150 games for the Windy City club.
Through 48 games this summer, the Prairie Baseball Academy grad has set career highs in runs (39), hits (47), RBI (34) and stolen bases (13). His 12 home runs are also currently tops in the WCBL.
It’s a performance that was more than good enough to qualify for play in the WCBL’s 2023 All-Star Game in Okotoks in mid-July.
Vaselenak was a recent guest on Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast and shared some insights into his baseball journey. We’ve plucked nine questions and answers from that interview for this edition of “1 Thru 9” … here’s what he had to say:
1. What has been key to your success this season?
The main key has just been consistency, which is what everyone is always striving for in baseball, right? But I’ve just been trying to take the days that are maybe not that great of days – or could be bad days – and just turn them into decent days and then ride the highs as long as you can ride them.
2. The Lethbridge Bulls missed the postseason last summer. What’s been key to turning things around after a tumultuous 2022?
Our pitching has played a huge role in that. We have a lot of arms that are pretty competitive and we’ve got a fairly solid lineup, too. Whether we’re hitting or not, our pitching has usually been able to keep us in the game, which is a super nice thing to have. We’re just trying to make everything click all at once, like everybody is I guess. When everything clicks, things seem to work out nicely for us.
3. You’re a veteran who played on the 2021 WCBL championship Bulls team and you played on the team that missed the playoffs last year. How did that fuel your approach heading into this season, especially with guys you’ve shared the same locker room with over the last few years?
Guys who have had a taste of both know what it’s like from both sides. With that year that we didn’t make it, last year, we just kind of got unlucky with injuries and the amount of guys that we were able to put on the field all the time, so it just didn’t work out well for us that time, but the year we won it we were able to make things come together well and we had lots of guys at every position and lots of pitchers that were able to fill in spots when we needed spots filled in, so this year feels more similar to that. I don’t want to jinx anything, obviously, but just having the numbers and having the talent out there is huge for us.
4. Is there anything you’ve said to the younger guys to get them ready for the grind of a real quick and very busy summer in the WCBL?
It’s different for everybody but it’s important to take care of your body and make sure you’re eating the right food and getting enough sleep. It is summer ball and lots of these guys are in a different area, so they want to have fun, which is good, but we’re still playing baseball, right? It’s just important that everyone takes that seriously and there’s a time and place where everybody wants to go out and have some fun. We do that, for sure, but we also try to take what we’re doing here seriously at the same time, so I try to emphasize to those guys who don’t understand what the schedule’s like that it is a grind and it is important that you do take care of that stuff.
5. You are from Coaldale, which is just east of Lethbridge. Do you find yourself being a tour guide for the team to show them what southern Alberta has to offer?
A little bit, for sure. I know lots of the guys that come up from the (United) States have never seen mountains like this before, so we talk about maybe going out to Waterton or taking a trip out to Banff or something. There’s lots of guys who are excited to do that stuff … it is a little bit tour guide like, but you’re from the area and guys look to you to see what there is to do and what’s the best thing to do, so it doesn’t bother me at all.
6. Do you have a go-to spot that you tell people they have to go see before they go?
My family had a house in Waterton growing up, so there’s always a spot there close to home for me, but I think if they were going to check out one area you’d have to make a trip to Banff because there’s not a lot of places in the world like that.
7. You are coming off your senior season at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, do you have any plans for the fall?
It’s a big life change, finishing college baseball, so a lot of guys go through it and have to make those life adjustments, but I’d like to try to play some indy ball, if possible. I might hit up some tryouts and see where that takes me and if that doesn’t work out we’ll go from there, I guess.
8. A couple of fun questions for you to wrap things up – first, what’s your favourite ballpark food?
My favourite ballpark food is probably french fries. If the french fries are good you can’t go wrong … I’m a vinegar guy on the french fries if it’s there, but usually vinegar and ketchup.
9. What is your favourite ballpark that you’ve ever played in?
The best ballpark I’ve ever played in is Minute Maid stadium in Houston … with the University of Arkansas at Monticello they usually do a start of the season trip to Minute Maid, and I think the new Ranger stadium now. It hosts a D2 (Division 2) tournament and D1 (Division 1) tournament, so we start off there for the season. You get to play a few ranked teams, which is good to kind of see where you’re at for the season, but in terms of the actual park it’s just insane. We’re playing there in front of nobody and there’s 40,000 open seats, but I can imagine playing in the stadium there with 40,000 people screaming, it’d be awesome. It was a really cool experience.