By ZACH WORDEN
Special to Alberta Dugout Stories
As Eric Hartman roams centre field for Team New Blue at the Canadian Futures Showcase, he’s continuing a family legacy started four years ago by his older brother Max.
A product of the Okotoks Dawgs Academy, the younger Hartman is following in Max’s footsteps in more ways than one, as the 17-year-old is committed to Washington State University for 2024 — the same school where Max is currently preparing for his second season as a Cougar.
Eric is back at the Futures Showcase for the second time after being chosen to the 2022 event in Ottawa, coming off a summer championship with the WCBL Dawgs.
“I was pretty confident in myself,” said the St. Albert product, who is coming into this year’s tournament at Rogers Centre after suiting up against older competition.
“[Playing in the] WCBL was fun and gave me confidence … I got here, and the game slowed down again, so I’m feeling pretty good.”
In his team’s second game of the tournament, Hartman put that confidence to good use, going 1-for-2 with a hard-hit single, a sacrifice fly and a stolen base.
“It’s been unreal. This is the type of stuff you dream about,” he said of the experience at the dome in downtown Toronto.
“The people have been fun, the coaches have been great and it’s just been a good time.”
While he had never been to the Rogers Centre before, Hartman says his big bro gave him some pointers coming into the week. Whether it’s sharing how the ball travels less when the roof is closed or just day-to-day conversation, the two brothers have been staying in touch throughout the tournament.
Max was the first of the two to join the Dawgs in Okotoks, but when Eric moved down from St. Albert to start high school, that’s when things really took off for the Hartmans.
“When I got to Okotoks, that’s when I really saw my development and our love for the game really take off,” Eric said. “He’s my number one coach, for sure. Everything I do is from him. People look [at us] and see the same swing.
“He’s just taught me everything I know about baseball, and I give him a lot of credit.”
The word making its way around some of the coaches at the tournament was just how much of Max they see in Eric. But for Dawgs Academy coach Jeff Duda, that wasn’t always the case.
“Eric was more natural with baseball to begin with and I think he’s slightly more athletic than Max,” Duda said.
“When [Eric] came to us in his tenth-grade year, we just had to get him in the weight room to get as strong as possible to really help elevate his tools.
“Since he’s been in the program, his swing has cleaned up, his arm has cleaned up and he’s just a good ballplayer — very versatile as well.”
Listed as a “player to watch” on Canadian Baseball Network’s 2024 draft list, Eric got right to work in making an impression at the Futures Showcase.
He finished with the third-quickest 60-metre sprint on Tuesday’s scout day, posting a 6.59-second time.
“I think I’m a pretty well-rounded player and have tools in every aspect,” Hartman said about what type of player he is.
“I would say my one stand-out tool would be my speed.”
It’s that game-breaking speed that allows him to “take over games,” according to Duda. Hartman put his legs on display once again in his team’s final game of the tournament, legging out an RBI double that came off his bat at 93.6 miles per hour.
Duda also said that the six-foot-one, 185-pound left-handed hitter has a knack for rising to the moment. Something that Hartman did with the Dawgs over the summer in the WCBL.
He hit .375 in eight post-season at-bats, including a three-run homer in Game 2 of the finals against the Medicine Hat Mavericks and a rally-starting double in the clincher the very next night.
“That was one of the coolest moments,” Hartman said. “It was so unreal … I think playing with the big Dawgs and playing for a ring makes you play for more than yourself, and I think that’s when baseball is played at its best.”
Hartman also points to the grand slam he hit while playing for Team Alberta at last year’s Canada Summer Games to break the tournament RBI record as a standout moment in his career so far.
As he works to join his brother on campus in Pullman, Washington in 2024, Duda said that the duo should combine to wreak havoc on the PAC-12.
“The biggest thing about both of the Hartmans is that they’re both tough kids. They’ve got that toughness to them, they’ve got that chip on their shoulder and they’re just extremely competitive.
“They’re kind of a college coach’s dream.”