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Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2019
Bringing baseball to Laurentian University
by Randy Pascal

An already busy lineup of varsity sports at Laurentian University just got a little more congested.

But in the mind of the Athletic Director at L.U., the addition of men's baseball to the fold was simply too good an opportunity to pass up.

"When you have a group as dedicated and engaged as this group, you have to sit down and listen," noted Peter Hellstrom last Friday, as the unveiling of the new Voyageurs men's baseball team was made in front of the Ken Bahnuk Lounge.

"The fit is that we are offering a program to a bunch of young men on a no cost basis. That was key. We're going to add new revenues to the institution, at no cost." The group in question was spearheaded by local physical education teacher and passionate baseball advocate, Jean-Gilles Larocque.

"This is one of the pieces that will help complete the puzzle," said the owner of The Baseball Academy, who joins the new staff as an assistant coach as well. "Our t-ballers can now go all the way through to varsity athletics locally, which is big."

"Now, these little guys that are playing baseball will have the opportunity to play baseball at the post-secondary level right in our community."

While Hellstrom, himself, was most well-known during his youth as a product of the Sudbury Minor Hockey Association program, moving on to compete as a member of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks' men's hockey team, the long-time Sudbury native is keenly aware of the background that the boys of summer enjoy in Northern Ontario.

"This is a closet baseball community," said Hellstrom. "Years ago, there was a senior loop, Sudbury Minor Baseball was big, and it's growing again. This helps the development of the sport in Sudbury."

Though there is no denying the challenges that exist in terms of attempting to match the close to year-round access to baseball conditions that might exist elsewhere in the province, Larocque is confident in the ability of his crew to field a competitive team, right out of the gate.

"I have the utmost confidence in our coaching staff," said the local product, who enjoyed stops in Texas, California, Virginia and West Virginia during his career as a catcher. "We're not getting kids that have just picked up baseball recently."

"These are kids that have played in elite programs. They have a good grasp of baseball at a competitive level. We get them and fine-tune them." Joining Larocque in this process are head coach Brodie Jeffery, assistant coach Michel Larivière, and pitching coach Matt Braumberger.

A native of Whitby, Jeffery has coached with the Toronto Mets, before tackling assistant coaching roles with both Martin Methodist College (Tennessee) and Athens High School in Alabama.

A professor within the School of Human Kinetics at Laurentian, Dr Larivière is a practicing clinical psychologist who is particularly interested in the mental aspects of the game, as well as baseball analytics.

A native of Sudbury, Braumberger attended Friends University in Wichita, Kansas on a baseball scholarship from 2002 to 2007, making the jump to the coaching ranks as the man in charge of the Junior Varsity program at Clearwater High School in Kansas City before returning home in 2012.

His task will be particularly key to immediate success. "If we can't throw strikes, we're not going to be successful, period," stated Larocque. "Pitching is huge. Everyone is going to have their top one or two guys that they can go to, but it's going to be the depth that makes the difference in pitching."

To that end, the Voyageurs are looking to a mix of locals and newcomers to Sudbury in filling their rotation. Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School senior Jared Scott is a typical multi-sport high school athlete, suiting up with several of the Knights' teams.

"Baseball has always been my number one priority," said the 18 year old hurler. "I have to execute my pitches, make sure where I throw, hit my spots. I'm sitting around 80, 81 MPH with my fastball, and I also throw a curve and a change-up. I need to work on my change-up, it needs to be ten miles an hour slower than my fastball."

While Jeffery expects that there will still be anywhere from four to eight additions made to the Laurentian roster between now and September, his initial list of committed talent includes:

Jacob Malloch - catcher (Whitby)
Justin Dineen - Catcher (Ottawa)
Tyler Gysbers - Shortstop (Orillia)
Brayden Macewan - second base (Parry Sound)
Jared Scott - pitcher (Sudbury)
Braden Whalen - pitcher (Sault Ste Marie)
Jean Luc Fortin - third base (Ottawa)
Patrick Comfort - third base (Ottawa)
Kelly Thompson - pitcher (Sudbury)
Kyle Wilkinson - outfielder (North Bay)
Ryan Faubert - pitcher (Sudbury)
Tyler Mackillop - pitcher (Guelph)
Kurtis Winrow - outfielder (North Bay)
Dan Allen - outfielder (Ottawa)
Dale Valade - pitcher (North Bay)
Adam Guzzo - outfielder (Sudbury)
Ben Machin - first base (Ajax)
Dan Siedzik - first base (Toronto)
Nick Luchysn - second base (Burlington)
Shane Patterson - shortstop (Peterborough)
Grayson Ronson - outfielder (Ajax)
Teddy Nigh - student manager (Barrie)
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