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Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2019
Baseball wins out in Parker Savard athletic tug of war
by Randy Pascal

The tug of war between baseball and hockey has remained a constant in the life of Parker Savard for quite some time now. The fact that the next step in the athletic career of the recent graduate of Bishop Alexander Catholic Secondary School involves elements of both of his favourite sporting pastimes is likely only fitting.

True, the prevailing thought would be to declare baseball the winner, with Savard recently committing to attending Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota, joining the Blue Knights baseball program this fall.

But given that he will be living with his aunt and uncle, Lorie and Andrew Brunette, and that the former NHLer is currently an assistant general manager with the Minnesota Wild, it's a pretty safe bet that hockey will never stray too far from the conversation.

"Going into grade ten, I was thinking more about baseball over hockey," said the 18 year-old recently. "But at the end of my grade 11 hockey year, I got drafted in the 18U OHL draft (by the Sudbury Wolves), which changed my mind, a little bit, and I kind of went back to hockey."

"Last year, after hockey, I decided to go back to baseball. I think my athleticism plays more in baseball. My footwork is faster on the field than it is on the ice. I'm not the biggest or strongest kid, but in baseball, you don't need to be the biggest or strongest."

A member of the Sudbury Voyageurs U18 team - Savard was one of two locals, along with Rilley Dubé, to represent the team at the EBLO (Elite Baseball League of Ontario) All-Star game in Oshawa - the native of Valley East has devoted a great deal of time expanding the scope of his baseball skill-set.

"I've worked on my glove, a lot, my footwork, my agility," said the career infielder. "That was a big one - better agility was huge. Being more well-rounded as an athlete, and not just a baseball player, that helped me out too."

"The agility has helped me in getting to the ball in different positions, dealing with a bad hop, a ball that can eat me up, having the ability to move different ways." With the door open to possibly signing on with the Laurentian Voyageurs in their inaugural season of OUA competition, Savard opted to have teacher and baseball coach Jean-Gilles Larocque kick the tires on U.S. opportunities one last time this past June.

"I gave him some criteria, where I would like to be, what I would like to study, and I wanted the baseball to be good," he said. "Knowing that I have family down there, living with them, that was huge for me."

Dakota County head coach Matthew Erzar and his team compete in the Division II ranks of the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association), having captured the Region XIII championship last year.

While there has been some guidance provided to the northern Ontario product, Savard understands that much of his projected development will occur once he is immersed in with the Blue Knights baseball family.

"There wasn't too much direct conversation," he said. "Coach gave me a couple of drills to work on, during my season. He just wanted me to play baseball, this summer. Once you get down there, they will work on making me bigger, faster, stronger."

For the players who toil in the NJCAA, the ultimate goal is to catch the eye of an NCAA school. For that to happen, Savard knows his game must grow. "My hitting has to take a huge jump, just putting the ball in play and using my speed that I have. Also, increasing my speed, so that I am even faster on the bases."

"For me, timing is the biggest and most important thing at the plate. When the pitch is coming in, having the ability to recognize whether it's a fastball, off-speed or curve ball, and then being able to put the ball in play."

Leaving for his new school on Wednesday, Savard is not a complete stranger to the area. "My sister (Paige) and I used to take trips down there, during the summer time, so I know it a little bit, but not too much," he said. "I'm really looking forward to getting to know Minnesota."

And when he is not completely focused on baseball, Savard may just mix in a little hockey, just as he always has.

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