Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Homegrown Hofmann eyes future in MLB

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

 

Logan Hofmann signs a ball for a young player in Saskatoon.
When Logan Hofmann started playing baseball out in his hometown of Muenster, Sask., it was all about the joy of just being on the diamonds.

The notion of becoming a Major League Baseball draft selection or going to the elite levels of the sport didn’t cross his mind until high school.

“Growing up, I just played it, because it was fun,” said Hofmann. “It never really was a thought of mine to play professional baseball, because I was a big hockey player too growing up.

“I thought I was better at hockey pretty much my whole life until about Grade 10. That is when I thought that if I keep improving in baseball I can eventually go to college and then from there have success in college and then move on to the professional ranks.”

The right-handed pitcher played for Saskatchewan’s provincial team as part of an extremely successful run from 2015 to 2017. 

Saskatchewan won silver at the Baseball Canada Cup played at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex in 2015, gold at the Baseball Canada Cup held in 2016 in Fort McMurray, Alta., and at the Canada Summer Games in 2017 in Winnipeg.

The standout with the Muenster Red Sox program also played catcher and shortstop, when he wasn’t taking turns on the hill.

Logan Hofmann pitching for Saskatchewan. 
(Photo courtesy Baseball Saskatchewan) 
After graduating high school, Hofmann pitched two seasons for Colby Community College in Colby, Kansas. Following his second season, Hofmann was selected in the 35th round and 1,055th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2019 MLB Draft.

Hofmann elected to not to sign with the Cardinals deciding to play for the Northwestern State University Demons baseball team in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in the NCAA Division I ranks. That allowed him to keep developing his pitching stills and re-enter the MLB Draft.

In the MLB Draft that was held on June 11, Hofmann was selected in the fifth round and 138th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He signed a rookie contact with the Pirates on June 27.

The 20-year-old said it was a thrill to be picked in the MLB Draft and to be able to sign with the Pirates so quickly after the draft.

“It kind of just seals the deal,” said Hofmann, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 190 pounds. “It is official.

“It is kind of the same thing as getting drafted. It is a great feeling, and I guess kind of a big accomplishment to say that you’ve signed now, and you’re ready to get your minor league career started.”

While he is gaining big opportunities in the game, Hofmann never forgets his Saskatchewan roots. When he returns home after completing his post-secondary season, he can usually be found on the diamonds in Muenster or around the province helping younger players.

Logan Hofmann played shortstop and catcher growing up.
(Photo courtesy Baseball Saskatchewan)
Hofmann enjoys helping the generation coming up.

“It is just good to give back just to see I guess some of the young talent we have in Saskatchewan,” said Hofmann, who credits his father, Chad, on being the biggest influence in helping him in the game growing up. “I just want to help them be the best player and person they can be.”

Hofmann has good memories playing with Saskatchewan’s provincial program. He remembers winning silver at the 2015 Baseball Canada Cup in Saskatoon as being a big thing as Saskatchewan had won just one medal – a silver in 2011- in 18 years previous at that event.

“Going in it was kind of we were hosting it, and if we do good, that would be cool,” said Hofmann. “I don’t think anybody really expected us to go as far as we did.

“Obviously, we faced B.C. in the final, and they were really, really good that year. I think still even a silver medal for Saskatchewan and we were hosting it was really awesome to see.”

Ultimately, Hofmann thought that silver medal finish paved the way for Saskatchewan’s gold medal wins in 2016 and 2017.

Logan Hofmann, left, likes coaching baseball camp in Saskatchewan.
“I think it set up really well,” said Hofmann. “I knew we had a good age group for those couple of years there going into each tournament.

“A silver medal, it is tough to build off of, but at the same time, one more win and you have gold.”

Greg Brons, who is the high performance director for Baseball Saskatchewan, said what Hofmann has been able to accomplish is inspiring for young players in the province.

“It gives kids the idea that if they work hard the ultimate dream of playing the game professionally can really happen,” said Brons. “Logan is someone players in minor baseball in Saskatchewan can really look up to.

“When he is in the city he often comes back to workout with our academy players and our players benefit from his success as he puts Saskatchewan on the baseball map.”

Brons said it is special when Hofmann comes back to the province and helps out the younger generation.

“It is no surprise that he is willing to do this,” said Brons. “He is a typical athlete from Saskatchewan – raised right and wanting to give back.

Logan Hofmann has his sights set on an MLB future.
“(He) comes from a great community (Muenster) where they support youth sports, and I think this is just the Saskatchewan way – I have seen athletes in all sports giving back. This is why Saskatchewan is such a great province. People like Logan never forget where they came from.”

Hofmann developed strong command of four pitches in his fastball, change-up, curveball and slider. He aims to keep fine tuning all aspects of his game looking towards spring training in 2021.

“I am just getting stronger and also focusing on the mental game of baseball now too just because it is such a big part of it,” said Hofmann. “I am kind of improving everything a little bit every day and just working to prepare for next year.”

ZONE Sports Physiotherapy aims to better overall health

Clinic empowers clients with the “why” to their rehab

Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

 

Mitch Dahl and the ZONE Sports crew aim to empower clients.
Knowledge helps power a person on their physical rehabilitation journey.

Mitch Dahl, who is one of the founding partners of ZONE Sports Physiotherapy, believes clients should know “why” they are doing something, so they know “how” they can become better.

Dahl is one of three ZONE team members who are at the company’s second clinic located at the Indoor Training Centre on the grounds of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex. The ZONE founding partner said the team at his clinic aims to give their clients knowledge and tools that will help them recover from injuries and improve their overall health.

Dahl said the ZONE team’s goal is to help their clients move better, so they can live better.

“It is more of an approach of a very active based rehabilitation,” said Dahl. “We are really trying to educate people and engage them in the process.

“If you teach people things, the unknown is not as scary. All of a sudden, things make sense.

“I always tell young athletes don’t just do it because we tell you to do it. Understand what is going on. We try to give lots of people tools in their toolbox and empower them to get better so they are not dependent on us.”

ZONE’s first clinic that opened in 2011 is located in the Point 9 Building in University Heights in northeast Saskatoon, which is also home to the Saskatoon Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Centre.

One of the treatment rooms at ZONE Sports Physiotherapy.
The ZONE clinic on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds opened in May of 2019, and due to the nature of that location, they see a variety of athletes.

With that said, the ZONE clinic on the Gordie Howe grounds does see clients who are non-athlete every day and all day. People that utilize that ZONE clinic range in age from eight to 88 and come from all walks of life.

ZONE Sports Physiotherapy delivers individualized care and expertise for assessment, treatment and management of sports, orthopedic, personal, work and auto injuries including post-operative rehabilitation.

Dahl said he often fields questions from potential clients asking if they can come even if they are ‘not an athlete.’ He said everyone is an athlete to some extent.

If a person gets injured doing something physical at the work place or the injury occurs in an athletic environment, Dahl said in both cases the injured parties are trying to regain the ability to do a physical movement.

Dahl enjoys seeing both athletes and members of the general public come through ZONE’s doors and when they are doing physiotherapy programming at the gym run by one of ZONE’s long-time partners in IGNITE Athletics.

Another ZONE Sports Physiotherapy treatment room.
“It is actually a pretty neat vibe, because they kind of feed off each other sometimes,” said Dahl. “You can see it in the gym too.

“It is kind of neat to see the mix there, and I think it spills over to here too where someone comes in and they are a high-level athlete, and they start having a chance to converse with someone in the waiting room, where they are just making small talk. It creates a good sense of comradery and community.”

All three therapists on staff at Gordie Howe Sport Complex’s ZONE clinic can treat head to toe injuries, and they each have a specialty interest area too.

Dahl came over because he works with baseball and football athletes a lot, so it was a natural fit for him to be on site. He will do assessments for football athletes, so they can determine which weaknesses or physical areas they need to work on before going off to events like the CFL combine. In baseball, Dahl will do assessments for players in regard to how they handle things physically like their throwing motion.

Brad Spokes oversees the ZONE Performance Multisport program that is geared to helping athletes in endurance-based sports, along with some strength and explosive type sports athletes as well. The presence of track and field, speed skating and Nordic skiing athletes made the Gordie Howe Sports Complex location a draw.

Jennifer Browne runs the “60 Strong” program, which is a masters age level strength program. Those workouts run twice a week.

If a need arises where a client would be better served by seeing a staff member at the first ZONE clinic to access a specific area of expertise, such as vestibular/balance/dizziness rehab, a referral will be made.

Overall, Dahl said it is rewarding to work with the high-quality people that utilize the multisport facility on a daily basis.

Mitch Dahl and the Zone Sports crew enjoy helping clients.
“Being here on site at Gordie Howe with the people that we work with, the athletes that are here, the parents that are here and the coaches that are here, it is a great spot to come to work every day,” said Dahl. “You look forward to going to work.

“If you need to stay late and help people out, it doesn’t feel like work, because you are in a great place to be.”

For more information about ZONE Sports Physiotherapy, feel free to contact them via email at zonegh@zonesportspt.com or by phone at (306) 477-9663.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Aiming for new future heights building on a storied past

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Softball is a mainstay sport at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
The Gordie Howe Sports Complex has been and will continue to be the place where memories are made.

For over 60 years, it has been the heart of Saskatoon’s amateur sports scene. Numerous elite level athletes from many sports have graced the Gordie Sports Complex Grounds including Gord Barwell, Erin Cumpstone, Dan Farthing, Logan Hofmann, Catriona Le May Doan, Samantha Matheson, Devon McCullough, Dione Meier, Steve Molnar, Jacki Nichol, Cliff Shaw and Larry Wruck.

Now under the management of not for profit Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Corporation, the fabled complex aims to build off its glorious past.

“The Gordie Howe Sports Complex is well-known across Canada and around the world,” said Bryan Kosteroski, who is the chair of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Incorporated and Friends of the Bowl Foundation. “We have now raised the bar to now have multiple more sports that will have the opportunities to bring in those national and international sporting events.

Baseball is a staple at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
“We’ve raised the bar. The pressure is on us now to bring in major national and international events to the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.”

The Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Corporation officially took over the management of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex on March 1, 2019.

Before the non-profit came into existence, each sport was responsible for coordinating the activities on the various facilities on the complex’s grounds like Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the baseball and softball diamonds and the Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval in winter.

The City of Saskatoon suggested it might help if there was a unified group that coordinated everything that went on at the sports park. The complex hosts events and training sessions for baseball, football, lacrosse, Nordic Skiing, rugby, softball, speed skating, track and field and ultimate disk.

Football has a storied past at SMF Field.
The Gordie Howe Sports Complex will accommodate soccer events too when those needs can’t be met by either the SaskTel Sports Centre or the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre.

The idea of having a unified group overseeing the operations at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex was something the sporting groups that used the park was a good idea and decided to run with.

Johnny Marciniuk, who is the operations manager for the Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Corporation, said their was a 90-day preparation period before the non-profit took on operational responsibilities.

“It has been exciting,” said Marciniuk. “We’ve been operating this for the last year and a half almost, and people are getting the routines down.”

Marciniuk said one of the learning curves involved the learning how work at all the various facilities on the park’s grounds. Before, you had situations where a group of people just worked the grounds of one facility like the softball diamonds.

The Clarence Downey Oval creates great sights.
Now, the maintenance crew at the complex can work the baseball or softball diamonds, prepare the football field or make sure everything is running smooth at the Indoor Training Centre.

“Virtually, all of our employees are athletes or have been involved with various activities either as administration or as a participant,” said Marciniuk. “Now those people whether it is working the track or working the diamonds or working in the Indoor Training Centre, there is lots of cross-training that was necessary to train staff, and we’ve been very fortunate.

“You are only as good as your staff, and we have some excellent people that assist us on a day to day basis.”

Marciniuk said user went through a learning process too, especially when it comes to the Indoor Training Centre. He remembered sports like baseball and softball would overbook for zone tryouts not realizing how much space the Indoor Training Centre had.

Lacrosse groups enjoy the Indoor Training Centre.
“A zone (tryout) may have been in three or four high school gymnasiums,” said Marciniuk. “Now they have one facility.

“We have pitching lanes and batting cages. They started reducing their time a little bit and gave opportunity for other activities to come in.”

Overall, Kosteroski said the driving force behind having a unified not for profit group oversee the operations of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex was that all the users want to see each other succeed.

“The Gordie Sports Complex is a family,” said Kosteroski. “Within our family, we have nine sporting organizations who all are part of the overall complex theme.

“We have representation from all sporting organizations who provide insight into the operations. This is a total team effort with all organizations involved. There is a board of directors that was developed with key people situated on the board with representations from all sports organizations and also First Nations representation and whatever needs we saw that were needed to move the complex forward.

Rugby groups practice at the Indoor Training Centre.
“At the same time, the management team was developed to oversee all the daily operational aspects of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.”

Under the Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Corporation, it will be easier to coordinate major events held on the complex grounds especially if that event needs to utilize the track and field, baseball, softball or SMF Field all at one time.

Kosteroski said the potential for great things to happen at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex is endless. He said the complex is looking forward to making new partnerships with business in the future and is thankful and looking forward to continued partnerships with businesses and organizations the complex has worked with in the past.

“The Gordie Howe Sports Complex will have a major impact with tourism dollars now and into the future,” said Kosteroski. “That is a key role the complex will play for business in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan.”

McCullough’s day at Bob Van Impe

Saskatoon product powered Canada to golden comeback

Devon McCullough in 2015. (Photo by Louis Christ)
Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Devon McCullough wasn’t walking into an enviable situation, when he entered the championship game of the 2015 International Softball Federation Men’s World Championship tournament.

Playing in front of his hometown fans at Bob Van Impe Stadium, McCullough entered the contest to pitch relief for Canada in the top of the third inning against powerhouse and defending champion New Zealand.

New Zealand had just taken a 4-0 lead with one out and had a runner on second.

Despite the tough circumstances, McCullough remembered the 7,000 in attendance that night hadn’t given up on the Canadian side.

“The crowd was going nuts, and it was loud,” said McCullough, who was the youngest player on Canada’s roster at age 24 at that time. “It was pretty much the biggest moment I’ve been in I figure in my life especially up until then.

“I was definitely a little nervous going in, but I was also excited at the same time.”

McCullough’s first task was to stop New Zealand from potential running away with the game at that point. He got the first batter out he faced on a groundout.

He proceeded to hit the next batter he faced with a pitch. Following that development, the Canadian coaching staff elected to load the bases by intentionally walking the next batter.

After loading the bases, McCullough walked the next batter he faced allowing New Zealand to go up 5-0.

He proceeded to stop the New Zealand rally at that point with a strike out to end the top half of the inning. McCullough said getting that strikeout to strand three runners on base proved to be key to help his side start to get some traction.

Devon McCullough (#24) fires a pitch. (Photo by Jordan Silbernagel)
“That was a big game changer,” said McCullough. “If I give up a hit there or something, they could have scored three runs right off of that.

“The game could have been done right there.”

Canada’s offence proceeded to come to life after that. The Canadians scored four runs in the bottom of the third to cut New Zealand’s lead to 5-4 changing the complexion of the contest.

McCullough pitched a scoreless top of the fourth, and in the bottom of the fourth, Canada scored four more runs to go ahead 8-5. The younger chucker said the excitement rose for the host country as momentum had totally changed sides.

“The whole atmosphere in the dugout had changed,” said McCullough. “Everyone was standing up and loud.

“I think we pretty much knew by that point that we weren’t going to be stopped that day. We were just on a roll.”

Canada scored two more runs in the bottom of the sixth to cement a 10-5 victory.

McCullough pitched the rest of the contest to pick up the win striking out eight batters while scattering one hit and five walks over four-and-two-thirds innings. Throughout the game, he heard chants of “Devo” coming from the crowd.

Devon McCullough was the hero. (Photo by Jordan Silbernagel)
He put down the last two batters he faced in the top of the seventh with swinging strike outs. After he recorded the final out, McCullough couldn’t believe the energy rush.

“It was like a shock almost,” said McCullough. “It was like, ‘Holy (explanative) we just won.’

“It was pretty much just yard sale everything.”

Since age 13, McCullough played numerous games at Bob Van Impe Stadium leading up to that world championship win. He has continued to play many more games at his hometown park and remains a member of the national team at age 29.

He has played at two world tournaments win Canada since earning bronze medals each time out.

While McCullough would love to help Canada win another world championship, he doesn’t expect anything will surpass winning it all representing his country in his hometown. When you add in the fact he was winning pitcher that helped turn around a dire situation, it becomes a fairy-tale script.

“It was awesome,” said McCullough. “I’ve told everyone that it doesn’t matter whether I go out and play and win anything else in ball, but nothing will ever top that.

“That is the number one thing that you probably would ever want as any ball player would want.”

An artistic picture of Devon McCullough. (Photo by Jordan Silbernagel)
McCullough believes he has watched the video of that championship game about 100 times since it happened. He said people in Saskatoon come up and talk to him all time about that world title win, especially if he is at one of the diamonds at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex at a weekend tournament.

“I see them in the beer tent just stopping for a beer,” said McCullough. “You are just talking about it like all the time.

“It is pretty special that is for sure. No one can ever take that one away from you winning the world championship at home. It is pretty awesome to think about.

“That was a pretty awesome day.”