Baseball training centre grows at Gordie Howe Sports Complex
By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex
|A player works on fielding during a Going Yard training session.|
In the early 2010s, Saskatoon resident Dan Demchenko agreed to send one of his sons to a baseball academy in Alberta. After spending a sizable amount of money in that endeavour, he wondered why Saskatchewan didn’t have a similar sort of training facility.
Demchenko proceeded to establish the Going Yard Training Centre in 2013. He then hired Jordan Draeger, Matt Kosteniuk and Brody Boyenko as instructors, who all have experience with high-end baseball.
Going Yard opened its first facility with a training warehouse located on Alberta Avenue. Demchenko would turn over Going Yard venture to his young instructors.
On March 1, 2019, Going Yard was brought on to the grounds of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
“I find baseball in Saskatchewan and Saskatoon specifically has gotten a lot better, because of our programs,” said Draeger. “I think kids are taking the sport more seriously now that we have opportunity to train properly.
“When people recognize the opportunities that come with playing baseball competitively as opposed to contact sports and things like that, it is such a good alternative. Our skill level is getting much, much better.”
At Going Yard, the instructors work with players aged eight to 18 with the main emphasis being on players aged eight to 15.
|A catcher gets off a throw on a bunt defence drill.|
Players are put through a combination of basic and creative drills designed to improve skills. For catchers, instructors will teach skills like how to block the plate on wild pitches that might hit the dirt or the mechanics to get off a throw to second base to try and prevent a steal attempt.
For infield and outfield work, there are machines at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex which can fire off line drives through the infield or fly balls to the outfield to work on skills in those areas.
For pitching, players might do drills with a weighted ball to improve strength.
In the past during winter months, Draeger said the Going Yard staff wasn’t able to do any work with regards to fielding due to the limitations of their old indoor location. They also couldn’t do drills related base running, because there was not enough room.
The Indoor Training Centre at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex has changed that aspect.
“It (the training warehouse) was only large enough to pitch and hit, because it had such a low ceiling,” said Draeger. “For the last five years, we’ve gotten a lot better at hitting and pitching.
“Now, we are about to see our guys get a lot better at fielding too, because they love this. Being able to field the ball on a full-sized field is cool for them.”
Draeger said the fact local players can work on fielding year round will create more opportunities to continue the sport at the post-secondary level.
|A second baseman gets a throw off to first base.|
“Now not only can we develop hitting and pitching, we can do infielding, outfielding and skills on a larger level.”
On top of the skill development, Going Yard has developed what it calls its “Goats Programs.” Players who are part of Going Yard can be part of the “Goats Program,” where players are dived on to age specific teams.
At the moment, there are teams for players aged 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 years of age. Those teams travel, practice and play games against teams from other training facilities. Often, the Going Yard teams will play teams from the RBI Regina Baseball and Softball Indoor Training Centre.
When the teams play indoors, they take part in modified games. When the weather is nice outside, the teams can play in a full game setting at Cairns Field, Leakos Field or one of the three diamonds at the Geoff Hughes Baseball Park.
All of those diamonds are on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds.
“As soon as the weather turns and we can go outside, we can go outside,” said Draeger. “There is nowhere else that can really do that.
“We are pretty lucky to be in here and have that opportunity.”
Draeger said the Going Yard staff has enjoyed being on the grounds of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex for just over 21 months, and they look forward to what the future could hold.
|A pitcher sets to deliver a throw at a Going Yard training session.|
“Eventually, we’d like to see our Goats programs reach even more ages. We just want to see the competitive level of baseball just increase at all age levels old and young.”
If you want more information on the Going Yard Training Centre, the staff can be contacted by phone (306) 954-1544 or email at email@example.com.