Baseball is seeing a resurgence in Fort St. John, and players are developing at a quick level. One such player is Dustin Unruh, who plays for the North Peace Black Sox midget team, which competes in the Baseball Alberta AA league.
Unruh, who has been playing what he called legit hardball for two seasons, is a pitcher, and he has his sights set on taking his talents to college, preferably Okanagan College.
Unruh has played well this season, feels good about his play, and has excelled quite a bit. He hoped to get one more start in the season at the AA provincials, but the team did not have enough players to go. The resurgence has a ways to go.
Either way, Unruh is taking part in tryouts this fall, where he’ll be given a chance to improve his game, and practice with the team even if he doesn’t make the starting roster.
Unruh played his first season with North Peace Minor Baseball was last year in house league. He also played in house league this year and then with the AA North Peace Black Sox.
“There’s definitely a huge difference in AA and with Paul’s coaching,” Unruh said.
That’s Paul Waterman, new to town this year and coach of the midget Black Sox.
Waterman has plenty of coaching experience, most recently coaching for some time in Sweden. He knows that baseball has had a rough time in Fort St. John in years past, and wants to be part of the effort to pick things up.
“We’re just trying to get kids interested in it again and get things going,” Waterman said.
Part of that effort is pushing the players to be the best they can be, and take their game to higher levels than they may have thought possible.
“I love coaching, it’s something that’s frustrating at times, but I enjoy being around the kids and I like seeing them develop,” he said.
So far, his coaching style appears to be rubbing off on the players.
“Having a coach like Paul is really huge to me, and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be trying to go to college and play baseball,” said Unruh.
Forrest Liddicoat, president of North Peace Minor Baseball, is happy with how all the North Peace Black Sox teams did in their first season in Baseball Alberta. He’s eager to continue to grow the sport and get more kids out next year. The peewee team performed well at A provincials and he would like them to get to AA next year.
The more people who commit to learning the game, and the more people who lend their hands coaching, the more the game of baseball will grow in Fort St. John, and more kids will get the opportunity to try out at the collegiate level, he said.