By Ottawa Sports Pages, for Louis-Riel Rebelles
It had the makings of a perfect partnership from the very moment the leaders of Louis-Riel high school’s Sports-Study program and the Canada Reds Baseball Academy first met – each side showed up sporting matching red and black uniforms.
“It was pretty funny that we had the exact same colours,” recounts Louis-Riel high school Sports-Study program coordinator Ken Levesque, who quickly learned that Robert Fatal’s philosophies and objectives were also a match.
“He really saw the opportunity here since there was nothing like this here in Ottawa, or Ontario practically. We’re really, really excited about this. I think it’s something that’s been missing in Ottawa, and missing in schools.”
The product of their talks is an innovative new program that will give young players all the tools they need to go as far as they want in the baseball world.
A program with a high-performance atmosphere that offers the opportunity to train and work on individual skills throughout the school year – like they do in Florida and other similar hotbeds – and the chance to link up with the Canada Reds Academy for the summer season, to play in American tournaments, and to benefit from an established network to baseball’s next levels.
Fatal – the general manager, head coach and owner of the Canada Reds Academy – will direct the Sports-Study baseball program at Louis-Riel. Fatal has past experience with other Sports-Study programs, he led Quebec’s Académie Baseball Canada from 2015 to 2019 – with over 60 players committed to U.S. colleges, and others drafted by MLB clubs.
“Louis-Riel is a very active school when it comes to developing sports within their great Sports-Study structure, and that matches 100% with what we’re putting together with our Canada Reds Baseball Academy,” explains Fatal, who served as a coach for the Canadian junior men’s national team for the 2019 WBSC 18U world championships.
“I’m very excited about being able to welcome young players from the whole national capital region who want to take their game to a higher level,” he adds. “Regardless of their summertime club affiliation or their background, the #1 goal is to build this program.”
‘Big step forward’ for baseball at Louis-Riel
The initial building blocks are already in place for baseball at Louis-Riel. Around 10 baseball players got started in the Sports-Study program just before the pandemic hit, and they are certainly hungry for more as COVID recedes.
Jordan Forde, a shortstop/second baseman for the Reds and the Rebelles, appreciates having the backing of a school which understands that he sometimes may need to be absent to pursue opportunities in his sport, and which has become an expert in supporting student-athletes’ needs since launching its Sports-Study program in 2005.
COVID travel restrictions have kept them from getting to the U.S. as much as planned lately, but Forde still felt grateful to be able to train at the Louis-Riel Dome – home of North America’s only indoor 400-metre track, along with a giant multisport surface inside of it, and high-performance weight and training facilities – during school hours while most players were stuck at home.
“We’re fortunate that we have the perfect facility to be able to practice not only during COVID, but all year round, with the Dome,” underlines Forde. “It was definitely a relief, and it’s definitely something that’s helped me a lot throughout my career.”
Drawing in top talent from the wider region and beyond thanks to the partnership is an attractive prospect, adds Forde.
“I think it’s a very good opportunity and a great step forward for the program,” he indicates. “Whenever we go down to the United States, I think we’re going to represent Canada very well.”
The program seeks to break new ground – an idea that resonates strongly with another Rebelle, Sophie LeVasseur, who’s among the pioneers of women’s baseball locally.
“I was always the only girl on my team,” recalls the student who just finished 11th grade. “A lot of girls quit baseball when they’re like 10 because they don’t want to be the only girl, but I was like, ‘It’s OK to be the only girl.’ It’s what motivated me to keep playing baseball. It’s not good to be a quitter.”
LeVasseur plays with the Toronto-based Team Ontario women most weekends, and she practices and sometimes plays with the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians during the week. She loves having Louis-Riel’s well-rounded program to work on different areas of her development, including yoga, mental performance, nutrition, and a physical conditioning plan personalized to baseball players’ needs delivered by the school’s specialized strength coach.
“It’s extra reps that we don’t get with our team,” notes LeVasseur. “You have an edge on everybody else, just because we practice more and train more.”
The young players’ enthusiasm showcases a rejuvenated thirst for baseball in Canada, fuelled in part by young guns like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette driving the Toronto Blue Jays back towards the top of the standings. The Rebelles and Reds are more than pleased to add the energy fuelled by the boys in blue (even if they’re keeping their red and black colours).
“This isn’t a fad. It’s something that’s here to stay,” highlights Levesque. “This is a pretty special opportunity to get the best training you can get in Ottawa, with some really highly-qualified coaches, and also work with some teachers and staff at school who are really dedicated to making sure you excel academically too.
“We want to help promote and build baseball in Ottawa, and in schools. It’s time to play ball!”
The new Louis-Riel Sports-Study baseball program in partnership with the Canada Reds Baseball Academy will take flight in Fall 2022. Contact Sports-Study program coordinator Ken Levesque at email@example.com for more information and to register.