Baseball tandem takes game to next level

Two Greater Trail athletes are off to continue their baseball careers at the college level.

Kian Johnston and Ross St. Jean have played baseball since they were four-year-old T-ball players, and now the Greater Trail duo are taking their passion for the game into the college ranks.

Johnston from Fruitvale and St. Jean of Trail played their way through minor ball, Little League, single-A and double-A Orioles, and after graduating from J. L. Crowe in June, are now taking their respective games to the next level.

Johnston, 18, with the assistance of former coach and mentor David Colquhoun, put together a recruiting video and sent it out to various colleges, including Southwestern Oregon Community College (SOCC) in Coos Bay, Oregon.

“I was looking for a place to go all fall and last winter, and I went down there on a recruit trip in April and they liked me and then I signed with them after that on a scholarship,” said Johnston.

After seeing Johnston’s video, Southwestern Oregon invited him to a try out camp in April, where they put the lanky six-foot-three outfielder through a comprehensive workout of hitting, fielding and throwing. Johnston made an impression.

“They were looking for what I had to offer,” said Johnston. “When I went down there on the recruiting trip, there were four other players but only two of us ended up signing.”

St. Jean, meanwhile, headed to Lethbridge last week to join the Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA), which is associated with the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College, and facilitates the student/athlete experience.

“I’m really excited, I think this will be a great opportunity,” said St. Jean, an 18-year-old middle infielder.

The Varsity PBA Dawgs play in the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC), finishing first last season with a 21-3 record, and are the winners of seven straight CCBC championships. PBA is already working towards its eighth title, with 65 players at camp and St. Jean looking for a spot on the varsity squad when it starts the 2018 CCBC season in March.

“Camp starts off on Sept. 4 and you can either make the varsity or junior varsity team,” said St. Jean. “They announce that at Christmas so all of fall is inter-squad games and then they pick the two teams.”

The Prairie Baseball Academy plays as a whole group throughout the fall. The coaching staff assess the players on and off the field, culminating with the PBA Fall World Series in October and the final selection in December.

Fruitvale native Joey Underwood, a PBA Dawgs alumni, was instrumental in helping St. Jean choose the Prairie Baseball Academy. Underwood is one of a handful of Trail players to attend PBA, and went on to play NCAA baseball for Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn.

St. Jean is a skilled second baseman with speed to burn and a good eye at the plate. Johnston is an exceptional contact hitter, with a strong arm, good wheels, and is a versatile outfielder who can also play the infield.

Johnston joins the SOCC Lakers this week, and will play out of the North West Athletic Conference (NWAC) when the season begins in April. But until that time, the players will play a series of exhibition games and tournaments in the fall, in addition to workouts each morning and three-hour practices in the afternoon, six days a week.

“Every day after class, we usually have practice from 2-5 p.m. each day,” said Johnston. “Then I think you get one day off.”

Combining school and athletics has helped many Trail athletes go on to complete college degrees and extend their playing careers. Both St. Jean and Johnston say they’re a bit nervous heading into unchartered territory, but are looking forward to the opportunity to play college baseball, to push their potential and go even further in the sport they love.